the Art Monthly Australia Cover by Polixeni Papapetrou
The most repressive aspect of the guidelines is that they require retrospective documentation of compliance for images of nude or partly nude children taken over the last 18 years. This documentation will need to be reviewed by the Classification Board before such images can be exhibited. In other words, works such as Henson’s, which until now been have exhibited nationally and internationally and have not broken any state or federal laws, will be required to undergo review by Australia’s censorship body.
Aside from their anti-democratic character, the protocols present a multitude of almost impossible bureaucratic hoops through which artists and galleries will have to jump.
For example, prior to any future exhibition containing work produced by Henson in the last 18 years and featuring children, the photographer would be forced to track down the people involved, most of whom would be adults, and procure written confirmation of their own or their guardians’ consent for work produced at the time. What happens if any of those portrayed are untraceable or have died? Does that mean that the artist’s work cannot be exhibited or distributed?
Another contentious issue is that only depictions of real children will come under scrutiny, but not those images derived from “fantasy” or imagined. How is a viewer, editor, curator or censor to determine whether a painting or image is of a “real” child or an image conjured up by the artist, or an amalgam of several sources?
Another requirement that impinges on artistic spontaneity, a crucial element in the creative process, is the requirement for parental consent before a child is featured. Should an artist photograph their own child naked and then decide at a later point that the photograph has artistic merit, its exhibition or distribution could be prevented on the grounds that the artist had not sought a police check or signed a declaration of adherence to the protocols prior to taking the photo.
you may recall I posted about these when they were proposed back in October. having now read more about the “guidelines” that are now in effect I find myself completely bewildered and stumped. how on earth will any of this be enforced? how will they know if a painting is from life or imagined (or from a 3d resource like I use?) this strikes me as a pretty useless bill. a way to really annoy legitimate photographers like Bill Henson and Polixeni Papapetrou who will have most of the details in their files. It’s something that will be a hindrance, slowing down artists and galleries as these hoops are jumped through, ultimately for nothing.
why for nothing? why won’t it protect children? because the people they are prosecuting are not the ones that need policing. they are spending money and time and effort chasing down artists and making them jump through hoops when they should be out finding the real perpetrators of child pornography.
does this affect me? no, most of my works are adult and from imagined or 3d sources (or both). it is tailor made to specifically attack artists like Henson. and witchhunting is always wrong. I care about this because it sets a bad precedent. the government should never involve itself in censoring art and artists.