Photographer Bill Henson. Photo: Adam Hollingworth SMH
millennial slippage is the term coined by Bill Henson to describe the current state of affairs worldwide. He emphasized that “The truth of art” should be exposed to our children, that we should never forget our artistic and cultural history. it’s on the basis of this that we can move forward rather than submitting to this millennial slippage.
The speech last night was excellent. Listening to Bill Henson discuss various cultural references, I looked around at a variety of young, blank, faces and I felt how true some of his statements were. we do need to expose our children to art, to history, to culture. art is the expression of history and the cumulation of our civilization. I was struck by Henson’s self effacing nature. watching him you would never know that someone so apparently shy was embroiled in such a shocking controversy that rocked the art world two years ago. It was interesting how little he cited his own work, preferring to discuss literature, composers and classic painters.
The political nature of the lecture was fascinating as he skirted any specific examples and avoided namecalling, calling instead for a return to statesmanship and common sense with more respect for the arts- both historical and current. I believe he feels truly wounded by Kevin Rudd’s insensitive and ill informed comments about his works, but rose above it to be the bigger person (as opposed to the way it was described in The Age).
I was particularly interested in the discussion about consent and censorship. His defense of the censorship board came as a surprise to some. giving credit where credit was due, he made it clear that the board were very supportive through the entire ordeal. The media have leapt on his comments about consent, afterall, Henson attacked a sacred covenant, contact sport for minors. this was a much more controversial statement than his research that life modeling for artists has no documented history of causing trauma to minors. The reverse appears to be true as so many previous models came to his defense during the scandal and remain solid friends.
I rose above my fear of public speaking to ask a question about the attitudes towards the nude in australia. his answer, in essence, was that he believes this is a wave and that most people are smart enough to realize the ridiculousness of the current attitudes, that the nude is a constant through these waves of attitude and censorship and will remain. I wish I agree that commonsense will prevail!
I wrote copious notes and will write about this further, I want to digest my thoughts more before I do. Needless to say, it was a pleasure to listen to such an articulate, genteel soul speak with passion and conviction. for further comments and observations please read Peter Ryan’s commentary at his blog.