The Art of the Australian Insult

Public standards
October 9, 2008, 2:53 am
Filed under: Culture | Tags:

“Kathy Keele, the Australia Council’s chief executive, says that in Australia “artists must abide by the same laws and community standards that apply to every other citizen” (“Novelist throws the book over Henson photos”, October 8). More statues of footy players adorning our public spaces? Theatre pieces about our Olympic heroes’ incomparable achievements? A musical about the Australian cricket team’s agonising decision to tour India? Maybe an arts workshop on how to depict the drinking binges that inevitably follow a favourite footy team’s win? Are these the community standards Ms Keele thinks we should abide?
If artists merely comply with whatever “community standards” are, how do we ever break free of the crass, profit-driven, mind-numbing propaganda that complies with those standards and calls itself public media?”

Peter Kenyon South Turramurra, letter to the Sydney Morning Herald.


Bugger Bill Bloody Henson
October 8, 2008, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Culture, Sex | Tags:

“HERE we go again. Bill Bloody Henson and his “art”. I am damn sick of it and I am damn sick of the people who will always defend his photos and consider any negative reaction as being from uneducated, ignorant, non-art loving philistines.

Well, I have had enough. I have had enough of this so-called art and the art world’s you-just-don’t-understand response after the original outpouring of disgust.”

SMH reader Helen Brien has a rant about Bill Henson and children wearing Tshirts with slogans like “Daddy only wanted a blow job”.

Double standards?
October 7, 2008, 3:22 am
Filed under: Culture, Politicians | Tags:

“Politicians have expressed disgust at Bill Henson looking for models for his art in school playgrounds but are quite happy to look for babies to pat in shopping centres at election time. A case of double standards?”

Robbie Roach Randwick, one of a number of letters on the subject to the Sydney Morning Herald. A reader of The Australian has a quite different view:

“WHEN the Bill Henson controversy first erupted earlier this year, I suspected elements of the self-styled progressive Left were sneering at the rest of us plebs for failing to recognise that child pornography constitutes art if the purveyor is wearing an artist’s smock or hosts exhibitions of his work. David Marr has confirmed those suspicions in his book. The problem for Henson and his apologists is that for the majority of us, when something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we’re fairly sure we know what we’re looking at.”
John McLeod
Sunshine Coast, Qld

Beware the claptrap
July 14, 2008, 9:22 am
Filed under: Culture | Tags:

“If Henson thinks art “redeems us from…moralism, opinionation and claptap,”  he should read the pretentious drivel from those who think challenging social mores is the same as pandering to our worst instincts.”


Reverend Peter Barnes, letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, responding to a lecture by embattled artist Bill Henson.

A bunch of childish idiots

“It’s safe to say that he [Henson] thinks they’re a bunch of idiots of bringing this up again.”

An “art insider” is quoted on the rumpus over the nude photograph of a six year old girl as featured on the cover of Art Monthly Australia. The quote appears in a Daily Telegraph article headlined “Even art world slams cheap childish stunt”. Unfortunately for Henson, he has already been linked to the issue, as evident in the following letter to the same paper:

“So Mr Henson now has support from another quarter to add to the artsy drivel that came from Cate Blanchett and Malcolm Turnbull, who both threw their hands up in horror insisting that Henson’s right to free expression was being denied to him.

When are these so-called defenders of civil liberties going to realise that there is a society out thee that is more interested in protecting the young and vulnerale among us, than listening to their ego-driven self-centred complaints.”

In the eye of the beholder?
July 7, 2008, 2:23 am
Filed under: Culture, Sex | Tags: , , ,

“Images of this kind are distasteful, exploitative of children – a cheap, sick stunt at the expense of a young child. We’ve now reached a sad point where some people think naked kids can boost their sales and get them a headline. We will have no role in funding them while they use images that exploit children.”

Morris Iemma comments on the cover of the latest issue of Art Monthly, which features an image of a naked six year old girl, as photographed by her mother. The image is largely obscured in the Sunday Telegraph, but you can see the entire image in the Sydney Morning Herald. Interestingly, the child herself loves the image and says it is her favourite (it still hangs in her mother’s house).

The Australian Taliban
July 2, 2008, 5:53 am
Filed under: Culture | Tags: , ,

“Australia is not a theocracy but it seems there are plenty of people who want to act like the Taliban.”


John McDonald, SMH, May 31 – June 1. He was commenting on the criticism of Bill Henson’s photographs of nude adolescents and the subsequent police raid of the Paddington gallery where his work was being exhibited.