Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, and all the crapola about Bill Henson and his nudie pics had died down, some hippie art mag decides to (a) piss the Prime Minister off and (b) bite the hand that feeds it by (c) sticking an arty nude pic of a 6 year old on the front cover. Since I don’t think this is going anywhere legally, I’m going to stick the graphic up next to this post (make your own minds up) and make a few comments in response to Tim Blair’s and Kim at LP’s posts on this issue.
To my mind, this looks like a fairly cynical ploy on Art Monthly‘s part to move more copies of their mag. Can’t fault their sales skills, but I’m still of the view that this is a hornet’s nest they don’t want to stir up. This is only partly because they depend on the taxpayer’s largesse in order to exist. For the life of me, I can’t figure why so many artists want to be ‘transgressive’ at the taxpayer’s expense. It’s inevitable that once you stick your hand out for state patronage, you’re going to have to hew to some sort of ‘state line’, however benign. The message (which so many of these people simply don’t get) is ‘be as transgressive as you like – on your own time and dime’.
Without defending Rudd’s views, I’m also going to hop in and defend his right to be a philistine when it comes to art. That is, defend his right to hold those views (he’s weighed in on this furore as well, and – as with Henson – isn’t best pleased). This is partly personal, because I’m still a philistine when it comes to a great deal of art. I tried for years to try to appreciate much ‘high art’ (including opera and conceptual visual art), in the main because people around me thought a novelist should have ‘views on’ and ‘appreciation of’ the ‘finer things in life’.
However, when you haven’t grown up with it, it’s very difficult. I didn’t see my first piece of live theatre until I was 16 (through my high school); to this day, this is the only ‘high art’ form apart from (some) literary novels and (some) independent cinema I appreciate. I gave up on both opera and visual art after a time and never figured out photography (I’ll take my colour scenery shots, thanks). I kept going to sleep in operas, and just don’t ‘get’ most modern art (don’t see the point). I find Henson’s teenage nudes somewhere in between ‘perplexing’ and ‘yucky’ and ‘underexposed’. I defend his right to exhibit without the Filth barging through his art gallery as a civil libertarian, not because I think his art is independently valuable.
Like me, the Kevvster didn’t grow up in an ‘artistic’ or highly educated family. The man is a highly technically proficiant linguist and diplomat, but not especially cultured. And that’s fine.
UPDATE: Armagnac’d has an interesting take over at his place.