Thursday, May 29, 2008

What is art?

I've just been catching up on the recent news articles. I'm not very motivated to keep up with the news - it's always depressing and negative. But once a week or so I read the headlines and read further into those that grab my attention.

The articles I've been reading today are about Bill Henson's most recent art exhibition. This situation disturbs me on so many levels I'm not sure what to feel. I am a great believer in fence-sitting - letting other people live their lives and make no personal judgements on them. That doesn't mean I don't feel strongly about some things. I cringe at the thought of censorship, particularly of art and literature. Freedom of expression is important.

But there is one thing I feel even more strongly about - the right of children to be innocent. Every time someone even suggests a child might have been mistreated or their innocence abused in some way, I feel the hackles rise on the back of my neck. My blood races through my body, readying me for a fight.

I go to art galleries regularly and over the years I've seen a lot of lovely photos of children, even naked children, that show various aspects of childhood and growth and society while still maintaining the beautiful innocence that childhood should be. The photographs in question apparently depict "a child under the age of 16 years of age in a sexual context." It worries me - and that's a typical British-style understatement made when you're so upset you can't think of an appropriate thing to say.

Yet the fact remains that I haven't seen the photographs, so can't judge for myself if they're art or pornography. I'm left with no option but to trust in the authorities to do their job properly and not persecute someone with little reason.

That worries me too.

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