Culture Battle

“Frankly, I can’t stand this stuff.” Kevin Rudd’s said commenting on Australian art magazine, Art Monthly. Rudd joins the long list of Australian Prime Ministers who hate the arts. It is a hatred that spans party politics and social background. Australian PM Menzies had the same opinion of modern art as his contemporaries, Churchill and Hitler. And Menzies did more legislatively to enforce his opinion than Churchill but less than Hitler.

There are several culture clashes in Australia, some, like the battle between the arts and philistines have a long history. There has never been any resolution to this conflict, only heightened times of tension. There is a great desire to bring this particular cultural conflict to a conclusion rather than continue with the tension. This is why there have been so many letters and comments about the Bill Henson controversy as people weigh in on various sides.

The battle, between Australia’s cultured and the philistine wowsers, is worth fighting. The outcome will have wide, but not unforeseeable, effects: the brain drain, the number of skilled professionals willing to work in remote areas, the number of teenage pregnancies, the general education standards of the country and many more areas. For example, Australia is now the fattest country in the world. Australian culture has an ugly body image stuffed with junk food. Has it become a culture where any attractive naked body, young or old, is regarded as sexual bait because so many Australians have made their bodies so unattractive?

I have nothing but praise for the tactics, Art Monthly editor Maurice O’Riordan, he has chosen the work of art worth fighting for and with excellent defenses. He has restored some “dignity to the debate”. The fact that Opposition leader Brendan Nelson (no relation to Olympia Nelson, the nude model) can only understood this in terms of “two finger salute” is an indication of his lack of comprehension and not O’Riordan’s tactics.

The politicians are on the run and their tactics are highly questionable. They bark loudly in the popular media in a manner offensive to one little girl, Olympia Nelson. They call in the police, threaten prosecutions, threaten to cut funding and then retreat under the cover of an independent organization capable of making reasonable, informed decisions, like the NSW Public Prosecutor. The politicians hope that this controversy would just go away but it is a battle worth fighting and I would encourage everyone to keep applying the blowtorch to Rudd.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

2 responses to “Culture Battle

  • Iain Hall

    Simple question for you.
    Do you have any children?
    the use of a naked six year old in a publication is rather disgusting to those of us who do. You can talk about censorship and the freedom of artistic expression as much as you like but artistic merit is no excuse to exploit a child. But you are wrong to suggest that politicians are on the run with this issue , it is the art establishment who are fighting a rear guard action to prove that they should continue to have Carte Blanche without reference to societal norms.

  • Catherine V

    Iain Hall is mistaken in thinking that having children automatically makes you think ‘child explotation!’ when faced with nudes of children. And these children have parents that are not necessarily artists. These parents are instead opening up opportunities for their children.

    Yrin

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