Those Wacky Aussies Are At It Again
Australian critic Robert Nelson, who defended Henson against Rudd's diatribes, and who is married to Papapetrou and is Olympia's father, offered the following retort: "It's interesting that if the Prime Minister comments on, say the greenhouse effect, he gets expert advice first . . . I would like to know which art expert advised him on this."
It seems to me that Nelson is right here. The PM's "personal views" hardly suffice as a criteria for what counts as art or what ought to be protected as free expression. Nor, I would add, should the personal views of outraged Aussies writing in to the morality police to whom the magazine has been referred. On the other hand, it seems clear too that Nelson, Papapetrou and Art Monthly editor Maurice O'Riordan have published this cover story simply to re-ignite the fracas. And that does smack of using naked Olympia to make political hay.
In one of her less insightful moments Hannah Arendt condemned the civil rights movement in the U.S. for relying on children as part of a strategy to de-segregate public schools. Does publishing nude art photos of one's daughter in the name of free expression rise to the same level of importance as insuring poor minority kids access to decent schools. (We can set aside the question of whether the intended improvement actually occurred.) Does publishing these photos place Olympia at risk in the same way that the civil rights movement (to take just one example) did with young black kids in the American south? I am not entirely persuaded on either count. But, especially since the good guys seem to have prevailed in the Henson fracas, I feel compelled to ask ' What is to be gained here?'.
* I have to say that as is the case with Henson, I am distinctly underwhelmed by Papapetrou's kiddy pics. But, as with Henson too, I don't see any particular reason to get one's knickers in a knot about the entire thing.