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Stealing innocence

The following link is to a discussion I had on Sunrise with former Democrats leader Lyn Allison on the art versus child porn debate. This issue reared its ugly head again as Australia’s Art Monthly chose to make a political statement by using higly sexualised naked images of six year old girl Olympia in their July edition. 

Dannielle Miller on Sunrise – child nudity in art

Below is a letter Melinda Tankard Reist had published in the Sydney Morning Herald today:

You say dignity, I say torture porn –

and ne’er the twain shall meet

Art is about “giving people dignity”, the critic Robert Nelson told ABC radio this week. “We’ve got to have faith in art,” he implored.

Nelson is the father of Olympia, whose naked photos appear in Art Monthly Australia’s latest issue. The photos were taken in 2003 by her mother, when the girl was six.

Flicking through Art Monthly, I wondered whether Mr Nelson had looked at the magazine that featured his daughter before he gave us his thoughts on art and human dignity.

Call me particular, but I don’t find images of semi-naked, bound women with protruding sex organs all that dignified. I looked really hard, but I couldn’t see much dignity in the photograph of a Japanese schoolgirl trussed in rope and suspended with her skirt raised to reveal her underwear.

Torture porn just doesn’t stir my soul.

Some of Bill Henson’s images are there (of course – this issue was a “protest” in defence of his work). They are  followed by selections from the work of the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, probably best known for his passion for taking photos of girls and women exposed and bound.

There’s his slumped, bound, schoolgirl picture and an image of a woman with her clothing stripped back, the ropes squeezing her naked breasts and contorting her into a pose that displays her genitals. A third uplifting work depicts a woman on the ground, strained forward, her naked spreading backside to the camera.

Faith in art?

A little further into the magazine you come upon the work of David Laity. What offering of truth and beauty does Laity give us? An image of a woman being bound with the tentacles of an octopus as it performs oral sex on her.  That’s some dignified octopus.

Then there’s an image of a woman bending over so we can see her … well, you get the picture.

The photographs of Olympia need to be viewed in the context of the images positioned around her. On their own, the images that show Olympia reclining naked, her pose and look more that of an adult, can be seen as sexualised. But surrounding her with these other images superimposes a further, more sinister, meaning on them.

The former Democrats senator Lyn Allison told Sunrise the controversy was just about little girls playing dress-ups. But don’t dress-ups usually involve putting clothes on, not taking them off? And does this game usually end with your photo published in a gallery of female genitals? The magazine’s editor said he wanted to “restore dignity to the debate”. Does he really think he’s achieved that?
Artists who recognise there should be ethical constraints to art; artists who don’t think it advances humanity to tie  up naked girls and capture their images  – now that would be dignified.

Melinda Tankard Reist

Canberrra

Love to hear your thoughts.

 

Published inSexualisation of children

4 Comments

  1. Jane Higgins

    My Goodness will common sense ever prevail??
    Lyn Allison says her view of whether a picture is not appropriate is if it “harms the child”. Who are we to know what harm it may cause? PLUS it is so much bigger than this.

    It is also about who else views the picture, what is their intent, their mindset? Why is there ANY need to see a child of any age reclined into a sexualised pose? What do her friends think now? In years to come? Her boyfriends?

    PLUS including this picture in a magazine that chooses to publish women in tortured sexualised poses only adds to the context of women being viewed in a sexualised manner. WE ARE MORE THAN THAT!!

    See us working with girls to empower them to challenge the sexualised images of girls, to say NO MORE, to be more than their bodies, to be savvy consumers and healthy, strong and intelligent women…. THAT’S ART!!

  2. Timmy Prince

    If I shoot some one in the head , video tape it and call it “art” , thats ok right?

    Dont censor me!!!

    The “ART” world , dont you just love it.

    Cheers!

  3. Mariana O'Driscoll

    The pictures of Olympia are disturbing enough, however I was shocked to turn on the TV the other night to see this young girl with her father defending the photos and their inclusion in the magazine. How can such a young mind even comprehend the harm of such images and how is possible for a father to accept as art, photos of his naked 6 year old daughter posing provocatively?

    This should never be a debate about dignity but more about responsibility. Having children pose in adult like positions is irresponsible. The printing of such photos, by artists, editors or indeed by parents is irresponsible. What makes it even more disturbing is parents who explain away such images as a way of ‘giving dignity’. I believe as a society we should be out raged by such irresponsibility, not only from the artists but also the editor of the magazine and from the parents of Olympia.

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