Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Andrew Bolt vs the art community

Andrew Bolt lays in to Olympia Nelson's father Robert for refusing to lay down and dumbly accept the rhetorical beating that Australia's self-appointed moral guardians are giving to the art community. I could respond, but it seems Robert has already done so in comments. I'll repost here:
Robert Nelson answers Andrew Bolt

Dear Andrew

Let me answer all your questions. Incidentally, I counted eight, not seven.

“One: The argument never was whether looking at a naked child was child abuse. It was whether taking suggestive pictures of naked children exploited them, and left others in more danger.”

Rubbish. Polixeni Papapetrou’s genre stands accused of stripping children of their innocence, which is tantamount to child abuse. Your statement is illogical. If a picture really strips the innocence of a child, it’s clearly abusive. Your reasoning is devious if you think you can now soften the accusation.

“Two: It’s not girls from nice families like Olympia’s that run most risk of abuse when we endorse sexy shots of children.”

So would you care to explain how Olympia’s photograph exposes other children to risk?

“Three: Nelson loaned his naked daughter to defend pictures he actually detested before the public dared attack Henson, too. Three years ago he admitted Henson’s work was “pornographic”, showing a “vulgar relish in depicting naked, pouting teenagers” in a “teasing sexual spectacle” to present them as a “passive target for the viewer’s lust”. Why now defend pornography you once said you hated, Robert?”

No contradiction at all. We are not defending Henson’s pictures in every respect by seeking to justify the artistic use of child nudity in art. I can remain critical of Henson while supporting the principle that his work is art. Also, I have at no stage said that Henson’s work is pornography and not art.

Four: To defend Henson, Nelson and Art Monthly have switched an argument about pornographic shots of a pubescent 13-year-old into one about a mum’s picture of a child too young and demure for most to be thought sex bait. Why the whitewash, Robert?”

You contradict yourself in the very next paragraph where you’re claiming that the pictures inside the journal reveal “a soft-porn pose”. Please decide which you mean. There is no whitewash from us but a great deal of hogwash emanating from you.

“Five: Nelson focuses his defence on the cover shot of Olympia—one even newspapers feel is safe enough to publish. But inside the magazine is one closer to the issues raised by Henson—a shot no paper will publish that has Olympia in necklace and earrings, splayed naked on her arched back with chest bared in a soft-porn pose. Robert, now that your daughter is developing breasts like one of Henson’s models, will you have her pose like that again? If not, haven’t you wilfully ignored a critical difference between Henson’s pictures and that cover shot of your wife’s?”

Polixeni Papapetrou is the artist, not I. If Polixeni and Olympia want to do naked photographs at this age, I will most certainly not intercede to prevent it. This is their inalienable moral right. Do you seriously want to strip them of this right?

“Six: Nelson presented Olympia at the press conference as a girl mature enough to consent to or even suggest the nude pictures taken of her. In fact, Olympia was just six when they were taken, and little girls tend to dress up for pictures, not strip. Indeed, Nelson admits not all the photos were her idea, and I doubt any would have occurred to her without prompting. My suspicion was strengthened by the way Nelson prompted some of Olympia’s answers and actions. Robert, how much was she coached?”

Our house was besieged by reporters. We thought we might do as Bill Henson did and remain silent. As you say, Andrew, it didn’t do Henson any harm to keep his mouth shut. Still, I couldn’t bear the thought of hiding from the media and I spontaneously decided to put on my brightest shirt and speak directly. I rushed out of the house without even putting my shoes on and told them that we’d be ready in 15 minutes. I then completed getting dressed and emerged as promised. You can check this story with the news hounds. Andrew, I should get a new job as a coach if I can achieve Olympia’s performance in the space of 15 minutes while putting my shoes on and jotting down a few notes of my own.

Seven: And even if a six-year-old suggests nude shots, who is responsible for what happens next? The child, or the parent?

The parent. We take full responsibility. Please do not imply that Polixeni or I are in any way shirking this by allowing Olympia to have her voice. Brendan Nelson implied this with his disgraceful intervention, saying that Olympia speaking out compounded the damage. This was similar to Hetty’s sanctimonious and cowardly attack on Olympia, saying that she has been brainwashed, thus invalidating the child’s voice.

“Pedophiles often exploit just this excuse: “It was her idea.” Robert, as a good parent, aren’t you horrified to give this line of argument any weight?”

The fact that Olympia instigated some of the images was never used as the unique reason to produce or display the images. It has been raised as evidence of Olympia’s consent, as this has been consistently at issue. Andrew, you know full well that this was the basis for saying that some of the works were her idea. Why do you twist things so deviously in such an aggressive campaign against an artistic family?

If there is any matter that is at all unclear, please get back to me. I can’t read your blog because I have a day job and have to work for a living, but you know where to find me. Our family will not be bullied by this campaign. Neither Kevin nor Brendan nor Hetty nor Andrew leaves us in the slightest bit fazed. In spite of their collective zeal, they have failed to produce a good argument that Polixeni, Olympia, Robert and Maurice have done anything wrong.



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