When the Liberals won the elections in 2004, my only consolation was that shortly after I departed for a few months to Taiwan, and thence Guangzhou and Zürich, and avoided somewhat living here. I was looking at these photos of Jan Dunning in a post on one of my favourite for so many reasons (art, porn, performance, short monographs on wonderful, unheard of people) blog, DC’S, and I was reminded immediately of the deeply asinine, parochial, immature Bill Henson incident.
In uttering the two words, “absolutely revolting” in commenting on the photographs, Kevin Rudd managed to convince me my daydream fancies of happy arts under a Labor government were mostly delusional, and lucky I’m leaving the country in three weeks because nothing much has changed.
I’ve also been reading Julian Burnside’s Watching Brief, a sometimes polemical and repetitive but nonetheless profound cataloguing of the previous government’s abuse of human rights, justice, asylum seekers, and the craven society that voted for their own mortgages ahead of alleviating the misery of others unable to defend themselves. In this reading of recent history, I wondered often just how much of this deliberate erosion of law the Labor government will undo, or whether it is rather content with wielding monarchic powers.
In the Henson case (well-documented at by Alison Croggon at Theatre Notes and Chris Boyd at The Morning After) I had this feeling of a return, an encroaching smallness, a nasty, uneducated, mean knee-jerk reaction to the bleatings of vapid, self-important and irresponsible ‘moral guardians’ that in no way does a service to either the arts, or the intellectual and critical sophistication of Australia. Furthermore, it is an imprudent and dangerous use of policing at the behest of political whim that undermines whatever due process yet remains in this country.
I find it sad also that in all this Henson remains a somewhat single and easy target in Australia, as he’s not part of a diversity of artists in various fields exploring particular confronting and dark issues because largely Australian art is comfortable, suburban and safe.
So I was reading DC’s, looking at Jan Dunning’s photography and grateful there are so many artists who are an antidote to parochialism in Australia.