Artists are “appalled” at a suggestions art should get a classification scheme, similar to that used for movies, television and video games. A Senate committee has recommended one be introduced for controversial artwork such as the images of nude children produced by Bill Henson. Here, Tamara Winikoff gives us her perspective.
The question of where the visual arts should sit in a national classification scheme was one of the matters considered by the recent Senate Inquiry into the National Film and Literature Classification Scheme.
Currently, though, artworks are not required to be classified as a matter of course - the Classification Board can call in artworks, especially in response to a complaint or alternatively artists can choose to seek classification themselves if they wish to be clear about their legal status.
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I’m glad that the rejection of a photograph donated to a charity auction for the Sydney Children’s Hospital raises the spectre of morality in our society. Because it’s the perfect instance of why we need to take a serious look at ourselves and the values we want to promote.
Del Katherine Barton, one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists and someone well known both for her love of family and her charitable work for childrens’ causes, submitted a photograph of her shirtless six year-old son to be auctioned for the hospital’s benefit.
The board of the hospital has rejected the work on the basis that it doesn’t comply with their “strict rules on images of children”.
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The NSW government have released a set of recommendations that would place responsibility for the work of a grubby network of international paedophiles and child exploiters on a handful of innocent visual artists.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday the Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said the NSW government would support new legislation that makes a “clear legal distinction between pornography and art” in order to protect victims and make it easier for police to prosecute cases of child pornography and exploitation
With plans to scrap the defence of “artistic merit” while asking artists to fork out up to $500 per image for Commonwealth classification, Hatzistergos’ recommendations are taking a stab at a group, who up until 2008 had stayed fairly shy of scrutiny in Australia.
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The proposal this year to remove the artistic defence from the NSW proposed legislation on child abuse, which includes child pornography and exploitation, is not particularly about censoring artists.
In fact, the Australia Council for the Arts believes that the proposal, which will harmonise NSW laws with the Commonwealth laws on the definitions of child pornography, has the potential to be advantageous to genuine artistic expression.
Mention art and pornography together, and people immediately position themselves at opposite ends of the room.
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One of the strongest arguments against the exploitation of children by photographers is the potential for long term damage to the child.
What a child may “consent” to when they’re 10-years-old, might make them feel incredibly uncomfortable when they’re 17. Most of the time we don’t get to ask them.
But the Tate Modern in London has just been forced to withdraw a picture of Hollywood star Brooke Shields, taken when she was 10. It’s a rare case where we can see how the subject’s life has turned out.
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