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Bill Henson: Art or Pornography

edited May 2008 in Everything Else
Not something that I would normally bring up on the GeekNights forums, but there are a lot of intelligent people on here, and I am keen to hear your opinions on this issue.

There is an Australian Artist called Bill Henson who has been active for about 30 years, and who has become one of our most acclaimed modern artist. He is in the news currently because of a series of works that depict naked children between 12 and 14. The police were called in to investigate whether this was illegal, and it looks like they might press charges.

Here is some links to some news articles:</>

Also the relevant Crimes Bill:

So what do we all think?? Is his work art or is it pornographic and exploitative?


  • So what do we all think?? Is his work art or is it pornographic and exploitative?
    Can't it be both?
  • Hm.. Well, without actually having seen the works I can't really say for sure. However, I'll give the guy the benefit of a doubt and say Art.
  • All that matters is whether or not the children in the photos were exploited or harmed in some way. The artistic value of the photographs themselves is totally subjective.
  • edited May 2008
    Thats true. The parents of those children should speak up.
    Post edited by Victor Frost on

  • Can't it be both?
    Scott is absolutely right, the only important thing (legally & morally) is whether the children were exploited; creating pornography involving children is generally considered exploitation.

    I want to throw my lot in, however, and say that art & pornography are not at all mutually exclusive. Ken Marcus illustrates this quite well; what he does is very obviously pornography, but I maintain it is art, as well. There are far better examples, but I'm not near my walking art reference to ask her their names.

    Artwork involving children, clothed or nude, could also be both art and pornography (I haven't seen the works in question, and am certainly not going to look them up at work); if it is the latter, however, it is rightly illegal.
  • If art is defined as something which stimulates the human senses, isn't all pornography art?
  • Intent is everything.
  • Well, you'd have to see if there is any sexual connotation in the images, is it just artistic nudes, or are the kids posed as to insinuate any kind of sexual behavior?, was the kid intimidated into doing it? where the parents aware of the images?, was there any inappropriate touching during the photo shoot?

    Also, its really in the eye of the beholder no? I mean, | remember long ago a news bit in the US of a father that went to jail for taking some pictures of his kids naked in the tub or something like that, I mean, the dad probably didn't associate any sexual innuendo with the pictures he took, so is it fair? I really don't know.

    I mean, I can go to the library at college and dig up some old anatomy books for artists, and there are naked pictures of babies, kids, teenagers, adults and really old people in them, is it porn?

    A pediatrician will see thousands of naked kids in his lifetime, is he a pedophile?

    I really think it boils down to why you have the pictures, and whats the use for them.
  • Man, don't talk about that on this site. Work censors enough websites already.
  • Intent is everything.
    Pretty much. Although it is possible for the creator to lie about their intent, it's usually pretty obvious. Simple nudity can't really be considered pornographic, since pornography typically has some sort of sexual intent behind it.

    I believe a supreme court ruling on art/pornography a long time ago, one of the judges said that it was very subjective, but that in regards to pornography he "knew it when he saw it" and ruled in favor of the artist.
  • edited May 2008
    Both art and pornography are subjective, and the two are not mutually exclusive either.

    However, as Scott has already said, the only thing that matters with this issue is the effect on the children.

    I guess the one factor that you could say complicates the issue is that even if in this specific case there was no harm or exploitation, it serves to encourage it. However, I think that is a weak argument at best...
    Post edited by lackofcheese on
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