Naked Exploitation?

FOR DOWNLOAD MORE GALLERY The Australian has chimed in on the nude photo cover scandal:
Art Monthly's actions are worse than the original Bill Henson controversy, which was a legitimate debate over art and child nudity.

O'Riordan's decision to use the photo of Olympia Nelson was the flagrant exploitation of child nudity, not for the sake of art, but to advance his own political agenda...Not illegal, you understand. Just as it is ridiculous to suggest every image of a naked child should be censored as pornography, it is equally absurd to suggest that we cannot, as a sophisticated society, express outrage when images of naked children are used in an otherwise offensive fashion.
This editorial completely misses the point, and in doing so, justifies the use of the photo. Throughout history art has been political, from Egyptian hieroglyphs, to Picasso's Guernica, from protest songs to controversial film, and that is how it must be. Art is meant to stimulate an emotion, a gut-reaction, to provoke a response, to act as a mirror for society's hypocrisies.

One cannot say that the nude photo of Olympia is acceptable hanging in a gallery, but not on the cover of a magazine. The offense is not in the image, it's in the minds of those who perceive it to be exploitative, or pornographic.
Attempting to show solidarity with fellow artists by using the image of a naked child is not art. O'Riordan took Art Monthly to the gutter when he used a naked six-old-girl to make a political point. That is why he deserves condemnation. Adults are entrusted to protect, not exploit, children, whatever the motivation for that exploitation. If artists and their champions cannot act responsibly, then they, too, will damage their cause by encouraging the state to widen the net of censorship.
Maurice O'Riordan's choice to use the nude image, which has been exhibited before, was precisely to protect children, to protect the image of innocence which has been part of human culture for all of history. If he exploited anything, it was the delusions and irrational fears of people who somehow find the nude body of a child as being something offensive, or as some sort of danger.

By threatening artists with increased censorship, The Australian certainly reflects the views of many of its readers. The art world must not give in to these foolish people, who want to make illegal any nude photos of children. This is the proverbial slippery slope, where parents will begin to question such simple normal activities such as whether of not to bathe children together, to let siblings see each other naked, to change clothes in front of their children, or to take even the most innocent of photographs showing a baby's bare bottom.

Let it be clear that true child pornography is perhaps the most heinous of crimes, but this is not pornography by any stretch of the imagination. If the definition of pornography is expanded to include even the most innocent of nude images, then we are lost as a society which professes to be civilized.

The beautiful innocence of childhood has been celebrated in art forever. Censor the artist, and you end the innocence. An ostrich which sticks its head in the sand only succeeds in creating an illusion of safety. O'Riordan is trying to show the ostrich its own reflection.

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