Editor Maurice O’Riordan is a total fool for putting the image of a naked young girl on the latest cover of Art Monthly. After so much effort, so many carefully crafted messages and an industry united, this boofhead comes along and inflames an already sensitive public issue.
Not only is his decision misguided, it lacks a total understanding of how to influence public policy and play the media game. It is so misguided that today we have a situation where every single person who first condemned artist Bill Henson is now singing in unison against the artistic community with calls for laws and protocols to be introduced.
Those in the arts community have been left standing with their pants around their ankles and can now expect a royal bollocking from Hetty Johnston and her Bravehearts wowser club. In fact, the visual arts community was abuzz over the weekend, with one source revealing that on this particular occasion, they might not get behind their own — in fact, they might leave O’Riordan out to dry.
You would expect an editor, a journalist, someone who is engaged with the written word and with the art of debate to be a little more tactful, but it appears that O’Riordan has lost all perspective on this issue.
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The Australia Council for the Arts has now been left like a shag on a rock trying to, again, defend the integrity of artists. The council’s CEO Kathy Keele was even resigned to saying that “continuing to argue extreme positions is not creating any greater clarity.”
Keele is absolutely correct and O’Riordan finds himself in the same camp as Johnston. To successfully engage with a debate of this magnitude you have to see that there are always two sides to any story and you must respect the opposing side. O’Riordan has lost that respect and by trying to rub Hetty Johnston’s nose in the Henson debate he will ultimately lose.
Arts Minister Garrett hit the nail on the head saying the magazine was being needlessly provocative.
Let’s put this into context. During the Henson debate, it was clear that the gallery’s decision to put the images online and on the invitations was naive to say the least. But the arts community got behind Henson and the gallery to defend their right to freely create an exhibition of the photographs.
O’Riordan, by taking art out of context like the gallery did with Henson’s photographs a month or so ago and placing an image that could concern the community onto a magazine has unnecessarily thrown fuel onto the fire.
And now the proponents of arts censorship are on board. They have had time to re-form, re-think and re-formulate their public comments. You can’t imagine a worse case scenario.
Kevin Rudd said yesterday, “we’re talking about the innocence of little children here. A little child cannot answer for themselves about whether they wish to be depicted in this way.”
NSW Premier Morris Iemma chimed in, “this is an issue of child protection.”
And Johnston led the chorus, “this is manufactured by adults for the pleasure of adults, the financial benefit of adults, whatever it is. This is an adult desire being projected on to children.”
According to the Sydney Morning Herald the magazine editor, Maurice O’Riordan, “could not be contacted for comment yesterday”. That’s hopefully because he knows that he has made a very stupid mistake.