Outsiders probably imagine my native Australia as an open-minded nation whose citizens are accustomed to basking around half-naked in a carefree atmosphere of sea, sand, sun and sex. This is not the case. Australians are an exceptionally prudish people, who don't hesitate in using police intervention and censorship to handle certain situations. In my article of 13 March 2007 entitled Rambo caught with his pants down [display], I sketched a few notorious examples of this amazing prudishness and abhorrence of explicit sensuality that might be interpreted as sexual misbehavior... with the sole exception, curiously, of the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Once again, this subject has come to the forefront of Aussie news concerning vaguely erotic images of adolescents by the celebrated photographer Bill Henson displayed in a Sydney gallery.
Yesterday, in the dawn hours preceding the opening of the exhibition, police invaded the private gallery and seized more than twenty photos. And this could well be the prelude to legal prosecutions.
The photographer Bill Henson is acclaimed internationally. His works have been exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Venice Biennale, not to mention the national galleries of Victoria and New South Wales. A deplorable aspect of this Philistine affair is the fact that justifications for this dawn seizure of works of art have been coming from the likes of Kevin Rudd (prime minister of Australia, who apparently employed the adjective "revolting" in describing Henson's photos), Morris Iemma (premier of the state of New South Wales) and representatives of the New South Wales police force. These individuals are deciding whether Bill Henson's work has artistic merit or whether it should be condemned as pornography.
Personally, since I harbor no desire of returning to my native land, let alone trying to get onto the same wavelength as my former compatriots, I guess I shouldn't get worked up by such a silly storm in an Aussie teacup. But I see it as interesting data of a genealogical kind. Maybe "anthropological" would be a more appropriate adjective.