Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lame Ducks

Has no one noticed that Wayne Swan looks rather like a duck? Considering his name and the uncanny resemblance, it's surprising that more cartoonists haven't made milage out of it. Sorry about the silly picture Wayne; I really couldn't resist. The serious issue here is the current obsession with basic commodities like petrol prices, groceries etc. Do people really think that the government has any real control over such things? Surely they realise that imports are part of a global economy and as such can't really be controlled. As far as petrol goes, if anyone wants to play a blame game here they should be pointing a finger at previous governments for not exploring viable alternatives to petrol. It has been increasingly obvious for many years that a fuel crisis would develop sooner or later.

Certainly 'working families are hurting because of the skyrocketing price of fuel, high grocery prices and interest rates. Any government would need to address such issues to ensure political survival. Ultimately, these issues are a distraction; people can't expect a goverment to do what it can't, however much they would like them to.

People should be expecting the government to focus on areas where it can have some influence, such as dismantling the diabolical 'Work Choices' policy of the Howard goernment. This was an area that most people did very quickly see for what it was; a bad joke. The very name 'Work Choices' was a joke; the only choices most workers were being offered by their bosses was 'my way or the highway'.

Government can exercise meaningful control over areas, like:

  • developing a more compassionate immigration policy (no more children behind razor wire please)

  • a more reasonable approach to the Nothern Territory intervention and indigenous affairs

  • a more equitable and efficient health system

  • an improved education system

  • a telecommunications/broadband network that doesn't lag years behind the rest of the world

  • an improved public transport system

  • a more progressive environmental policy

These are areas towards which the Rudd government has at least made some positive moves. Wayne Swan can be partially forgiven for his anatine appearance.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Police remove Bill Henson's nude photographs

The roslyn oxley9 gallery sent out a media release on the 23 May, 2008 saying the following:

Statement on behalf of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Bill Henson

After much consideration we have decided to withdraw a number of works from the current Bill Henson exhibition that have attracted controversy. The current show, without the said works, will be re-opened for viewing in coming days.

Bill Henson is one of Australia's leading contemporary artists and is internationally respected. His works are held in every leading art institution in Australia and are included in the collections of a number of the world's most prestigious art museums. The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria have both recently held a retrospective of 30 years of the artist's work.

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery will remain closed while the current exhibition is re-hung.

Someone had complained to the police and the Vice Squad removed the photographs on the grounds that the photos were pornographic.

Since then, controversy has raged on TV, in newspapers and on radio in Australia.

What are the photos? They are nude photos of 12 to 13 girls and boys. The photography is, in my opinion, very artistic. Shadows are used to show what the artist says he intends. To evoke the vulnerability and fragility of that stage of adolescence. Coming from the light to the dark or vice versa. The shadows also act to cover most of the sexual parts of the bodies, although not all. I don't know if that was the photographer's intention. But he has been showing such photos around the world and in Australia for many years. He says this stage of life fascinates him. He also takes many other photos of subjects not so controversial.

Recently, the Australian Government held a Twenty 20 summit including the experts in all fields of life's endeavours. Many ideas were floated and presented. It was seen to be a success. But the Creative stream of the conference, headed by Cate Blanchette, released their statement saying that this was censorship of art.

Now, I don't think it is censorship of art until the matter has been through the courts. If the works are said to be pornographic (which I don't think) then the gallery and the artist has committed a crime and the works should not be shown. It has not been the Censorship Board which has made these decisions.

What bothers me most is that a girl or boy of that age is not in a psychological or emotional condition to be able to give informed consent to being models for the photographer. Of course their parents gave consent. But is that right? I don't think I would.

The photographer is 45 and therefore in a position of power during shootings. I'm not at all suggesting that the young people were not safe in this environment. The photos portray the youths as almost asexual really. Now I don't know what control the parents or youths have after giving consent to the photo shoot. Do they have control of the finished shot? Presumably this would have to be the photographer's decision.

I know nudes of all ages have been portrayed in art. But in photos? And in these times of hypersensitivity to pedophiles and child sexual abuse and exploitation? Of course there are the really sexualized images of young girls in advertisements but these girls are clothed. I hate it, but I wouldn't censor it.

I don't think these Henson photos are sexualized. But it still disturbs me.

Well, the matter is in the courts now, so I guess not much more can be said.

But I'm interested in your view. I cannot show any images here. They are copyrighted. Many galleries do not allow viewing of larger images however

Written by contributer, Jenny Campbell from multifarious mushrooms

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Human Rights and Wrongs

Che Guevara Most people in western, developed countries take their rights for granted. We assume that we will be treated fairly under the law, that we will have reasonable working conditions and rates of pay and that our governments will govern with our best interests at heart. This is of course not the case in many 'third world' counties where no such rights exist. Even the slightest divergence from the official line is treated with brutality and harsh repression. Political and religious tolerance is non existent. People are commonly arrested, tortured or made to just 'disappear'. Many people living under such regimes take great risks to fight for freedom and often pay the ultimate penalty, such as Che Guevara (pictured). Many people in the developed 'free' world are so apathetic they don't even exercise their right to vote, or only vote because they are required to do so. They are completely complacent when it comes to politics because they labour under the assumption that they are 'free' and that their standard of living will continue indefinitely.

rodney king beatingIn actual fact, people living in developed countries have little more real freedom than those under repressive regimes. Perhaps they do not usual suffer the human rights violations common in some parts of the world, provided they are white, anglo saxon and protestant. Those not belonging to the dominant cultural group or those unfortunate enough to end up in prisons or places like Guantanamo Bay have a different experience. Images of police beating up black drivers bear testament to this.

The governments of western 'democracies' are just as repressive as goverments of less developed countries with a reputation for brutality. Their techniques for controlling the population are just much more sophisticated than old fashioned violence. Western 'democracies' allow us to elect a government from only two viable alternatives: Liberal vs Labor, Labor vs Conservative, Democrat vs Republican etc. all amount to approximately the same thing. One party with slightly left leanings, one slightly right; just two shades of barely distinguishable grey. While it is preferrable to a one party state like China, or states which pretend to have elections like Zimbabwe or Burma it basically amounts to the same thing: the interests of the ruling class are in any event preserved.

Western 'democracies' are in reality ruled by an oligarchy made up of those controlling large corporations. Any government which dared to oppose such interests would find itself quickly out of office. Just ask Gough Whitlam or Jack Lang. Large corporations are subsidised to the tune of billions of dollars in the interests of 'boosting the economy' while corporate bosses draw obsence salaries, all the while trying to cut the wages and conditions of those in the 9 to 5 rat race. Consumerism, a corporate controlled media and high levels of debt ensure the complacency and submission of the general population. Dissent is usually tolerated as it is unlikely to do any harm and 'freedom' is of course good for business.

This is a much more efficient system than countries that control their populations with old fashioned repression. The regimes of countries like Burma, Zimbabwe, China etc. are bound to sooner or later fall. When the level of repression rises and the standard of living falls to intolerable levels, heroes like Che are bound to rise and dictatorships are bound to fall.

The bottom line is: GIVE A DAMN!