Sunday, June 24, 2012

Good Bill Hunting

Here's a drawing I did at a public discussion between Bill Henson and Natalie King held at the MGA on Thursday October 13, 2011.
This was a tricky drawing to do because it was very quiet and my marker made a really jolting scratchy noise if I drew from right to left. So to avoid drawing attention to myself, I tried to draw every stroke from left to right.

Here I am with Henson after the discussion.
I should've shown Henson the drawing I'd just done of him, he might've liked it, at the time I wasn't happy with it though. Maybe I was being too hard on myself but I was annoyed because I drew his forehead a bit too small.
Anyway I had something better I wanted to show him.

In 2008 I made a book called "The Photography of naked children for the sake of art" censorship crisis of mid 2008, or: The trouble with Bill".
Here's the cover.
and here's Bill Henson holding a rolled up copy.
The book tries to break the messy event down into it's simplest form, through the format of a children's story accompanied by various drawings, photos and text pieces.
Just like my opinion on the matter, the book is absolutely not anti-Bills work, but at the same time it is also not 100% completely pro-Bills work either.

Really the books aim was to have a bit of fun exploring all of what I saw as the flaws in both arguments.
One thing I should briefly mention is that everything aside, Bill Henson is brilliant, and indisputeably a master of his art.

Ultimately though Bills art isn't what I was particularly interested in, what the book was mainly trying to examine was the hype of the scandal and the hysteria, and the ways in which the media and the public were reacting and encouraging it.
Here's a review that the book got in a 2008 Sticky Institute newsletter.

Earlier this year, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the artistic works of photographer Bill Henson and this zine focuses on this topic. I was initially reluctant to read this zine, mostly to do with it's A4 size, pink cover and blatant over-priced-ness, but also partly because I thought it would be purely the author's opinion presented in a one-sided manner. And, thank god, it's not.
It reads like a story, presenting the whole 'is this really art or porn' fiasco from beginning to end. In a rather clever manner, the text is accompanied by contradicting and rather well-placed pictures, such as photos of child beauty pageants and Michelangelo's David. Humorous hand-drawn images and the no-nonsense presentation of the stupidity of the media's presentation of this fiasco really make this zine an interesting read.
But the argument that Henson's artworks cost thousands of dollars and the zine only costs nine dollars doesn't justify charging that much for this publication. It's not worth nine dollars and I really think it would be more attractive to readers if it wasn't so expensive.
Kenny Pittock $9
I guess maybe $9.50 was a bit steep. Maybe. I guess it definitely is for a shop like Sticky.
A better response I got than this review was an email from a year nine teacher who told me that he'd used the book to study the event in his class. That was pretty amazing.
(As you can see my drawing ability has developed a lot since four years ago.)

I decided to make this book after reading an article in the free newspaper you get on the train, two days after the story had broken out. The article was covering a Melbourne woman artist who was holding an impromptu one night exhibition consisting of naked photos she had taken of her own children. This was her way to directly protest the negativity Henson was receiving.

In the article the artist was quoted as having said something along the lines of how by doing this she was not only defending Henson on behalf of herself, but that her stance in fact represented the opinion of the Melbourne art scene. This really bothered me. 'No way', I thought, 'I'm a Melbourne artist and you don't represent me.'
And so because of that it felt necessary for me to contribute to the conversation.
Here's one last photo of the book, on the side of a basketball court, looking cool and leaning against a wall like James Dean.


  1. Where is that basketball court? It's so familiar and it's driving me crazy trying to place it.

    1. Hey Scott, good to hear from you. I don't know if you'll know the place, but I'll let you know next time I see you.

  2. hey you got any copies left - I'd like to buy one?

    1. Hey Tina, cool, yeah I do, send me an email ( and we'll take it from there.