It’s got to be tough being a journalist when there’s no story to report. Last night’s opening at Roslyn Oxley Gallery in Sydney of Bill Henson’s latest show has proven a disappointment for op-ed writers and lovers of salacious controversy – Henson’s has kept his trademark nudes and landscapes but there’s nothing even faintly controversial. For the Sydney Morning Herald’s Miranda Devine, even a non-story has an angle. According to the SMH and Devine, the artist has “lost his mojo” and retreated behind a wall of protective media management.
With everything Devine writes it’s what’s between the lines – and the back story – that’s far more entertaining than what’s on the page. Devine was instrumental in the concocted outrage over the Henson affair in 2008, taking the Henson story as far as she could, first pumping the story for all it was worth in print while moonlighting on talk-back radio, then following up with further column inches in the days and weeks that followed.
Devine is a Zen master of the “who me?” reaction. When she was slated for her hysterical misinformation on the “Henson Affair’ [as it will forever be known] she retreated to her default position of claiming that she was simply reporting a controversy. Devine later changed tack with classic “straw man” arguments by claiming, for example, that it was in fact the art world and Henson’s supporters who were against free speech and creative expression.
So that’s the back story. In today’s SMH piece Devine struggles to find an angle for further outrage. And you have to admire her chutzpah:
The first sign that Bill Henson may have lost his mojo came at the front door of the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Paddington last night.
Burly bodyguards turned away photographers who had arrived to record the controversial photographic artist’s first exhibition since police closed down his 2008 show over nude photos of a pubescent girl, which even the Prime Minister declared were ”revolting”. [A Fairfax photographer managed to take several photos before being asked to stop.]
The media lockout was a rich irony for an artist whose friends railed so stridently about freedom of expression when he was pilloried across the country as little more than a purveyor of kiddie porn.
Devine is on fire here, pointing out rich ironies that don’t exist, while ignoring the real irony that the security guards, media management – and the fact the artist and gallery chose to have all images in the show cleared by government censors – is a situation that has come about precisely because self-appointed moral guardians like Devine created such a sh_t storm in the first place.
The most amusing passage in Devine’s column occurs after she has somehow managed to inveigle her way past security and into the Oxley gallery where she attempts to interview the artist. Sadly, Devine encounters Sue Cato the steely eyed spin doctor who tells Devine in the nicest possible way to f__k off:
The artist himself said he just wanted the opening to be about the art not the controversy. Although, he noted, ”controversy is interesting”, before he was silenced by his hovering public relations agent Sue Cato, who declared he would not be speaking to the media.
”I’ve told so many nice people they can’t interview Bill, so I can’t let you,” she said, rather undiplomatically.