On Monday the 25th of November at 11am there was meant to be a mention hearing for Paul Yore in the Melbourne Magistrates Court. On Saturday 1st of June police had raided the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts and removed 7 collage works by artist, Paul Yore alleging that the art was child pornography. There were about four or five journalists in Court Room 7 from before 11 am. There was no sign of Paul Yore or the Informant, Snr. Cons. S. Johnson of Victoria Police.
Paul Yore is young Melbourne artist who has work on exhibition in Melbourne Now currently on at the National Gallery of Victoria. 2013 has been a strange year for Yore along with multiple exhibitions and the police raid, he was thrown out of Sydney Contemporary at the last moment and won the $8000 Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award. Through all of this Paul Yore has been keeping silent and a low profile. This was the tactic that spin doctor, Sue Cato recommend to Bill Henson and Roslyn Oxley when the media storm blew at them. Yore’s team has adopted this same tactic.
It has been difficult to get information out of either side. Senior Sergeant Brens, the Acting Senior Sergent of the Media Unit of Victoria Police wrote on the 30th August: “The investigation is ongoing and there is no update. I’ve been advised there may be some progress in a couple of weeks so please check in again after 13 September 2013.” Then on the 7th of September, the day of the Federal Elections, news that Paul Yore had been charged with producing and possessing child pornography came out the in Murdoch owned media.
Australia has a poor history of philistine persecutions of artists; the exhibition that the police raided at the Linden Centre, “Like Mike” was a response to the Australian artist, Mike Brown. In 1966 Brown was convicted of obscenity and was sentenced to three months hard labour that was reduced to a $20 fine on appeal. Since then the Australian police and censors have been intermittently and unsuccessfully tried to prosecute artists. It is a repeated pattern and questions need to be answered about the police censoring the arts in Australia. Moral panic over the depiction of children is currently being used as an official cudgel to beat artists. Bill Henson has already withdrawn from 2014 Adelaide Biennial after a SA police detective urged Premier Jay Weatherill to stop Henson’s participation. Sydney Contemporary’s Director Barry Keldoulis uses a lawyer to determine if artists can be shown in NSW.
It was former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who promoted attacking Bill Henson’s photographs in an appearance on breakfast television. Not that the Australian government is any kind of example of benevolent treatment of children. Not that the police seizure of Yore’s art has much to do with moral panic it is more about the police being used by some right wing politicians trying to destroy the Linden Centre’s funding model. The story has no traction except for commentators like myself.
The silence and delays have not been good for the Linden Centre’s staff. In October 13 The Age reported on claims that gallery staff were bullied into quitting. The silence and delays have not been good for Paul Yore. The silence and delays have not been good for the public who desperately want a resolution to the long running art censorship debate in Australian culture. There have been glum expressions around Melbourne’s art world for the last half-year whenever Paul Yore’s name is mentioned. Bill Henson was in Sydney and was already a big name but Paul is in the same position of many of Melbourne’s artists. Glum expressions are not what Yore’s art is about; it is funny, irreverent and ribald. The silence and delays only assists the retreat of the conservative forces and a petty right-wing troll who is seeking to destroy the Linden Centre.
Back in the crowded courtroom number of 7 of Melbourne Magistrates Court the 3 rows of seats were full. The magistrate was trying to keep cases moving, there were adjournments and more diversion orders. Slowly the seats were emptying and the journalists were getting restless. Court adjourned and the media finally finds out that Paul Yore’s case has been delayed until 10th of January 2014.
After half a year of waiting for a resolution to the police raid and we can only speculate at the reasons for the delays. It only took the NSW Police two months in 2008 after they raided Bill Henson’s exhibition to return the photographs without laying any charges.