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Essay

Manifesto for the imagination

These Arts, in their highest province, are addressed ... to the desires of the mind ... impatient of being circumscribed and pent up by the world which is about us

– Joshua Reynolds, Discourse XIII (1723-1792)

 

BECAUSE OF THE Henson controversy, I decided I should sit down and look at the reasoning we use to defend the faculty of the artistic imagination: why is the artistic imagination treated as a thing of angry suspicion and distaste by some people and with awe by others; from where does the imagination claim its authority to challenge conventions and the law?

The fearful potency of art has been demonstrated by this social clash. At the same time, paradoxically, there has been an extraordinary growth in participation in arts and writing festivals and in the actual practice of the arts – especially the literary and digital arts.

Along with consciousness and ‘the mind', the imagination offers no easy scientific route for investigation (apart from within the limits of neurobiology). Because of the sometimes eccentric characteristics and claims of its practitioners, it consequently tends to be classified as mysterious, or to be described in mystical or semi-spiritual language – even by secularly minded writers and scholars.

Most great thinkers have had a say, including those from the psycho-analytic disciplines – Freud, Jung, Lacan, Klein, Kristeva, Winnicott – who worked mainly with the relationship between the mind and the artist – art as symptom – rather than between the artist and society, although they have all had something to say on that. To a degree they all seem to accept what Freud said in 1928: ‘Before the problem of the creative artist analysis must, alas, lay down its arms ...'

Jacques Lacan said that, for Freud, the artist ‘paves the way'.

These are good expressions of the awe in which art is held by even the most tough-minded of the thinkers. Apart from those gripped by moral panic, there are thoughtful and intelligent people who have been unnerved by the Henson images. I have listened to them and this essay is, in part, addressed to them.

In illustration, David Marr in his book The Henson Case (Text, 2008) describes the troubled reaction of Richard Jinman, editor of the Sydney Morning Herald's arts page and other staff at the editorial conference after they first saw the invitation to the Henson exhibition which featured the frontal, naked photograph of a twelve-year-old girl – #30 Untitled 2007-2008 – and which I suspect will become one of the iconic photographic images of Australian life alongside, say, Max Dupain's Sunbaker.

In my thinking I found it useful to retrace in a synoptic way – Imagination 101 – how the imagination became part of our existence, at least as far as I understand it, and how it came to assert its authority.

 

WE ALL USE the imagination – the lie is its most common everyday use. We all use it in fantasy, assumption, suspicion, conjecture, hunch, intuition, rumour, imaginary friends, joking, superstition, forward-planning scenarios, predictions and conspiracy theories. In politics, we use imagination to create ideologies and utopias: we work up perfect worlds; we reinvent ourselves in the form of imagined perfection. We understand very little about night dreaming – that involuntary behaviour of the imagination. The imagination can become diseased, negative – nightmares, paranoia, psychosis and its ‘voices in the head', and can be dangerously distorted into mass social prejudices and social hysterias in contradiction of known reality.

The evolution of the imagination in our species probably had to do with the making of primitive everyday scenarios of risk evaluation, which in turn created competing scenarios of action – imagining what might happen next: ‘what if ...' which, it is speculated, gives us our ‘flight or fight' decision-making – known speculatively as the limbic or mammalian mind.

The imagination at some point turned itself to what we know as art, its use for making things not functionally related to the activities of procreation, hunting, gathering, cave-making and defence – the drawings on the cave wall, the songs, dances, carvings, storytelling.

These were something which probably gave our ancestors assurance, caused them to ponder, plan and dream. In my self-designed Imagination 101 course, I came across the work of William Richard Lethaby (1857-1931), an English architect and historian who speculated about the relationship between nature, the built world and the development of symbolism. The known facts of nature, Lethaby argued, which can be seen and physically experienced – trees, mountains, the sky, the rivers and the sea – were at some point turned to mythic and metaphorical use by our ancestors. So the tree became not only firewood but ‘the tree of life'; some caves were not only a dwelling but the place where Pan lived; the river became the underworld River Styx – the river we cross when we die.

The development of the imagination also had to do with our need to create narratives which explain birth, existence and death, and with the evolution of these narratives into theologies and so-called sacred texts. The making of sacred texts is not over. There are now nineteen major theological groups that break down into more than ten thousand religions, denominations, sects and unaffiliated churches, each with its sacred texts and variants. I do quite a bit of trekking, usually alone, off trail and ideally in wilderness country where there is no evidence of previous human presence. It does not take long out there in the dark forest with a campfire and unidentifiable noises and shapes for the mind to spring to superstition and myth-making.

The imagination also enabled the human capacity of empathy – to imagine ourselves in another's place or condition – which in turn aids the construction of safer inter-human relationships expressed in everyday expressions such as ‘I feel for you'. Another way of putting it is Keats' expression ‘negative capability' – the technique of absenting self to a degree and assuming the role of the other, the use of the creative faculty to enter into the minds of those who are radically opposite to one's own personality, which can produce the civic ethic of tolerance.

I would also accept that the imagination draws on the unconscious in the Freudian sense – including what he calls ‘the proscribed' inner sources: the compost of forgotten and suppressed memory upon which the individual personality is constructed. An imaginative work comes from, or is able to tap into, the unconscious and its collections, its archives, its symbolic and metaphoric rearrangement of lost memory. This is not just a personal compost: it is also a social compost. I sometimes think of the unconscious as an archive that cultivates itself, and that broods and thinks about itself in a hidden way until accessed by the artistic imagination (or through psychoanalysis). The unconscious contains social input – from strangers and the news – as well as the input of the home, early childhood and family relationships.

 

THE ENGLISH POET William Wordsworth (1770–1850) said the practice of the arts was ‘doing well what is worthy to be done, and what was never done before ... widening the sphere of human sensibility, for delight, honour, and benefit ... to produce effects hitherto unknown'. Western art has a taste for the fracturing of artistic conventions built up over time, subverting the ‘contract' of form or genre, and this taste has itself become a form – the avant-garde, the experimental. Art is not ‘done' only by the primary practitioners of the arts, but includes those who engage with the arts, those who participate as audience and readers, and teachers, critics and scholars.

The arts do not remain ‘in context', but are disseminated through the society by riding in other vehicles -– education, media, games, fashions, interior design, advertising, and so on. Who is an artist and what is an artwork is established tentatively and gradually by an intersection of judgements – by the artist's peers, by critical discourse, by the passing of time, by the opinion of readers and audience – through a chain of conviction that comes to establish a work as art.

Some artworks are destined for a short life, speaking to a specific time in a particular way, and then discarded from the stream of wide social discourse; however, they sometimes find a place among scholars who can see in them other secondary meanings. Some of what was banned or hounded comes to be seen as of long-lasting value to society. And sometimes, with a change of power, context or taste, works are revived. Because of this quirkiness in the evaluation of art, society has gradually given special latitude to its practice and special care to the preservation of its relics. The strange nature of the practice of the arts, and the image of the artist, contributes to a sacral, romantic status.

We have all heard fiction writers talking about how their characters ‘take over' the story; how they don't know how the book will end; how writing is an intuitive process; of working in trance-like states. Added to this are the other behavioural characteristics of the artist – some now stereotypical: the need for reclusion, artists' retreats, eccentricities of dress and of behaviour, alcoholism and drug use, depression and other nervous conditions.

The stereotypical and often acommercial characteristics of the arts has led to society often granting an exceptionalist status to the artist, being allowed to live outside conventions. The artistic imagination sometimes draws its authority from the great liberal enterprise of inquiry – scientific, intellectual and artistic – which tries to lead us to be a more knowing society, a society which is in closer touch with reality and therefore safer. The arts contribute to widening perception; they produce what poet and theorist Susan Stewart calls ‘ironic and deliberative knowledge' – those unarticulated, even unconscious, insights that come from aesthetic experiences to both the practitioner and the engaged audience. The audience, the readership, is itself a creative force, a crucial part of the creative equation.

Suppression of information and freedom of expression by law, by filters and by protocols denies us a full acquaintance with reality, and consequently makes our judgements less reliable and our lives unsafe. The suppressed material turns into phantoms crouching in the dark and is transformed into the forbidden; in turn, it becomes an underground commodity with a distorted potency. The literary mission was described by American critic Lionel Trilling as being ‘to liberate the individual from the tyranny of his culture ... to permit him to stand beyond it in an autonomy of perception and judgement'.

There is a posture in the arts which claims that artists should avoid consideration of any these justifications for their work, that untrammelled art is more an unformulated and uncategorisable expression, and exploration of, the human condition. This is an instinctive feeling that the artistic mission would be imperilled if it sought to justify itself within the terms (and the limits) offered by political ideologies, by humanism, by literary theory, by psychoanalytic theory, by theology, or if it allowed itself to be circumscribed by ‘ethics'.

DESPITE THE ACOMMERCIAL traditions and postures of the arts, one of the ways we accept the authority of an artwork is by the size of its paying audience, although it is another of the paradoxes of art that commercial success can be a cause of suspicion and sometimes even seen as irrelevant. There has been for many centuries the belief that a pure artwork can only be produced when the artist listens to the imagination, untrammelled by commerce, by government, by the church or by other lures – a claim for the primacy of the inner voice.

There is a French expression that the arts should épater la bourgeoisie – shock the middle classes. It became a rallying cry for the French decadent poets of the late nineteenth century, including Baudelaire and Rimbaud, as well as the aesthetes in England, such as Oscar Wilde. It is still the mantra heard at arts festivals and in media statements by some artists. The American writer David Foster Wallace said: ‘Good fiction's job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.' This is a rephrasing of an observation about journalism first made in the early part of the twentieth century by an American journalist and humorist, Finley Peter Dunne.

Is there still a bourgeoisie? I would say yes, there is still a bourgeoisie in this sense, given the reaction to Henson's nude photographs, which Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described as ‘revolting'. The values of the bourgeoisie – or, to be more contemporarily precise, those people irrespective of income or social sub-group who unthinkingly live within prejudice and irrational taboos and who have strong urges to suppress freedom of expression – are to be found in the twenty-first century's regulatory boards concerned with communications – which now include the Australia Council as it moves to become a regulatory agency with new protocols for the arts.

Is there still a bohemia? I think that the new bohemia is manifest in the festivals goers; they are the new visible bohemia and believe in the arts and in freedom of expression. They may not be bohemian in a way of dress, and they may no longer disdain the material life, but bohemia exists as an attitude of mind. The festivals (and adult education attendances) are an annual demonstration of the love of art and, I hope, of freedom of expression. About four hundred thousand seats are filled at the nearly fifty writers' festivals in Australia each year, and attendances have been increasing year-on-year at between 10 and 20 per cent over the last decade. Last year's Melbourne Writers Festival reported a 40 per cent increase in attendance; the Sydney Biennale recorded 435,000 attendances – a 37 per cent increase. I estimate that more than two thousand people a week go to events at their local bookshop or library around Australia to discuss books.

These figures represent a visible expression of a commitment to art, and they are only a small percentage of the non-visible audience for books and the arts. Robert Hughes has said that in Australia the arts centres in towns and cities have replaced the cathedrals. And these audiences are, to use the old Australian expression, ‘game for anything', as I suspect, so are most people who use the internet.

The romantic commitment in the arts is premised on the idea that the free wanderings of the imagination, especially into ‘dark' or irrational taboos, are not only the privilege of art but also one of its imperatives, and that the exercising of this privilege will progress Western civilisation – will somehow liberate those who engage with untrammelled works of the imagination, as practitioners and audience.

Not all taboos are nonsense: some taboos have become crimes for very good reason, but some for bad reasons. Sex with pre-pubescent children is taboo and also a crime, as it should be. In my lifetime, same-sex relationships were both taboo and criminal: an irrational taboo and an unjust crime, and ultimately one that was rejected. One person's taboo is another person's source of wonder. The Henson controversy has shown that, for some people, there are powerful taboos still active, although according to David Marr, Henson did not sense that he was breaking a taboo; he did not expect the uproar.

The complication is that some people find some images and words sexually arousing while other people do not. It is not only in writing and the visual arts that taboos are encountered – opera, jazz, rock'n'roll and hip hop have all been seen as taboo breaking, and the authorities have tried to suppress them. It is important to acknowledge that most art works do not break taboos, are not substantially innovative, but come out of, and rest on, earlier path-breaking works.

 

THE GREAT FEAR within the arts is that those who provide any financial support will try to shape and control the artworks themselves – something that at the time of writing is in danger of happening with the Australia Council. Following the Prime Minister's outburst against Henson's photographs, the Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett, instructed the Australia Council ‘to address the depiction of children in artworks, exhibitions and publications that receive government funding and to create protocols to control this funding'. To put it bluntly, the Australia Council was told to not fund artworks that are in the creative zone in which Bill Henson works. As the Spanish woman, Pilar, says in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, ‘Mother of God ... one man can make a bureaucracy with his mouth.'

The Protocols for working with children in art released in late December 2008 are the fruit of a poisoned tree – the government in power should not instruct a statutory body, such as the Australia Council, nor interfere with its procedures. Once having done so the integrity of the agency is undermined. The dangers of political interference with arts funding occurred in the 1950s, when the Menzies government tried to introduce political tests for those receiving grants. Throughout the Western democracies the hands-off approach to arts funding by the party in power has been seen as sacrosanct – the values of this position cannot be statistically measured, but rest on cultural wisdom deemed to be axiomatic.

My second concern is that the introduction of these protocols is not the business of the Australia Council. The government has pushed the Australia Council into a new role, away from simply funding the arts, according to talent and originality, to supervising the morality of art, and by so doing has created a new precedent.

Although the protocols claim to have the purpose of ‘protecting the children' (who could be against that?) they are enmeshed in moralistic values.

There is a slide in the protocols from ‘sexual' to ‘abusive and exploitative'. Regrettably, the protocols do not deviate from the intention of the original government edicts or resist them.

The first government edict for the new protocols was: Ensure that the rights of children are protected throughout the artistic process – from the time an artwork is created through to when it is shown. How could an agency achieve this? In an art work the completed ‘content' is usually unforeseeable in any subtle way and even after completion is then open to multiple interpretations. At an earlier Henson exhibition, I heard a woman say of one of his nude photographs to her friend: ‘You could read a hundred and one things into that.' Echoing this, the art critic Alwynne Mackie said of Henson's work: ‘One could attempt to read a narrative into them ... host of dramatic possibilities ... add a richness of texture to the sequence.' Henson would be pleased by this. He once said: ‘I want to present images ... evocatively.'

No sane person wants to harm children, but protection is best left to child welfare acts; union and professional association guidelines and practices on employment of children, as models and performers; parental judgement; and the judgement of the artist and input of the young person involved – their estimation and their feelings.

Now to the second edict from the government: Ensure that everyone viewing the artwork has an appropriate understanding of the nature and artistic content of the material. The protocols collaborate with the Classification Board by requiring in some cases, classification or banning. Classification labels contain coded moral values which prejudge the work for the audience on the basis of abstract reductions of content. They take away the decision about where its creator intends the work to find an audience, and in some cases it denies them access to an audience.

A Shakespearean play – say, Romeo and Juliet – could be degraded by a classification saying that it contains mutilation, rape, suicide, incest, ‘adult themes' and so on. Already the Australia Council has begun to go down this reductionist path. According to its draft protocols, ‘partly naked' is defined as including ‘bare genitals, buttocks or female breasts'. Originality in an artwork at its highest, almost by definition, comes into existence outside ‘standards' – and anyhow, in a pluralistic, multicultural society there is a profusion of standards, expectations and moralities. Classification robs art of its power to shock and surprise and to offend: some art is meant to be offensive and challenging.

On to the next edict: Protect images of children from being exploited, including use of the images beyond the original context of the creative work. All images move in their own ways beyond ‘context' – even if an artist has a context in mind. This is especially marked with the internet, but over the centuries it has applied as a result of other forms of reproduction – manual copying, photography, postcards – and appropriation or homage by other art forms, advertising, and so on. The protocols talk about keeping artworks away from ‘mass access' and of the dangers when works move ‘intentionally and unintentionally' beyond their ‘original audience'. ‘Context' is an attempt to corral artworks, to quarantine them. What about street art, guerrilla art and the ‘context' of multi-platform arts? How would the Australia Council handle an application, say, from a young Lucian Freud – who in his art, as Robert Hughes has precisely remarked, ‘by-passes decorum'?

I considered whether there should there be a ‘right of repentance'. In France, if you publish a story or book that at a later stage in life you regret, you can have it withdrawn from publication and sale – but it can never be published again. Perhaps the right of repentance could exist at the age of maturity for, say, child models? There are situations where this might apply and where it is feasible. The complication with applying the right is that it could also imply that the parental advice or permission given in good faith for all sorts of childhood activities would be liable to later legal action: army cadets, scouting, medical procedures, sports, childhood discipline and so on. It should be noted that none of Henson's models has complained.

The last edict was: Create protocols that acknowledge the Australia Council's statutory role in upholding and promoting the right of people to freedom in the practice of the arts. Given the origin of these protocols the process of codification is an attempt to infringe freedom of the arts. Traditionally, artists have argued that the imagination does not recognise no-go areas decreed by ideology or other methods of regulation, that the imagination should be self-directed.

In Australia we have accepted – and generally achieved – arts funding decisions made on evidence of talent or its promise, on assessment of the originality without consideration of the political, religious or personal beliefs, affiliations or ‘character' of the artist. Arts funding bodies such as the Australia Council should have as their mission ‘the rights of the arts' in the best and richest historical sense, and should be fighting for opportunities for children to participate in the making of artworks rather than making life in the arts more complicated.

The protocols do not simply suggest that anyone working with children in the arts be aware of the laws and get parental permission. They introduce into the artistic process, restrictions and inhibitions beyond the law and set up Australia Council generated vague and quasi-legal concepts such as ‘original audience', ‘mass access', artistic ‘ethical obligation', ‘indecent sexual context or manner'. They turn ‘naked' and ‘partly naked' into negative and ‘dangerous' areas for art – surely, a first in the history of Western art. They even define ‘partly naked' as ‘including images of bare genitals, buttocks or female breasts'.

Why not simply ask applicants for funding to sign a statement saying that they will not break the law (and, with their fingers crossed, the applicant may then say ‘unless it is in the interests of art'). Or they could use the Scouts' oath: ‘On my honour I will do my best.'

TO PARAPHRASE THE eminent jurist William Blackstone (1723–80): ‘You may write as you wish but you must bear the consequences of your temerity.' Blackstone wrote a treatise that still remains an important source on classical views of the common law and its principles. He was arguing that there be no attempts by the state to pre-censor, to prevent publication through pre-publication inspection by the state (something the Australia Council has been asked to do for work it funds). He argued that all publication should be allowed and that only then, if the law allows it, should prosecution occur. Western societies have gradually been taking Blackstone's thinking about freedom of expression one step further, especially towards the arts.

That step is that there should be no prosecution at all, that the consequences of temerity should be that the artist bears the storm of discourse surrounding the presentation of the artwork – the opprobrium or praise, honour or outrage – but that the artist should not be hounded or punished or penalised by the government or its arts funding agencies.

The artists who find themselves under public attack will have to put up with journalists camped outside their homes until we reach a higher point of evolution. This was strongly stated in 1957 when Lord Wolfenden's committee recommended to the British Government that homosexuality should no longer be a criminal offence. The Wolfenden report stated: ‘[U]nless a deliberate attempt is to be made by a society ... to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is ... not the law's business ...' Likewise with the practice and presentation of, and engagement with, art. And it has to be noted that the Australia legal system, in the end, took no action against Henson or his works.

In part the fears behind the protocols are to do with a heightened sensitivity about paedophilia and sexual harassment, a confusion over the meaning of the word ‘sexism', and a degree of sentimentality and unreality about childhood. Media and lobby groups have played on the natural anxieties of parents about protecting their children by finding new ‘threats and dangers' often not statistically based – what Marr describes as a ‘mishmash of anxieties'. Moralistic lobby groups also use ‘complaint campaigns' to pressure regulatory boards.

It has to be said that many people also feel excluded from the cutting-edge of the arts: they feel it isn't for them. But against this, the number of people who are intrigued by the arts and who are attending events and making their own art is accelerating.

For some parents and for moralists, the uncontrollable and unsettling fact of life is that they are not the only people who shape their children. Authors, for example, have a special relationship with children. They are the outsiders who are sought by children, whose works find their way to children regardless of restriction because many children have active, curious, information-seeking minds (the reading-with-a-torch-under-the-blankets defiance – usually not only an ‘after lights out' defiance but also involving a forbidden book).

It is not just the internet. When I was at school, older students passed on typewritten and handwritten sexually arousing samizdat some generations old, taboo sections of the encyclopaedias, purloined adult magazines, and the references to the sexy parts of books. The internet is something else again. The marvel of the uncensored internet is that it is exposing to us for the first time, in a most accessible way, close to a complete picture of the human consciousness and its reality in all its distasteful extremes. It is the first museum of the human mind. For governments to begin screening and tampering with it would be a dangerous act of intellectual vandalism.

By the way, authors' and artists' lives become role models. Australia's largest poet, Les Murray, tells a nice story: ‘Just by walking into the room of school children I tell them something about being a poet – that is, that all poets are not starving in garrets.' Artists tell a story by their public profile; our personal behaviour when it becomes public is seen as endorsing a position, say the ‘heroic lesbianism' of Duana Barnes in the 1930s. As I sip my martini in the Bayswater Brasserie with louche friends, I sometimes think, ‘What sort of signal is this sending our children?' The next step for the Australia Council is a code of behaviour for artists similar to that imposed on sportspeople.

There is a cry about ‘stolen childhood' and ‘let children be children' – a dreamy, sentimentally unreal view of children. Children are in ‘the world' alive with curiosity, constantly seeking to find out the way the world really is. What children expect from us is that we tell them how things are: tell them how thing should be; tell them how things once were. ‘Why, really, and truly?' are three of the most common and heartfelt words to come from the mouths of children.

The protocols, while asking that parents give their consent to the creation of the works involving their children, (which was never in question) do not address the question of artist-parents who wish to involve their children in artworks – literary and visual. The combination of sexuality and children was discussed some years ago around the work of American photographer Sally Mann, who photographed girls as they were entering puberty and displayed the photographs in the exhibition At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women(1988). In her words, these portraits ‘captured the confusing emotions and developing sexual identities of girls at that transitional age, one foot in childhood and one foot in the adult world ... The twelve year old ... disarms me with her sure sense of her own attractiveness and, with it, her direct, even provocative approach to the camera ... If you cannot photograph the things that are closest to you in the world as art then art will have no substance, no meaning.' Mann's works are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, among many others. Time magazine named her its ‘Photographer of the Year' for 2001.

The vexed subject of sexual relationship between the young and adults has been examined by American feminist Professor Camille Paglia, who has said of post-pubescent sexuality: ‘We quite rightly talk and pay attention to the injured in older/younger sexual relationships, but the bulk of such relationships, experience and sense tells us, were neither good nor bad nor dangerous nor damaging nor enriching – yet some were inspiring mentorships – replete with learning and caring.' At present, the efforts to separate out the diversity of such relationships are usually defeated in public discussion by the heat of the subject.

 

AS A PHILOSOPHICAL preference, I wouldn't wish to argue for special freedoms for the arts – artistic freedom as distinct from the wider freedom of expression for all citizens. At present I feel that it is necessary to defend the castle to save the villages. I want to argue that, in the absence of evidence that art does harm, society should continue to grant legal latitude to the arts and to continue to exempt the artistic imagination from content regulation by funding bodies. Where is the predictable and measurable harm to children, or to anyone, from being an audience to the arts or from participating in the arts? How do the arts cause so-called emotional ‘injury' or ‘abuse'?

I suppose what I see as the manifesto for the imagination of the twenty-first century is simply an affirmation of the great Western tradition that believes in the ultimate authority of the inner-directed, untrammelled imagination, supervised only by the artist's judgement and estimation of their own limitations and, as stated, the repercussions of their temerity. For the ever-increasing number of people who are directly involving themselves in the arts, they are, I think, a way of breaking the silence among us about the inexplicable and unknown. At the same time, they give us equilibrium and poise, and permit us to enjoy the labyrinth of existence.

Another part of the paradox of the arts is that after scaring us they stabilise us, because their creations – a story, an object, an image – are, after all, just that – objects, playthings, not live, marauding monsters. The arts allow us to play with cultural heresy and taboo, with erotica, to play with society's nightmares, our dreads, the sinister. Although, as I write it, I am uneasy about the use of the word ‘play' as a description of the arts, I am reminded of Montaigne's observation that no one is more serious than children when they are at play. The arts, even when they are being comic, are serious. A sophisticated society should be able to say to the arts: astonish us, disturb us, shock us, investigate our shyness, our sense of shame, our inhibitions; entrance us, make us gasp, delight us.

The manifesto of the imagination for the twenty-first century is, then, the same manifesto as that of the last century and of the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries, and of the seventeenth century and back further to when our species began to sense what remarkable things can be achieved when the talent for artistic expression, fused with wide free expression, meets a fearless audience and where the inner voice (whatever its source) is seen as paramount.

December 17, 2008


From Griffith Review Edition 23: Essentially Creative © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

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