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Wintec Spark Speaker Features In Art Debate


Wintec Spark Speaker Features In Art Debate

One of the presenters at Wintec's (Waikato Institute of Technology) upcoming Spark arts festival is currently at the centre of media controversy in Australia. Photographer Polixeni Papapetrou is one of several international speakers at Wintec's annual Spark arts festival next month, and has been the subject of debate after a photograph featuring her six year old daughter naked appeared on the cover of an Australian arts magazine.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd criticised the cover image strongly, saying "Frankly, I can't stand this stuff", and reigniting a row over the potentially exploitative use of children in art. He was supported by opposition Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson, who described the image as a "two-fingered salute to the rest of society".

However, Papapetrou's daughter Olympia, now 11, has expressed her personal offence over Rudd's comments, saying she is proud of the image taken by her mother and considers it one of her favourite photographs. The editor of the Art Monthly magazine said he knew the photograph would be controversial, but that he hoped to "restore some dignity to the debate, and validate nudity and childhood as subjects for art". In May, an exhibition of pictures of naked children by photographer Bill Henson was closed before it opened, in a case that provoked a nationwide debate over censorship.

Papapetrou told the Australian News that Rudd's remarks, and comments by child protection groups, inflame rather than deepen the debate. She said that her children had been the main focus of her practice since she became a mother and she did not find that unusual. Explorations of childhood innocence and fantasy appear frequently within Papapetrou's work, in photo essays such as 'Wonderland' (2004), which features Olympia as Lewis Carroll's Alice, posed in front of painted backdrops.

Wintec School of Media Arts head of school, Margi Moore, said one of the functions of Spark was to provide a forum for exactly this type of debate.

"We are delighted to have Papapetrou present at Spark and we anticipate some informed and intelligent debate about numerous issues and trends in the creative industries."

Spark 08 is the 10th Birthday of the arts/media/design festival in Hamilton from August 4-8 2008. See website at


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