While the increasing censorship of art made headlines with the police raid and confiscation of Bill Henson's work in Sydney, this is far from a stand-alone case of political interference in art.
Artist and activist Van Thanh Rudd recently had an artwork rejected by Melbourne City Council. Rudd had been approached to submit a work to the upcoming Ho Chi Minh Young Artists' Exhibition. His painting, "Special Forces (after Banksy)", features Ronald McDonald holding the Olympic torch as he runs past a burning monk.
In May 23, the council decision against displaying the work, which had been prepared especially, was announced. It made headlines, also because Rudd is the nephew of PM Kevin Rudd.
The title of Rudd's work refers to the US war in Vietnam in the 1960s, and its covert operations in Tibet. The reference to Banksy relates to a British artist whose work "American Influence" depicted Ronald Macdonald and Micky Mouse hand-in-hand with the young Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack from Nick Út's iconic 1972 photograph.
Rudd described his artwork on the ABC's The World Today on May 23 as "a protest against the abuses that are taking place in Tibet as well as globally. The Olympics is exposing many of the inherent contradictions of capitalism which China is grappling with."
"[We're] supposed to be a democratic country and [yet] you can't even exhibit art which is considered to be too challenging", said Rudd. "The so-called change of government has made things more hazy, but when contradictions are exposed, the reality is just as ugly as it was under the Howard era".
["Special Forces (after Banksy)" is on display at the Centre for Latin American Solidarity and Studies, 360 Victoria Street North Melbourne until June 21.]