Where are you? What do you want? What sort of world do you live in, and what sort of world do you want to live in? And what are you going to do about it? These are huge questions. There might not even be answers for them, like, there isn’t one answer that makes sense to everyone; one answer to all of these impossible questions which we can all agree on. It would be nuts to expect everyone to have the same answers. But for me, and millions of other human beings all over the world, these questions are most articulately explored through the work of the American artist Sharon Stone.
She’s probably best known for showing her vagina in the movie Basic Instinct. She’s offered various versions of how this legendary star turn came to be (she knew they were filming her genitals, she didn’t know, she knew but pretended not to know, she didn’t know but pretended not to be surprised when she saw the final film, etc.). Regardless of which version of the story you choose to believe, the fact remains that nobody had ever actually shown their genitals on a film screen before. Sharon Stone is a trailblazer, a pioneer, almost a sort of proto-feminist icon. She’s kind of one thing and then also not at all that thing. She is very smart and astute and also full of baloney. And it’s okay to be both.
In 1995, at a press conference for a breast cancer awareness benefit, she claimed to have cured herself of cancer, foregoing traditional medical techniques in favor of “a lot of positive thinking and a lot of holistic healing”, and most importantly, giving up coffee. In her brilliant yet impromptu speech, she claims that this process of self-regeneration took several months, and then in the next sentence notes that after giving up coffee, she was “tested negative” for cancer only ten days, later. So this forces a difficult question: is she totally full of shit or is she magic?
More recently, in 2008 she lost a plum job as the spokeslady of Dior cosmetics, after a comment she made on the red carpet at Cannes that year. She didn’t say absolutely, mind you, but posited the theory that perhaps the 2008 Chinese earthquake which killed 68,000 people was karma for China’s treatment of Tibetans and her good friend the Dalai Lama. It upset everybody, and she refused to apologize, not realizing that more than half of the victims of the Earthquake were in fact Tibetans. Again: does she know? Does it matter if she knows?
“Being a movie star” as she once said, “is a lot like being an alcoholic. The only way to survive it is one day at a time.” Not only is she comparing excessive privilege, wealth and status to a crippling and often isolating disease, she’s seems to be drawing a parallel between alcoholism and celebrity; they are blights, endemic to Western culture, to be survived by any means necessary.
You can’t tell if Sharon Stone is joking or not. And she can’t tell either. She is not like pop stars or other movie stars, she’s not waiting to see which goes better and then take her cues off the audience. Sharon Stone is actually doing both at the same time.
There’s a certain sensibility in contemporary art which I feel makes it somehow feel more modern, more appropriate, more responsive to the times in which we live. A certain quality in an artwork, a political outlook which I recognize as being more nuanced, radical and somehow more correct in response to the current era. This quality is a barely perceptible ambivalence. Ambivalence towards concepts such as decorum, narrative, consciousness, beauty, truth, language, identity, time, space, and reality itself. You name it. Ambivalence doesn’t mean indecision. It means that one could make any number of multiple decisions easily and with equal enthusiasm, although the decisions themselves may be diametrically opposed. Ambivalence means that you can hold two conflicting ideas in your head and not have your mind ripped in half by the cognitive dissonance, the way a normal person would. Ambivalence is some kind of birth defect, it’s bearers do not seem to mind believing two opposing truths at once. It is a kind of bliss unknown to mortals, it is signals the emotional bearing of the godhead. And Sharon Stone has it and it’s why I love her.