Large-scale voyeurism

A vodka company sponsors a public screening of art films -- one of which features a Princess Diana look-alike reenacting the crotch scene from "Basic Instinct."

By Jack Boulware
July 28, 2000 11:13PM (UTC)
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British children who are frustrated with the lack of pornographic and vulgar images available to them will soon have their wildest dreams fulfilled. For the next six weeks, sexually graphic art films will be projected continuously in London's crowded Leicester Square, viewable by the general public on Europe's largest outdoor screen.

One of the films portrays an actress dressed as Diana, Princess of Wales, imitating the infamous Sharon Stone crotch-flashing scene from "Basic Instinct" (in which she crosses and uncrosses her legs and then makes a vulgar gesture). A second film includes footage of a melting wax penis, and a third depicts the close-up facial expressions of men and women using the bathroom.


The controversial series of short films, projected on a giant 40-by-29-foot screen, is being sponsored by Polstar Vodka in an attempt to promote modern art and, one assumes, sell vodka.

Predictably, many are displeased about the prospect of thousands of people, especially children, witnessing such sexually charged imagery. Ann Widdecombe, the shadow home secretary, described the films as "at best, utterly and completely tasteless and, at worst, a further eradication of standards."

Lady Di's appearance, in particular, is upsetting to Widdecombe, who told the Telegraph: "To use someone who is dead in this way is profoundly tasteless. What on earth is the matter with people nowadays? There is an attitude that boundaries have to be pushed back farther and farther in order to produce a new sensation. In the end this kind of thing is simply puerile."


Alexander de Cadenet, curator of the Polstar program, defended the film series in the way one usually justifies sexually explicit art: "One was really selecting work that has immediate visual impact on the screen. It's art for everyday people, a forum for contemporary art. You get a million people a week going past."

The bathroom scenes of men and women relieving themselves are easily accounted for, he said. "This piece is about a particular moment in time, following one particular situation that is a very private moment. It's interesting to make public the very, very private and this is as much of a public statement as you could possibly get."

Despite the controversy, the show has been endorsed by the London Tourist Board. "As a tourist board it's not really our role to decide on the content of art exhibitions or comment on what artists do," a spokesman said. "The fact that it's going to be free, accessible art in Leicester Square for six weeks is obviously quite an exciting thing for London."


One of the most exciting elements of the show undoubtedly will be the crotch shot of the actress portraying the late Princess Diana. For anyone interested in doing the math, this stirring image will measure nearly 30 feet high.

Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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