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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Feature: Annie Sprinkle

(l-r) Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens 
(Photo credit: Mark Ritchie)

Sprinkle On The Annie!
Edgy Women opens with Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle 
by David King

When I last interviewed Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, they were getting married for the third time. 

The California-based couple’s yellow-themed wedding, a performance at One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo in Calgary, was one of seven wedding ceremonies celebrating love and equality as part of their Love Art Lab Series. Spectators participate as guests, and the weddings’ chakra-based, colours and themes are inspired by New York artist Linda Montano, who encouraged other international artists to participate in ‘durational’, living performance entitled 7 Years of Living Art and Another 7 Years of Living Art.

In Canada this month for a Montreal performance and their final, silver wedding in Ottawa (“you’re all invited!” says Sprinkle), the Stephens-Sprinkle, third wedding in Calgary still remains significant: in Canada, it legalized their vows. And while the pair doesn’t necessarily believe in the institution, they have more than enough reason to make it part of their experiments as Californians, who recently had the plug pulled on their state-sanctioned, gay marriages. 

“It’s a performative story of life and work, intimate and informal and not scripted, and then mixed in with more structured mini-performances.”

(Photo credit: Trish Tunney)
“We knew we were [legally] married in Canada,” says Stephens, “and the California decisions have just been a theatre of money and homophobia. Anyone with a sense of social justice is upset, but it’s also comedic. Actually, California doesn't even know we're married yet. We'll surprise them one day, I guess.”

If you haven't caught the Love Art Lab experiments yet, now is the perfect opportunity. March's femme-fest Edgy Women opens with Sprinkle and Stephens in a performative lecture entitled Adventures of the Love Art Lab. Like their most recent Canadian performance at Toronto’s Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, the show provides a rompy overview of the creative couple's wild ride together over the last decade. MainLine X 2, which describes itself as an "extra-terrestrial folkloric tale" by Nathalie Claude and Danielle Lecourtois, is one of the festival's many other highlights this year, along with Minneapolis artist Karen Sherman’s Slippery, a performance slam (literally) with 30 women fuelled by hockey and roller derby.

In Adventures of the Love Art Lab, Sprinkle and Stephens blend their usual sexy storytelling with striking photography to capture their romance, weddings, artificial insemination, and Sprinkle's breast cancer.  Sections include “How to make love to plants”, “25 Ways to Make Love to the Earth”, “Dirty Sexcology”, “One Of the Things I Love About You Is”, and (Sprinkles is cancer-free for 5 years now) the “Chemo Fashion Show”. 

(Photo Credit: Trish Tunney)
“It’s a performative story of life and work,” says Sprinkles, “intimate and informal and not scripted, and then mixed in with more structured mini-performances.”

Having shifted their more recent weddings away from one another and onto marrying the environment, Stephens describes how the couple’s 'ecosexuality' now plays a big part in their series while avoiding the ‘earth mother’ trappings of paganism.  

“For some reason when you make vows to love and cherish the earth in front of 450 people it really does change things in your life.” 

“The day after the California decision [to rule out existing gay marriage] was our green wedding,” says Stephens, “and we got married to the earth. After our first wedding in Canada, frankly we were bored getting married, and we wanted to make the project about something bigger than ourselves. We have this little cabin up in the mountains in Santa Cruz and it's so beautiful and peaceful, with big redwood trees right outside the window, and we were so inspired by this stuff. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, entire mountain tops are being removed and corporations have destroyed 1500 miles of streams and creeks while blowing up about 500 mountains.”

“For some reason,” adds Sprinkle, “when you make vows to love and cherish the earth in front of 450 people it really does change things in your life.” 

As Chair of the University of California Art Department in Santa Cruz, Stephens’ film, photography and performance work has been focused on eco-art for sometime, while Sprinkles’ PhD and background in sexuality and porn give them a well-rounded expertise in ecosexuality. They’ve already held an “Ecosex” symposium on the subject, with another on its way. The couple’s blue wedding married the sea in Venice, and last year, says Stephens, they married the moon since “NASA’s blowing that up, too”. In Croatia, Sprinkle recalls, the couple received a death threat for their wedding at a festival, but got away with the marriage since they were marrying the earth. 

All set for a gloriously white and silver final wedding in our nation’s capital on March 26, Sprinkles and Stephens are looking forward to a snowy environment, in a country that legalized their vows and demonstrates equality in that area. 

As Sprinkle describes it, “the pendulum now swings back, to silver”.  

Who knew the moon was already married? If we all get a chance, let’s just hope it’s a polygamist. 

Sprinkle and Stephens are preceded by artist Andréane Leclerc and followed by a Meow Mix dance party for one night only, March 19. Tickets for their white wedding in Ottawa will be made available to guests. 
Check out the Love Art Lab online for more details on the project. For more on Sprinkle’s career visit Org.asm and Elisabeth Stephens’ multi-media and eco-art online.
Studio 303's Edgy Women runs at Sala Rossa, Mainline Theatre and Tangente from March 19 to April 3. 

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