Ecos of an Era

Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens’ Purple Wedding to the Moon

I recently attended the public wedding/performance art event Purple Wedding to the Moon, staged by “artist brides”/“ecosexual artists” Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D., a feminist porn star and artist turned “sexologist,” and Beth Stephens, a UC Santa Cruz art professor and environmental activist. A press release for the event described the pair’s motivation and intentions: “As a strategy to create a more mutual and sustainable relationship with our abused and exploited planet, we are switching the metaphor from the Earth as mother to Earth as lover.”

The wedding/performance that almost didn’t happen was held at Farnsworth Park’s outdoor amphitheater in the conservative community of Altadena, California, on the night of a full moon. It was almost canceled because a local blogger identified Annie Sprinkle as a “lesbian pornographer” and “alerted” the conservative community to possible disruptions of the peace as a result of this free public event. When this “news” broke out, the Department of Parks and Recreation decided to cancel the event, less than two weeks before it was scheduled, citing a false “double booking” problem. The brides didn’t take this lightly, and employed a well-known civil rights lawyer to defend themselves. After a flurry of legal activity, they were able to claim their right to free speech and be symbolically wed again in the public venue they had paid money to rent, advertise and hire security for.

Annie Sprinkle is well-known for her earlier edgy work as a performance artist, including her piece Public Cervix Announcement, in which she invites the audience to "celebrate the female body" by viewing her cervix with a speculum and flashlight. She also performed The Legend of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute, in which she did a "sex magic" masturbation ritual on stage, and has toured one-woman shows internationally for 17 years. The first porn star known to have earned a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, she has appeared in more than 200 erotic movies since 1975.

Sprinkle's work has always been about sexuality, with a political, spiritual and artistic bent. In December 2005, she committed to doing seven years of art projects about love with her wife and art collaborator, Beth Stephens. They call this their “Love Art Laboratory.” Part of their project is to do an experimental art wedding each year; each year has a different theme and color. The seven-year theme was adapted to their project by invitation of performance artist Linda Montano, whom Sprinkle has always referred to as her mentor. Sprinkle and Stephens were legally wed in Canada on January 14, 2007.

While not another “legal” wedding, the “Purple Wedding to the Moon” was a symbolic ritual that sincerely expressed the commitment of Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens to each other, as well as to their shared vision as environmental artist activists. The four-hour event was more like a traditional wedding than a performance in that it involved many repetitive tributes via more than 30 performances by “collaborators” –– participants invited to pay tribute to the marriage of Annie, Beth and, of course, the moon. Due to the dark and cloudy skies threatening rain at this venue in the mountain foothills, the moon did not show up for the event, at least to the naked eye, despite all the praise given to its glorious presence in the sky.

There was much visual festivity among the purple-clad crowd –– attendees were asked to wear purple, and there were many costumes. Performances included a clown act, songs and sing-alongs, several interpretive “moon dances,” poetry readings, a garter tossing, burlesque disco acts, a puppet show and more. Everything presented made reference to the moon, how it affects the tides, menstruation, gives us life, etc.; many arms were upraised to the moon by both performers and the audience, as requested, throughout the night. The most entertaining moment was probably unintentional: All of the large inflated white stage props resembling penises and vaginas suddenly deflated and fell on the stage when something went wrong with the air pump.

I really wished there were some editing involved with this event. I could have done without the reading of the famous children’s book Goodnight Moon, complete with props such as a small plastic cow jumping over a hand-held model of the moon. The highlight of the evening, aside from the touching wedding vows at the end, was the Reverend Billy (a.k.a. Bill Talen) and his performance troupe and choir The Church of Life After Shopping, who provided comic relief to all of the reverence of the moon. Billy’s “homily” was amusing, and he kept the wedding rocking and rolling as much as he could.

I left still wondering, what’s an ecosexual? Can the budding ecosexual movement help save the world? I had another chance to find out at a symposium organized by Sprinkle and Stephens the next day at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. These were some of the questions that were to be discussed at this public forum “where art meets theory meets sex education meets practice.”

This event, billed as a both a “public forum and purple honeymoon,” was moderated by actor Veronica Hart, and featured ecosex relationship coach and author of Polyamory in the 20th Century Debora Taj Anapol giving an overview of what ecosex is all about, “clinically, spiritually and socio-politically.” Also featured: ecosexual theorist and author of Gaia and the New Politics of Love, Serena Anderlini, speaking about “how the Earth stores and runs the energy of love”; and sexologist Carol Queen, discussing “ecorotic” issues in the sex-toy industry. Performances at this forum included Kamala Devi and the Tantra Theater acting out the audience’s “ecosex fantasies”; Dr. Robert Lawrence, covering more ecosex fetishes; award-winning porn stars Jiz Lee and April Flores; porn director Carlos Batts discussing green porn and presenting a waterfall scene from their film Dangerous Curves. Tania Hammidi presented a dance piece about conflict, genocide and olive trees. “Comedic relief” came from EcoElf. Other artists collaborating included C. Finley, Spyce Spycey, Luna Bella, Joegh Bullock, Lady Monster, Cindy Baker, Megan Morman, HB3, Dylan Bowls and Jayme Waxman.

So apparently there is an ecosexual art movement that many artists and intellectuals are involved in. Kudos to this vibrant community for trying to save the world. I wish them all the best. Unfortunately, I left the event still confused, and not in any way stimulated.
–– Laura Brun