The California-based performance artist, activist and ex–porn star Annie Sprinkle has been merging politics and sexuality for many years. In December 2004, Sprinkle and her partner Elizabeth Stephens started the Love Art Laboratory (loveartlab.org), “committed to doing projects that explore, generate and celebrate love.” Among the activities of the Love Art Laboratory: a seven-year pledge to produce “at least one collaborative wedding performance per year.”
At the invitation of Linda Montano—creator of Fourteen Years of Living Art (1984–98)—the self-proclaimed “ecosexuals” Sprinkle and Stephens have been aiming to merge sexuality with ecology by performing their environmentally themed wedding vows in locations around the world (including Santa Cruz, Zagreb and Venice) over the last seven years. The pair considers these weddings symbolic gestures that “help to make the world a more tolerant, sustainable and peaceful place.” In accordance with Montano’s structure, each year’s wedding corresponds to a specific chakra. This is their final year, and it celebrates the crown chakra, which is represented by white or silver and associated with union and bliss. On March 26, 2011, Sprinkle and Stephens made their vows to each other—and to the snow—at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts in Ottawa, in White Wedding to the Snow, a Galerie SAW Gallery collaboration with the La Petite Mort Gallery, the University of Ottawa, Venus Envy and Inside Out Ottawa-Gatineau LGBT Film and Video Festival.
Each Sprinkle-and-Stephens wedding stresses not only sexuality and the environment, but also collaboration, participation and community. With more than 60 local, national and international performers and artists, and a technical and production team of 30, the Ottawa nuptials were also a tribute to performance in its broadest sense. The 300-plus guests were invited to participate by marrying the snow; wedding rings were provided in the afternoon’s program, and guests were encouraged to make individual vows to the environment. Curated by Stefan St-Laurent and organized by the wedding planner Kathleen Nicholls, White Wedding to the Snow was a stunning celebration.
The performances and artistic collaborations were diverse and ranged in scope and focus. Snowflakes were scattered, paper snowballs thrown, songs sung, bodies exposed and ice rings—designed by Cindy Baker and inspired by Elizabeth Taylor—exchanged. The wedding was consummated in expected Sprinkle- style, with the ceremonial vaginal insertion of matching icicles that quickly melted away. According to Sprinkle, Stephens and the spoken-word artist Luna Allison, the snow is a perfect paramour—for what other lover melts at your touch, every time?
These wedding performances ask that we try shifting the metaphor of “earth as mother” to “earth as lover.” In the words of Sprinkle and Stephens, “Ask the earth what she wants, likes and needs—then try to give it to her.”
This is a review from the Fall 2011 issue of Canadian Art. To read more from this issue, please visit its table of contents.