Voices: Annie Sprinkle & Elizabeth Stephens

Feature in Issue 19-4 | Winter 2007

Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens in their own words.

We’ve been working together as artists since our first date, which was in July 2001. We had known each other’s work for years and had met previously, but our first kiss on our first date was our first artistic collaboration. We then had sex for three days, a continuation of our collaboration. We are two artists in love. The Love Art Laboratory is the name for our current collaborative work. It is a lab: a bunch of experiments.

The first seven years of our project are based on the themes and colours of the chakras. This seven-year structure was inspired by Linda M. Montano’s 14 Years of Living Art. We get married every year, and each wedding takes a colour that corresponds to a chakra (the seven sacred sites of the body). We have had a red wedding in 2005 (security and survival), an orange wedding in 2006 (sexuality and creativity) and a yellow wedding in 2007 (courage and power). In 2008 we will hold a green wedding, with many people taking part in a mass ‘domestic partner’ ceremony. Green is the colour of the heart chakra, representing love and compassion. The green wedding will take place as part of a major event in Santa Cruz which will bring together many different artists who are rethinking the relationship between art and social practice.

This may be the end for Exposed: experiments in love, sex, death and art which has been touring for two years as part of The Love Art Laboratory (recently seen in the UK, Chelsea Theatre September 2007, as part of the International Workshop Festival); we feel ready to move onto something else. The work was created at a time when we were dealing with breast cancer, with survival, and we perhaps need to leave that time behind. We welcomed the opportunity to look death in the face, to deal with it, to make fun of it. But then it was for real, and now we feel it is more and more like ‘acting’ the memory rather than living it. We are not actors; we know shit about theatre and acting!

Love is the taboo subject nowadays, not sex. Art about love has become stereotyped, trivialised. We are bored of art about sex. Thirty years on, sex based performance art has become mundane, the norm. It is everywhere. The students we teach are obsessed by blood and guts. We are now interested in art about love. Love is the new sex. Love is a political weapon. We make love bombs: weapons of mass seduction. We are not interested in engaging in any sort of way with George Bush. George Bush is an … ‘asshole’ is too much of a compliment. George Bush is a haemorrhoid. You can quote us on that!

We will continue to speak against the war, to focus on love rather than killing people.

If you are against war, why make images of war? Why stay with the problem? Why focus on the violence? It’s no longer radical; we need new strategies. We want to model our beliefs about political intervention.

Age changes us. When you are older, your focus shifts. Sex stays important, but the enjoyment of ‘married life’, of companionship even more so.

We are interested in making interventionist artworks, making more work outside of theatres and galleries. Our Kiss piece is being performed for the first time as a group artwork, in public, on the Kings Road, as part of the International Workshop Festival.

Teaching is vital. Universities remain just about the only place you can have a radical stance and make a difference, despite the clampdowns on education. We are interested in sharing and learning.

Being married and working together is really good. We have both previously worked in artistic collaborations with lovers, with various degrees of success, but this works well. We take risks together. We live away from the city (in Boulder Creek, California). We currently travel a lot, but would like to spend more time at home. The year of our green wedding will be an opportunity to explore the heart, and to investigate environmental issues for artists. We are mostly interested in art as life, and life as art.

The big issues for us are love and equality: political equality for all; racial and sexual equality. We are anti war; we believe in the power of love.

Annie Sprinkle is a performance artist whose many works include Public Cervix Announcement, Annie Sprinkle’s Herstory of Porn, and Post Porn Modernist, the last (which came to the UK in the 1990s) documenting her ‘sex positive feminist’ journey from ‘whorehouse to arthouse’ via the creation of her alter-ego Anya, the sacred prostitute. She has the interesting distinction of being the first porn star known to have earned a Ph.D.

Elizabeth Stephens is a multimedia artist working in performance, sculpture, installation, web-based media and photography. In one of her most recent projects she acted as a ‘travel avatar’ for other people, investigating the US geographical, and political and social landscape. She is currently the chair of the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) Art Department where she teaches intermedia and sculpture.

Together, Annie and Elizabeth have created the Love Art Lab, an ongoing project. For current and future events, see www.loveartlab.com

Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens talked to Dorothy Max Prior at Chelsea Theatre, September 2007.

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Issue 19-4
p. 19