he Harmony Theater on a side street in the village is usually the venue for strippers. But for four nights in June it was the site of an expression of a new art movement, an art movement that is being born and will probably take several years (if not a decade or two) to break through the gloomy pessimistic view of the performance world of the last fifteen years. This talk about a new art movement would seem dangerous and pretentious in a review about a "sexually" explicit show. But it is not this reviewer who puts the show into this lofty contest. It is the artist and her peers. As we leafed through the program before the show, we came across a manifesto. Manifestos are often signs of artist who are
taking themselves too seriously, who are choking on their own self-importance (imagined). So it is a bad sign, a sign of a boring evening ahead if the artist hands you a manifesto before you see the work.
But this manifesto is different. It talks about an art movement which "celebrates sex as the nourishing, life-giving force" which these artists use, in the self-empowering "attitude of sex-positivism" to "communicate our ideas and emotions...to have fun, heal the world and endure." This is a declaration of war on the censoring forces of anti-art, anti-human, anti-sex, anti-fun, anti-love, and truly anti-life
forces of darkness in power in the world today. This document was signed by some of the leading artists who use sex in their work. But this movement needs a better name. These artists call themselves Post Porn Modernists. This is very limiting because it links them not only to dying deadening porn, but to the glum post modern art movement, setting themselves up to be just a reaction, just the limb of a dead tree. They need a name like Living Pleasure Artists.
This is also my main criticism of the show itself. It was called Annie Sprinkle--Post Porn Modernist. The work was more than that because Annie is more than that. The stage set was Annie's bedroom, Annie's world. But Annie's bedroom world is not limited to the stage, not to a private
bedroom, not to a private booth with a one way window in a XXX theatre. This is because Annie has been expanding out of the massage parlor strip joint, porn screen into the worlds of art and spirit. So the bedroom we see on stage keeps changing, pulling us in, including us. We never are sure what we are experiencing--a play, a one-woman sex show, a performance with audience-participation, a monologue, a magic trantric ritual. This not being sure created an electric reality which wrapped us into Annie...deep inside Annie Sprinkle.
When we first see Annie, she is like a corporate yuppie explaining to us with the help of charts, graphs, and slides why the sex business was a great career move for our young Annie. This seemed very similar to the whitewash rationale of the porn business.
But just as we were about to dismiss Annie, it became clear that this was not just a self-justifying monolog about the inner world of a sex star written by some male ghost-writer. It was much more than this. It was billed as a one-woman show. For anyone who has followed Annie's career (and for those who have not, the biographic thread in this piece provided the needed background), the show was the logical next step. She is someone whose spirit has reached out of sleazy hord-core flicks to inspire by humor and human warmth. She is someone who has teamed up with Veronica Vera, sister sexual evolutionary and author of the manifesto, to claim control over their sex art by publishing their explicit
magazines, and selling bottles of their own piss by mail. Annie's "innocence" has a wide streak of clever business sense. She went on to become a writer and a photographer, as well as directing an erotic
video. Over the last six years, she segued herself into the performance art world to the point that she is the subject of much serious critical discussion. This piece encapsulates this. Many sections have been
performed before as individual pieces. Done separately, they have been cute, daring, but lack a certain depth of magical insight. But in this production, Annie weaves these pieces with new creations into a
nonlinear magic carpet that breaks through the merely shocking, merely vulgar, merely taboo-breaking, into the cosmic realm of personal touch where by laughing, crying, being turned on, we become channels for new alternatives.
So we are sitting in this strip joint, watching this explicit show. But it will not stay on stage. Annie will not stay just a sex object. She is a sex object. Everyone is...at least everyone who is healthy and happy. But Annie is not just a sex object. She uses her sex, her porn/hooker/sex background to make the people in the audience see they are sex objects, but not just sex objects. Annie can do this because she does not deny, hide or underestimate the sex/porn/tacky/child aspect of her soul as so many do. She may, in the future, be seduced away from this, her power. But in this performance, she exploited this erotic power.
It was billed as a one-woman show. This was not true. The audience was her leading man/woman. She talked to us, involved us, enveloped us. The play vanished, and an experience took over. She had us doing tantric breathing and exercising our inner genital muscles. It felt silly and tacky and dumb, as Annie appeared to be. Dumbly innocent and pure. But as shamans will tell you, magic is dumb, tacky, silly, innocent and pure. Annie, at different points, invited the audience onto the stage to play with her universal tits, peer into her deeply to glimpse her pink clam cervix. She was always talking to us, responding to us, making love to us, pulling us into an enveloping reality that kept getting deeper
and wider...first the porn reality, expanding into Annie's reality, and finally into the liquid world of melting forms of tantric magic.
The play melted away. Annie became more than herself, more than her Sprinkle identity. She was talking about her reality, about herself, but not just talking about herself. By transforming herself into a symbol of what we all could be, she was offering a working alternative to the workings of the normal world. This melting away of the play expanded the performance into an all-enveloping environmental experience, a magical ritual. I do not think Sprinkle is aware of the full range of her work. She is guided by feelings, by spirits and the muses. She may be tempted to polish up her act, to package it, to stick to the rehearsed script. If she falls into this temptation, she will lose the power of the soft magic that comes through her body and personality. Then she would be just another clever woman performer. What made the piece and Annie special were in the little things...the way she stayed in full view
talking to us as she changed clothes...her giggling because the douche water kept leaking out of her long after that scene had ended...the love of people that bubbled out of her very being.
Photos flashed on the screen, before and after photos, first of Annie. This slide show revealed that Annie Sprinkle is a self-creation of a shy, awkward, fat, Jewish girl named Ellen from nowhere, U.S.A. Annie has and is everything that Ellen dreamed of. But Sprinkle never stops at biographic monologs, which are self-indulgent. Her slideshow quickly included before and after pictures of very average women who transformed right before our eyes into different people, into sex goddesses. Some were professional strippers and sex queens. But a lot of them were housewives, nurses, artists whom Annie and Vera transformed into their secret, hidden selves. The clear message is that this self-creation,
self-transformation, is possible for anyone...and not just for sex goddesses.
Still a nagging feeling remained. All of this was too neat, too nice, just so many rationalizations of a porno victim who denies all the pain and hurt. This feeling floated around through her cute bosom
ballet...and through the outrageous, taboo-breaking, jack-off scene reading the bible. The floating, nagging feeling was the lack of deep human emotion, the lack shared by porn, new age spiritualists, and
hard-core feminists. But Annie took aim on this feeling. She said most of her experiences in the sex business have been good...but...then she took us on a nightmarish journey through all the sweaty spermy dirty hurt, sucking rubber cocks faster faster deeper deeper in factories with bodiless angry male voices screaming at her about pain, about cunts and bitches, making her into an object, not a sex object, no sex in this nightmare, just sucking until gagging, puking, screaming, body shaking. We then knew Annie Sprinkle is a great actor, both physically and emotionally, to channel this vision.
Then we watched Annie quietly transmute all of this negativity into personal strength, into a human wisdom, all within her body. She grows, expands, becoming a shaman. She is now ready to perform the final ritual. Her body has become the temple, the universe. By turning her body on into a holy orgasm, Annie by means of pleasure, pushed the world a little back on the track. Suddenly, we were in the primal cave, the sex temple, with our dead friends, many dead of Aids, watching something
sacred. As her orgasm rose, her magical presence expanded to embrace everyone in the theatre. I then knew I was experiencing one of the best performances. Annie believes that sex heals cosmically and personally, physically and emotionally. I left the Harmony warm and satisfied and happy.
What does Annie do for an encore? She invited members of the audience to pose for a Polaroid with Annie's tits on their head...at five bucks a shot. Every shaman knows that you should not leave people out in the ozone.
I end this with a word about language. I have said I do not think Annie has a full understanding of what she is working with. The problem is language. We say Annie works with sex and has an orgasm. But the orgasm we are talking about could have been centered in the liver rather than the genitals, could have lasted for over an hour. It was for healing, or magic, or even other reasons. All of which is not what the normal person means when she says sex and orgasm. It confuses and limits using those
terms. There may be many different states, many different forms of physical energies, waiting to be discovered, but which are being masked under mislabels of "sex" and "orgasms".
-- In Freedom, Frank http://www.eroplay.com --