A Line or Two: Ecosexual Movie Night
The Twin Cities never cease to surprise me: modest Midwestern regional hubs on the surface--and just below the surface, a web of activity, connection, and innovation that is world-class. My latest example: Ecosexual movie night near Lake of the Isles.
Back in the day, when I was an editor at the Utne Reader
, a national magazine of politics, environmentalism, new ideas, and culture that was founded by Eric Utne and based here for more than twenty years before being sold to a company in Kansas, we highlighted people we called visionaries. These were forward thinkers in many fields, from politics to art to psychology to planet-protection. They ran the gamut from the brilliant but buttoned-down to the really out-there, and one of the most delightfully out-there Utne visionaries was a woman named Annie Sprinkle.
Sprinkle had been an adult-movie actress, but then she turned into an artist, a performer, and a serious thinker about sexuality (with a PhD) who worked to help make the sexual revolution a genuine revolution in attitudes about women's bodies. With wit, flamboyance, and fabulous costuming, she spoke out for honesty about our physical selves.
Last Sunday, I finally got to meet her, at the hors d'ouevre table in a beautiful Minneapolis house near Lake of the Isles. She was there with her partner, artist-environmentalist-professor Beth Stephens, guests of two new friends of mine, Xandra Coe and Judy Meath. (Xandra and Judy's sleek house, by the way, is a modern Minneapolis classic, designed by Sarah Susanka
, perhaps our best-known local architect.)
Based in San Francisco, Sprinkle and Stephens work collaboratively as environmental activists—but if your image of an environmental activist is that of a rather dour person in hiking boots and down vest, you aren't ready for Sprinkle and Stephens.
They are self-proclaimed "ecosexuals"—gay women who, as they explained during the gathering, have morphed the ancient image of earth as mother into a new one: earth as lover. They talk about "skygasms" and "pollen-amorous" relationships. They hold fabulous performance-art "weddings" around the world in which they marry one another over and over again while also uniting with elements of the earth like mountains, lakes, and the sky. Xandra and Judy were guests at one of the weddings, and on Sunday night, their home became a theater to show a nearly complete cut of Sprinkle and Stephens' new film, Goodbye Gauley Mountain.
Mountain Top Removal
If I was expecting flamboyantly costumed ecosexual performance art in the movie--and I was--I got a comeuppance. Gauley Mountain is a sobering take on something that we don't read about much: MTR
, or Mountain Top Removal, the violently explosive, exploitative (and very cheap) form of strip mining for coal that has destroyed more than 500 mountains, covered up 2,300 miles of streams and creeks, and displaced thousands of people in Stephens' native West Virginia, while destroying plant and animal life wholesale. Interviews with beleaguered local anti-MTR activists, images of denuded mountaintops, and other disturbing content are mixed in with Stephens and Sprinkle's declarations of ecosexual love for the state, the region, and the planet.
The result is a fascinating mix of the familiar--images of outrage, protest, exploitation--and the unfamiliar: a love of the earth that's cheerfully sexualized. The gathering of artists, environmentalists, GLBT folk, and others in Xandra and Judy's house gave it, and its creators, a full three minutes of applause at the end, which is the kind of thing that happens when paradigms are shifted. I walked away both angry and elated, wound up over West Virginia's victimization by the economic forces (including the demand for cheap electricity) that have become our new gods, and excited by the prospect of looking at the big tree in my back yard with playfully hungry eyes.
Find out more about MTR here
, and about Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens here
. And try hugging a tree in a whole new way.