Annie Sprinkle (aka Ellen F. Steinberg)

1954 | Philadelphia, United States
Annie Sprinkle (aka Ellen F. Steinberg) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Annie Sprinkle, Annie Sprinkle, © Photo: Joegh Bullock, © Annie Sprinkle

American filmmaker, actor and performer.

Sexologist, “ecosexual”, author, lecturer, educator, sex worker, trailblazing filmmaker and the first porn star to be awarded a PhD, professional photographer, creator of a body of work that is not only shown in the most prestigious museums and galleries but inspires university research: meet Annie Sprinkle, the artist who has blurred the boundaries of pornography, sexual culture and art and defied both censorship and taboos.
First employed in a massage parlour, where she worked as a self-described sex worker, A. Sprinkle moved to New York in 1973, appearing in over one hundred X-rated movies including Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle (1981), a film that overturned the power balance by concentrating on female orgasm and directly addressing the camera. Between 1978 and 1980, she travelled throughout Europe with her partner Willem de Ridder, throwing herself into the subversive potentialities of pornography through the spectrum of art. She created collective plays in her living room, one of which was revived in 1985 by Franklin Furnace, an alternative space in New York.

The feminist struggle for or against pornography was at its paroxysm when she was invited by university professor Richard Schechner to set up a form of sexual education course in which the notion of sex working, with its assessments and statistics, set against an experience oriented towards pleasure, transformed the traditional concept of the all-powerful male gaze.
Following a fifteen-year association with Linda Montano (born 1942), she entered into a relationship with transgender Les Nichols and went on to run the Love Lab with her partner Elizabeth Stephens. Between 1989 and 1995, the Post-Porn Modernist Show (written by Veronica Vera) proclaimed a political, positive take on sex. A. Sprinkle lured viewers into a tour of her uterus before engaging in a masturbatory ritual. The artist has played an instrumental role in the sex worker movement, as well as in the struggle against homophobia and transphobia. Acting as a relay between the realms of pornography and art, she has initiated a new status for sexual representation and opened up sexuality to feminist and queer “counter-pleasures”.

Elisabeth Lebovici

Translated from the French by Caroline Taylor.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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