michael j. morris


Critical Dialogues Around Ecosexuality

I was so thrilled when Kim TallBear posted her piece of writing, “What’s in Ecosexuality for an Indigenous Scholar of ‘Nature’?” on 29 June 2012. I am so excited to see other academic scholars taking an interest in what I consider to be a significant opportunity for generating new ways of thinking and making our world, bringing ecosexuality into contact with a range of disciplinary perspectives, and allowing for what Donna Haraway and Karen Barad might call “diffractive” readings between them. TallBear does an excellent job in opening up this topic of conversation, and I hope you take a moment to read what she’s written, as well her addendum, and the comment thread that is developing.

This afternoon, I finally took a few minutes to make my own meager contribution to this discussion, which I am posting below. Besides my scattered musings on ecosexuality on this blog, a few conference presentations, a few papers, and a chapter for an anthology that is currently in the editing process, I haven’t had very much opportunity to share my work on ecosexuality with a broader audience. Eventually, ecosexuality in performance will be the project of my disseration, which I’ll start sometime in the spring. Until then, here are some glimpses of what I’ve been thinking:

I want to first say THANK YOU to Kim for authoring what I think is one of the most sophisticated academic accounts of ecosexuality that I’ve yet encountered. I had the honor of presenting my research alongside Praba Pilar, Jennifer Reed, and Sha LaBare on the “Theories of Ecosex” panel at the EcoSex Symposium II in June 2011, and I was excited by the ways in which each of their work rigorously considered the social, political, and personal implications of ecosexuality. The movement around ecosexuality includes a broad spectrum of voices, perspectives, practices, and personal histories. I’ve met artists, activists, academics, and allies, each with subtle and dramatically different inflections in their articulation of what ecosexuality can be, and I think it is great that this movement holds a space for so much difference. At the same time, I have felt discontent at times—a discontentment tempered with an excitement towards the work to be done—with the lack of critical rigor within these discussions, at the symposium, at the weddings (I performed in the Purple Wedding to the Appalachian Mountains and the White Wedding to the Sun), and on the Ecosex, Sexecology, and Sustainable Love facebook group. Far too often, I’ve felt that unquestioned assumptions are being reinscribed and invested with cultural currency through the use of terms like “nature,” “sex,” gender categories, specific (or ambiguous) spiritual traditions, and so on. To be clear, I’m not opposed to these terms themselves; rather, I’ve been resistant to some of the uncritical patterns of their use in discussions around ecosexuality. In this piece of writing, Kim has opened up many of these terms and invited critical attention to both how they are operating within ecosexuality, as well as the potential within ecosexuality to significantly reconfigure how we understand the world in and through such terms.

I also sympathized a lot with Kim’s statement, “…encounters with ecosexuality this past year, it turns out, constitute a pivotal intellectual moment of growth for me.” I remember when I first encountered ecosexuality in Beth and Annie’s work in SF in 2009, interviewing them at their Sexecology exhibit at Femina Potens. I had been awarded a grant to see their work and to interview them about more general themes relating to the intersection of life and art practices. However, when I arrived at the gallery, when I encountered their work—the ephemera from the 2008 Green Wedding and the 2009 Blue Weddings, as well as new ecosexual collages and photographs and videos—and listened to them speak, something began to shift. I could sense that there was something important about this term/idea/identity/practice of “ecosexuality.” And I’ve spent the last three years continuing to articulate that importance to myself and to others in various writings, conferences presentations, performances, and formal and informal discussions.

While reading Kim’s piece, I felt a response to the suggestion that, “On the other hand, some of my UC Berkeley students probably do get turned on by trees if they open up their minds to think about it that way.” This “opening up their minds” is something I address more below, but here is raises the questions: What constitutes getting turned on? Where and how are we drawing the lines between various forms of contact and encounter, states of excitation and attraction? If the parameters of what counts as sex and sexuality blossom out into new variations and possibilities for contact between bodies, flows, and all sorts of material-semiotic actants that participate in the proliferation of life and livability within our world, how might we find ourselves reoriented towards that world—bees and trees and seas and flowers and rocks and all sorts of animals and so on and so on and so on—in ways that generate new possibilities for action? I feel that Beth and Annie’s work, among others, is explicitly reconfiguring the potential for what sex and sexuality can be within a whole spectrum of encounters between bodies (see their ecosexual herstories, among other work).

Most of all, I appreciate Kim’s direction of attention towards “pervasive boundaries and hardened [binary] categories that structure our minds … and our world today.” In my ongoing exploration of what ecosexuality is and can be, where it occurs, and what it accomplishes in through its enactment, I come again and again to the ways in which it restructures the very grounds from which we think and (reiteratively) produce our world. In addition to the structural boundaries between nature/culture, animal/human, female/male, queer/straight, nonwhite/white, and so on, I am aware of the ways in which these categories get deployed towards social/political ends. For instance, the complex alignments of “nature” or “the natural” with purity and “the unnatural” with contamination and/or “culture,” in tension perhaps with alignments of the animal with the savage, the unevolved, or hedonistic, and the human with the rational pinnacle of evolution and culture. Or the centrality of sex and sexuality with psychoanalytic accounts of the formation of the subject, or within legal discourses around rights and representations as they relate to identity. Or even the model within discourses like environmental management that figures the human as somehow outside of environmental conditions which then must be controlled and/or engineered, as if from the outside. The point I am trying to make is that what I find exciting about ecosexuality, specifically Beth and Annie’s performances of ecosexuality, but others as well, is that it does not/cannot operate within these pervasive normative categories that structure who we are, how we think, and what actions are available to us from such perspectival positions. I believe that ecosexuality—or, as I’ve come to prefer in my own work, ecosexualities—operate from new ontological grounds, new ways of conceptualizing the living material world, new forms of sex and sexuality that have profound implications for the understanding of “the human subject”—implications that might even include abandoning this model for articulating life and activity—and thus new routes along which to consider life, livability, and ethical responsibility as a participant in the production of the world.

Regarding the issue of “new age” in ecosexuality: In my own writing and presentations about ecosexuality, one place that I’ve encountered accusations or observations of what has been called “new age” in the Love Art Lab work specifically is in the projects’ use of the chakra system (which stems from various branches of yogic/tantric philosophy and practice) as its organizational logic. This format was in homage to Linda Montano’s 14 Years of Living Art, which has itself been called new age. I have little interest in determining whether something “is” or “is not” “new age”; that term is slippery. Rather, I think there could be value in interrogating the effects of that term in relation to this work, or to ecosexuality more generally. What does it DO to call this work new age? What does it DO to deny that category? Where is appropriation at play, and what are the effects of those appropriation? What discursive traditions are being invoked/incorporated into the work through such appropriations/citations/iterations/etc.? And so on. Certainly whenever appropriation comes up, there is the potential for ethical dilemma or even injury. Yet appropriation itself cannot become demonized; it is a well-worn practice in the development of innumerable species of human and nonhuman naturecultures. I appreciate Kim’s advocacy for “caution” around appropriation in her original post. I think caution and care are more productive modes of approach than moralizing accusations of right and wrong. I think a productive orientation towards the places at which ecosexuality and ecosexual practices incorporates disciplinary/cultural traditions is to ask, “What are the effects of such incorporations, and what are our responsibilities towards those effects and those affected by them?”

Lastly, I wanted to mention a few authors/texts that have profoundly influenced my thinking on ecosexuality, just to invoke them in the dialogic developing here:
-Donna J. Haraway (almost all of her work)
-Elizabeth Grosz (specifically her books Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics and Art; and Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth)
-Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
-Karen Barad’s Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning
-David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous
-Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology: Objects, Orientations, Others
-Judith Butler’s “Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street”

Kim, thank you again for such a thoughtful piece of writing and for opening up this conversation in such critical ways, and thank you Beth and Annie for pioneering this road down which each of us have turned.
Be well.

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thoughts towards post-human intersubjective ecosexuality…

It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything productive here. As I’ve moved into my work this summer, starting with the Ecosex Symposium in June and into my summer reading in July (working through various texts by or about Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari), there has been very little time/space in which to generate thoughtful material for my blog. Between the symposium, my studies, and inspiration from a spectrum of different artists, I have been saturated/overflowing with ideas, just not the time to translate them meaningfully or articulately to this blog space. And I don’t really have time to enact that translation now. But in addition to this site functioning as a platform for (more) transparency in my creative and scholarly work, it also functions as a holding space for ideas, for snippets and scribbles of ideas and thoughts that may eventually evolve into something more developed and cohesive (or intentionally in-cohesive, as the case may be), and that is what I need today. The following is a series of scribbles that amount to mere hints at what I might develop further:

Intersections of landscape and body
Mapping (cartography) of bodies/spaces (need to read Henri Lefebvre on space)
Where are the overlaps of experiential anatomy and experiential geography, somatic physical practices and environmental sustainability projects, body politics and global/environmental politics? These intersections seem rich and worth exploring. I was profoundly inspired by a piece presented by Tessa Wills at the Ecosex Symposium II entitled Anal Ecology, which took as its premise the potential for queer bodies to provide information for sustainability projects (my understanding was that this piece was specifically concerned with issues of sustainability surrounded radioactive waste, waste deposits as places that are forbidden/toxic, and queer bodies as bodies of knowledge practiced in venturing into the “forbidden” within our own bodies). I’m also interested in the occurrences of experiential geography and experiential anatomy in Karl Cronin’s work, and how those two [fundamentally phenomenological] approached to experience might inform one another.

In my presentation at the Ecosex Sympsosium II, I suggested that a  central project in my theorization of ecosexuality has been towards disindividuation, or the deconstruction of the discontinuous autonomous/self-sufficient individual subject. If there is a larger project or concept in which I think disindividuation might function, it is that of deterritorialization (this is a concept that is addressed by Deleuze, and I am interested in how his work with this concept might inform/enrich my own understanding). In my understanding, the territorialization of bodies is a process of organ-ization, the fragmentation of the body into a collection of organs, organs (especially where genitalia are concerned) that function as the foundation for oppressive regimes such as gender and sex. This organ-ization [territorialization] of bodies resembles the territorialization of the globe, and it is from this correlation of something like organs and nation-states, and the fundamental logic of territories that underlies both, that I see the possibility of a productive inquiry into the intersection of body and global/environmental politics.

Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio: she gave a truly inspired keynote address at the symposium discussing polyamory alongside ecosexuality, a discussion of love not as a need (a concept developed with notions of scarcity and lack), not as a resource that is non-renewable, but as something expansive and inclusive, this being inherent in polyamory, and this offering a model for relationships, human, more-than-human, and otherwise. Intersections of polyamory, ecology, and sustainability…

I am more convinced than ever before that post-humanism is central to ecosexuality. The category of “human” seems to me another act of territorialization, the production of an inside (human) and outside (non-human) that is necessarily binary and hierarchical. Post-humanism does the important work of deconstructing this category, and I think such a deconstruction is a necessary foundation for ecosexuality. I am interested in what performative productions of a post-human sexuality might look like. I curious about the ways in which various performance works move us beyond the human. And I wonder how sex/sexuality might provide avenues for movement into the post-human. It means changing how we understand sex (especially as it is entrenched in the Oedipal narratives of psychoanalysis . . .). In various discourses–especially psychoanalysis–sex operates as a central organizing principle in the development of subjectivity; I suggest that ecosexuality might provide a necessary intervention in how we understand sex that could in turn shift “human subjectivity” towards a “post-human intersubjectivity.”

The radical thoughts towards new choreographic/performance work:
Partially inspired by Karl Cronin’s Somatic Natural History Archive. I see Karl’s practice of learning/imitating the movement patterns of various plants and animals as a method for shifting the human towards the post-human. Movement/action are productive in that our bodies are literally formed, informed, deformed, and reformed by that actions we carry out (this is part of what is profound about dance, its role in the production of bodies). I see choreography as a profoundly intimate encounter: for the dancer to incorporate the choreographer’s movement is to literally allow the choreographer to participate in the formation of the dancer’s body. To the degree that the body is central to who we are, this constitutes a profoundly intimate exchange. When Karl looks to other-than-human sources for movement, I believe that the distance between the territories “human” and “non-human”  are collapsed in the production of his body through other-than-human movement forms.
What I am inspired to consider  is sourcing the sexual behaviors of other-than-human sources as choreographies for human bodies (I immediately think of Isabella Rosselini’s Green Porno). How might bodies be produced towards a post-human sexuality through the imitation of other-than-human sexual behaviors? An important question would be how to assess “sexual behavior” other than reproductive sexuality. For instance, what would constitute non-reproductive sexual behavior for plant life, and how might such behavior function as choreographies or scores for movement/behavior of “human” bodies? I don’t have an answer to that question, but it suggests itself as a site of investigation, and I feel like the possibilities of the piece(s) such an investigation might produce could be transformative.

those are the scribbles and jots towards new ideas/concepts.
we’ll see where they go . . .



Ecosex Symposium II

Today I am flying to San Francisco for an exciting week of events that relate intimately to my research. The primary purpose for the trip is the Ecosex Symposium II and Ecosexual Manifesto Art Exhibit (see flyer and press release below):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For all the information about the Symposium go to SexEcology.org

Contact: Center for Sex & Culture—415-902-2071

Love Art Lab 415-847-1323

Femina Potens Press: Malia Schaefer  HYPERLINK “mailto:feminapotenspress@gmail.com” feminapotenspress@gmail.com

Annie Sprinkle  HYPERLINK “mailto:annie@anniesprinkle.org” annie@anniesprinkle.org

Elizabeth Stephens: bethstephens@me.com

San Francisco, CA

ECOSEXUALS UNITE FOR AN ECOSEX SYMPOSIUM & ART EXHIBIT

The Ecosex Symposium II– a public forum where art meets theory meets practice meets activism—will take place June 17-19 at the Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco, CA. What’s an ecosexual? Why are skinny-dipping, tree-hugging and mysophila so pleasurable? Where is the e-spot? Can the budding ecosexual movement help save the world? What is this new sexual identity and environmental activist strategy all about? These are some of the questions that will be explored. Femina Potens Gallery is producing the event in collaboration with Center for Sex & Culture.

Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D., a feminist-porn-star and artist turned “SexEcologist,” and Elizabeth Stephens, a UCSC art professor and environmental activist are organizing this event. The two women explain, “as a strategy to create a more mutual and sustainable relationship with our abused and exploited planet, we are changing the metaphor from the Earth as mother, to Earth as lover.”

Sprinkle and Stephens kick off the weekend with their “Ecosex Manifesto,” an art exhibit with new collages, wedding ephemera (they married the snow in Ottawa, the moon in Los Angeles and the mountains in West Virginia), and a manifesto. They have also invited a dozen other artists to display their related works.

Ecosexual author of the seminal text, Gaia and the New Politics of Love, Serena Anderlini, Ph.D., from the University of Puerto Rico will present the keynote address. What is Ecosexual Love?:A Guide to the Arts and Joys of Amorous Inclusiveness. Good Vibration’s sexologist, Carol Queen, Ph.D., will explore The Sexology of Ecosexuality. Dr. Robert Lawrence, Ph.D. will cover ecosex fetishes. Also presenting is Madison Young, the award winning queer porn movie director and the Femina Potens Gallery director. She will cover the Greening of the Sex Industry. Artist Tania Hammidi will perform a dance piece about conflict, genocide and olive trees in the Middle East. Other presenters are artists Dylan Bolles & Sasha Hom, Amy Champ, and the legendary porn actress, Sharon Mitchell, Ph.D., who will talk about The Sensual Pleasures of Gardening. The author of the book Ecosex; Go Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable, Stephanie Iris Weiss will be Skyping in from New York. Erospirit Institute director, Joseph Kramer, Ph.D. will guide the group in some somatic ecosex practices. Michael J. Morris will discuss theories of ecosexuality. Amy Marsh shares how toxins ate her sex life, and performance artist Tessa Wills offers an Anal Ecology performance piece. There are twenty five scheduled presenters, and there will also be an open mic forum for attendees to share their work and ideas. Becka Shertzer’s Brazennectar and Mister Cream team up to create and serve a gourmet, “ecosexi-love-a-licious” vegan lunch.

Expected to attend the conference are artists, activists, theoreticians, nature fetishists, environmentalists, ecosex community movers and shakers and people from many other walks of life. These events are sponsored by Femina Potens Gallery in collaboration with the Center for Sex & Culture. Stephens and Sprinkle received a cultural equity grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission to help make it all possible.

All the details and advanced tickets are available at SexEcology.org  The producers of these events say that their aim is to “make the environmental movement a little more sexy, fun and diverse.” They’d also like to see an “E” added to GLBTQI.

Friday, June 17

7:00-9:30 ECOSEX MANIFESTO ART EXHIBIT OPENING RECEPTION &

ECOSEX SYMPOSIUM RECEPTION  (Everyone is invited. Free.)

All three days of events will be held at the new Center For Sex & Culture, 1349 Mission Street.  (Between 9th and 10th)

Saturday, June 18. 

ECOSEX SYMPOSIUM 11 ($35. for the whole symposium.)

10:30 AM to 10:45 PM

Sunday, June 19

10:00-1:30

ECOSEX MANIFESTO ART EXHIBIT

The Ecosex Manifesto Art Exhibit will be open for public viewing for a month through July 24th. Check SexEcology.org for gallery hours.

HIGH QUALITY PRESS PHOTOS ARE AVAILABLE FREE AT:  HYPERLINK “http://loveartlab.org/press-gallery.php” http://loveartlab.org/press-gallery.php

RELATED EVENTS 

June 16, 8:00 Femina Poten’s ECOSEXUAL QUEER PORN NIGHT—Tall Tree Tambo, 776 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA

June 19 5:00-7:00  DIRTSTAR PERFORMANCES at the Tenderloin National Forest/Luggage Store, 1000 Market St., San Francisco, CA. 



body fluids, queer porn, dildos/cyborgs, shame, sustainability, ecosex

I feel the need to write, to get ideas down somewhere and begin to figure out directions for some of these ideas/projects.

I. Right now I’m thinking a lot about body fluids, the fluid productions of bodies (fluids produced by bodies as bodies, as indicative of our fluid condition). Body fluids are in direct relation to notions of permeability. Fluids are wet edges of ourselves that seep beyond where we think we end. They are volatile, they are unruly. They are the confession of passion and pleasure, labor, danger, injury, healing, life, birth, perhaps even death. To consider the self of fluids seems to disrupt the presumed stability (a stabilized sediment of repetition) of the body, the self. I’ve been reading a bit more of Irigaray recently, struggling with her tendency towards essentializing the binary of male and female; I’m interested in how the claims she makes towards a specifically female subjectivity might be made for all bodies, not in a move (once again) towards a monolithic “human,” but as a move towards fluidity, whereby the subject is never fully stable, always partial, always intersubjective and constituted through the ongoing/ceaseless reciprocity with other subjectivities. I’m thinking something about an intersubjective ontology, in which subjectivities are always already intersubjectivities, and the mobility in/between/through/as subjects is fluid, viscous . . . I’m thinking about a metaphor that Anne Carson cites in Eros: The Bittersweet (I think the metaphor belongs to Sartre) about the child dipping its hand in honey, and losing track of its edges in stickiness, the material that is neither solid nor liquid. I wonder about the transferability of this metaphor into a context of body fluids, sexual fluids, a stickiness/fluidity of the body, a permeability of the self, derived from sexual epistemologies (epistemologies that may be decidedly queer).
I feel like I want to spend more time pursuing the twincest project that was done by Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich. They dealt a lot with body fluids from what I can tell from the documentation. I don’t yet know how to pursue that work (except perhaps by getting in contact with the artists).

II. I’ve been thinking a lot about queer pornography. This isn’t new; I’ve written scattered ideas about the importance of queer porn here on this blog. But I am finally writing something more formal on the topic. The premise (that needs much more development) is that bodies are produced in part through performances of pleasure, that these performances structure/form topographies of pleasure that we identify as bodies. My theory (that I think is supported by other theorists, although I’m still working on accruing those) is that bodies are gendered through such performances of pleasure, that pleasure is situated around reproductive genitalia as part of the regulation and production of gendered/sexed bodies. My theory is that performances in queer porn produce bodies that destabilize and disrupt these normative/performative iterations of bodies (performatives that are always approximations, thus always failed). By performing different topographies, different erogenous zones, different sex acts, different roles, etc., queer bodies are produced, perhaps not only for the performers themselves (phenomenologically) but also for the viewers (through scopophilic and narcissistic pleasure in the performances of queer bodies). These ideas are still in the works.

III. Alongside speculations of queer porn and fluid/intersubjective/partial bodies is a strong urge towards cyborg politics (Haraway) and considering the mutability of bodies through the incorporation of prosthetic elements. In sex this is suggested in elements such as the incorporation of dildos not just as a sex toy but as an addition to/mutation of bodies; also in the role of latex as essential to sexual bodies (condoms, gloves, etc. seem to be a mutation of permeable bodies; the management of fluids and permeability gives way not to anxiety that forecloses sexual possibilities, but transforms into adaptability, ethics, and responsibility to enables rather than disables sex, thus the bodies produced in the act of sex). I am interested in what I have been able to read of work by Beatriz Preciado and her discussion of dildonics, a displacement of the phallus by the adoption of a symbolic founded on an organ that is already artificial, already transferable, already detachable (as the phallus itself might already be considered to be). In this shift, the castration anxiety is displaced; the detachability of the dildo, its inherent transferability, becomes a source of possibility, potentiality, and power.

IV. I am putting the recent project of restaging and reconstructing “Sketches of Shame” to rest. For now. This brings me sadness, but for now it is for the best. The piece was creating intense emotional dis-ease for those involved, and for now it seems best to set it aside. Daniel and I are continuing to stay in dialogue, and I suppose it is possible that some other project will emerge from the work that we’ve done together. But for now, it’s on hold, and I am left again to consider the meager effect I have in this world. Making dances is part of how I participate in world-making . . . when I’m not choreographing, I question my role in contributing to the world in which I want to live, my role in contributing to the lives of others.

V. I am gradually preparing for a key note address/performance that it seems that I will be sharing with Catriona Sandilands in Toronto in April. Cate was asked to give this keynote address at a conference on sustainability, and she has asked me to share the opportunity. We will soon begin to develop a performative presentation addressing queer ecology, sustainability, something like ecosexuality, and incorporating Butoh. I’m excited to see how this project pans out.

VI. Today I decided that I am going to attempt to participate in Ecosex Symposium II in San Francisco in June. The first Ecosex Symposium was held last fall in LA after the Purple Wedding to the Moon. This event is being put on by the Love Art Lab at the Center for Sex and Culture, and will unite theorists, artists, and activists in the process of continuing to develop movement around this notion of ecosexuality. Pursuing this project will mean not pursuing others, but it feels very significant to my work and research, and my continuing development of these ideas.