Yesterday, Vanity Fair treated us to an inside look at the deeply strange wedding of Sean Parker and Alexandra Lenas. Everyone has made copious fun of the wedding on social media for its half-assed (and frankly a little creepy) blend of the Celtic fringe, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings aesthetics. Yet is notable not so much for the nerdiness of it (more power to nerds!) as for the havoc it wreaked on the local environment (which Parker denies with only middling convincingness). In an attempt at self-justification, Parker claims that he and his bride were trying to make “performance art.” He is hardly the first to try to describe wedding ceremony in this way; all weddings incorporate an element of performance.
Performance art is as performance art does, unfortunately, and mostly what this did was demonstrate an almost obscene kind of wealthy indifference reminiscent of dystopic YA fiction, as though Parker and Lenas got married at the Capitol from The Hunger Games. The only way to get closer to it would have been to hire Donald Sutherland, President Snow himself, to preside over the ceremony.
There have nonetheless been a lot of performance art projects of recent vintage that involve weddings. But usually they incorporate critiques of the wedding, and the Wedding Industrial Complex more generally. We spotted a bunch collected on this Metafilter thread, and wanted to give you a tour of some genuinely interesting art projects. All of them look like much more fun weddings to attend than Parker’s airbrush-stravanganza.
The artists Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens got married seven times over seven years in performance art projects, each one done in collaboration with local art institutions. This picture is from their 2009 “blue” wedding, in which they symbolically married the sea. “Each wedding is site-specific, interactive, and utilizes a different theme and color based on the seven chakra system (inspired by artist Linda Montano’s 14 Years of Living Art),” they say in their artist’s statement. “The Love Art Laboratory grew out of our response to the violence of war, the anti-gay marriage movement, and the corporate greed causing the destruction of our planet.” Check out their other weddings!
By 2012, the artists Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis had been doing a fairy tale project for several years. It had started out as a way to amuse their children, and turned into a traveling art circus called the House of Fairytales over time. As it became their defining creative endeavor, they decided to cap it all off by making their wedding part of the art project. It looks like great fun. If you arrived without your own costume, you could borrow one from a tent full of them. And unlike the pictures in the Parker wedding, which are practically scrubbed clean in the ugly Hollywood CGI sense, everyone here looks shockingly normal in their fancy-dress get-ups.
In her Save the Date show at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., Kathryn Cornelius did seven marriages like Sprinkle and Stephens, but she did hers all in one day, every hour on the hour. (A divorce followed each ceremony.) She told the Washington Post at the time that it was her intent to comment on the nature of modern commitment. The Twitter and Tumblr she kept of her seven-wedding planning process are still available for you to peruse.
Maria Yoon took nine years to get married in all 50 states. (This picture is from the Wyoming iteration.) Yoon styled herself as the “voice of the unmarried Asian-American woman,” and talked a great deal about the specific cultural expectations placed on Korean women in relation to marriage. She also documented the experience on film; check out the trailer here.
Carolyn Sartor, a video artist in Dallas, used projection and video to incorporate a participatory element into her 2011 wedding. “One video was screened for guests at the event,” she says on her website, “while a second was projected onto their backs – guests had been requested to wear white and invited to wear bridal gowns, and they were offered white veils to wear during the event, so that they could participate both as part of a human screen and as additional ‘brides.'” Check out the pictures of the final event; they’re gorgeous.
The appropriately named Bettina Hubby, whose site is charmingly called, “Get Hubbied,” collaborated with an LA couple to help them re-imagine Western wedding traditions for their own purposes. This book represents my favorite part of their re-imagining. The Science of a New Life is an authentic Victorian book about marriage. The couple and Hubby burned holes in the book and hid borrowed jewelry in it, and it also got to be their “something blue.” More here.
And then, of course, there’s the original “art couple”: Yoko and John, who got married at the Rock of Gibraltar in decidedly untraditional attire. And then spent the week in the Bed for peace.
Photographer: Phil Straus
In 2011, Brooklyn artist Sarah Small wanted to do a tableau vivant full of naked people, but in order to circumvent the lengthy curatorial process ended up renting the space as a wedding venue. She then got herself ordained as a minister to perform a wedding between two models.