Tag Archives: Allen Falkner

The Braille Encyclopedia

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A few weeks ago, some twelve years after it’s launch, I nuked the Scarwars.net blog. It was a long time coming but pulling the plug was strangely anti-climactic. Still, in the decade it was online the site hosted some damn fine content, so from time to time we’ll be featuring highlights here on Sacred Debris.

These photos (by Allen Falkner) date back to May of 2005 and feature Tom’s jaw-dropping full torso scarification by Dave Gillstrap. It remains one of my favorite large-scale cuttings.

SCARTISTS: Pat @ Scarwars 2006

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After all was said and done on the last night of the 2006 Los Angeles Scarwars event, we decided to have a little afterparty. Nothing fancy, just a group of us gathered in a bar/restaurant doing our best to process the previous three days and to relax and unwind…

Pat Tidwell came and sat down at my table and did a perfect “Run for it, Marty!” Doc Brown impersonation from Back to the Future, complete with rewind noises and a crazy pantomime that had everyone breaking down in much needed laughter.

He did it for about 15 minutes straight. One of the thousands of reasons I love Tid.

Photograph for Scarwars by Allen Falkner.

 

SCARTISTS: Dave @ Scarwars 2005

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Another SCARTIST portrait by Scarwars 2005 event photographer Allen Falkner, this time featuring influential piercer/scarification artist Dave Gillstrap getting ready to start a cutting. I didn’t meet Dave until the morning of the first day of the 2005 event but his work definitely proceeded him and he went on to do some of the most impressive pieces that came out of the Scarwars events.

SCARtists: Blair @ Scarwars 2005

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I’ve spent the last few days sorting Allen Falkner’s photographs from the 2005 Scarwars Philadelphia event; it’s the first time in eleven years that I’ve looked at his output from that weekend as a body of work and not just individual photos- three discs so far- discs filled with so many amazing memories, images and personalities that it’s been hard to step away from the archival and prepare any of the images  for a Sacred Debris update.
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Dallas Suscon 2009: Ho

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More memories from Allen Falkner’s 2009 Dallas Suscon, this time featuring a ‘suicide’ suspension from Mr. Ho, suspending from the dome that was, I believe, supplied by Ohio’s Ihung Suspension group.

During his suspension he decided to flip himself upside down, resembling the X11 card of the Tarot, the Hanged Man. Thankfully no one decided to ‘name’ the suspension, instead focusing on how rad Ho looked while pulling it off and supporting him as Allen used him as a punching bag.

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Dallas Suscon 2010 recut.

In April of 2010 I found myself on a Southwest Airlines flight heading back to Philadelphia, hunched over my macbook and quickly editing this video from the Dallas Suscon for my then partner’s ‘Body Art and Modification’ class at SUNY Purchase. The class, taught by Doctor William Peace, explored historical and contemporary body modification practices and their place in society and culture. We shot the film on two starter level HD video cameras (and an iphone) and I edited it quickly in iMovie. Not exactly the best job, but… it earned her an A.

Dallas Suscon 2010 Recut

I’ve recut the film to remove the opening/closing titles which were class specific and to increase the resolution to 1080. The songs were put in to mute out some of the background dialogue.

Allen is currently working hard on what may be the last (in it’s present format) Dallas Suscon; for more information in this year’s event, which includes a performance by Fakir Musafar and CoRE, check out Suspension.org.

1533775_440428339433945_1767188378_nThis year’s SUSCON will also feature an exclusive performance by Fakir Musafar and CoRE; tickets can be purchased at the Lakewood Theater. More information can be found at the event’s Facebook page: Flight to Spirit/Puja.

 

The Cenobite

Cenobite Performance – Head Kavadi – The Orbit Room – Dallas TX – 1995

When Clive Barker was in town back in the early 90s he was doing a book signing right across the street from the shop I owned at the time- Obscurities in Dallas, Texas. I went over to meet him and show photos of some of the suspensions I had done; at the time I guess he’d never seen suspension before. So he referred to me as a living Cenobite. Of course I took it as a huge compliment and starting use the term in different things from websites, to internet handles, and of course the name of that performance.

The show was supposed to be an adaptation of a kavadi, but just for the head. It was in my early days and I was a lot more experimental back then. I knew very little about shows or even entertainment for that matter. There was really no end planned out for the show- it was just sort of stick shit in my face and it’s a show. I believe we were going to end it with a blackout, but it never happened. As I remember one of the crew was supposed to smash the lights with a hammer; but I guess there was a communication error.

You can see at one point I lean over. What you can’t see was a mouth full of saliva that I had been building during the performance. I leaned over, let it run out of my mouth and I expected the lights to go out. That never happened and everyone thought I was passing out.

As for pain, it was all virtually painless. The tiny needles in the eyebrows was really the worst part. The spears in the head actually felt more like a deep message. Some parts of the video are a little rough, but we decided to keep it intact for presentation.


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Allen Falkner is an innovator in the Body Suspension community, a founding member of TSD: Traumatic Stress Discipline and a former Body Piercer from Dallas Texas. He has organized several Dallas Suscons as well as traveling globally to share his skills and to learn from others. He is an advisor to the newly formed ISA: International Suspension Alliance and operates FADE FAST, a laser tattoo removal business in Dallas.


2014 Dallas Suscon

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When some folks host suspension events emphasis is often placed on how many suspension they can cram into a three day period. They pride themselves on pushing the envelope with what can be done with rigging and occasionally if not often devolve into one-upmanship, trying to see if you can hang from one 16g hook in your scrotum long enough to get a photo to post on their tumblr accounts*. 

Allen Falkner and his team do things a little differently. This year’s DALLAS Suscon features  a class schedule that could rival the annual APP Conference in Vegas. Bedside manner, gender roles in the suspension community, how music choices tie in with ritual, invaluable technique classes that cover everything from basic/advanced knot tying to suturing should the situation call for it.  There are also classes by Paul King and Fakir Musfar that promise to justify the price of admission.

Registration is open.
http://suspension.org/DallasSuscon2014.htm

 

1995: Scarification by Allen Falkner

While he’s internationally known as a major influence in the advancement of modern body suspension, Allen Falkner has worn many hats in his two decades in the Body Modification community. In addition to suspension he’s also carved out a reputation  as a  respected body piercer and most recently as a laser tattoo removal specialist. Despite knowing Allen for almost twenty years and having him onhand to photograph the first Scarwars event, I never knew he was also a scarification artist.

For a while anyway.

Allen was kind enough to submit this video the the SD Archival project- his second cutting circa 1995. I asked him why he stopped cutting and he had this to say:

“I stopped cutting for 2 reasons:
1) there just wasn’t much of a demand
2) I’m not much of an artist- all of the designs I cut were drawn up by other people.

I was going into it rather blindly, as most of us were in the 90s. I knew no one else that did it, or at least didn’t know them personally and it was hard to find any information on the subject. I guess the biggest reason is that I felt my skills weren’t what they should be, which is  the same reason I never became a tattoo artist.
If I can’t be great at it, then I think I should step down and let other people do it.
I think if I stuck with it I probably would have gotten a lot better, but again this goes back to the no demand issue.
Another thing is that I’m a jack of all trades. I’ve done a little of pretty much everything. The problem with being a JoaT is that you never really master one. I stuck to piercing and suspension and honed my skills. I would still be happy to cut, brand, and tattoo. I still do from time to time; but they are just for fun. I don’t think I will ever sell my skills on those trades.
I leave that to the pros.
Allen has been digitizing some classic 1990s suspension and modification video footage lately- I can’t wait to see what comes next.
You can find out more about Allen Falkner here: FADE FAST

Evolution of a Subculture: Scarwars1 2005

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Ryan Oullette and Jesse V working on a difficult client.

I recently shared the story of how the ModCon events came to be with the promise to chronicle the other events in time. That’s still on my to-do list, but today we’re going to talk a little about the ScarWars events; how they started and their connection to ModCon.

ScarWars One happened in May of 2005 in Philadelphia, PA with seven of the world’s leading scarification artists working and attending, but it’s roots go back to 2004 at the ModCon4 event in Toronto, Ontario where a guest named Chris and his then wife Danielle asked about doing a collaborative cutting/branding piece with all of the attending artists using different techniques to make a wholly unique scar. Brands, cutting and flesh removal all on the same client. At the time it was unheard of, and as I watched Blair, Ryan, Danielle and I believe Brian work on it, I realized that we had reached uncharted territory.

Trade secrets. When you looked at other body art disciplines- tattooing, body piercing, suspension… at the time there wasn’t a lot of sharing going on. Every new person who knew how to do what you do was one more person who could compete against you. Tattooing and Body Piercing weren’t a community- they were an industry. Tattoo supplies had yet to be an eBay/Amazon accessible purchase and body piercing supplies weren’t available in the mall. As niche as piercing was (and by 2005 it had sort of already reached it’s fever pitch apex) scarification was still it’s distant cousin- never quite gaining that popularity that other forms of modification were enjoying.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatching multiple artists work on the same client- asking each other questions (“is that how you do flesh removal? I use hemostats”) and sharing tips and tricks… I realized that the culture of scarification was still untainted by commercialization and that if we acted now there was a possibility of getting the top artists together without ego or competition and to see where we could go with it.

Scarification/Branding had always been about simplification- bold geometric designs cut or branded by the legendary Keith Alexander, Raelyn Gallina, Fakir Musafar and a handful of others were the standard. Tribal shapes, runes, sigils. But times had changed thanks to the electrocautery work of Steve Haworth, the tattoo flash inspired cuttings of Ron Garza and the flesh removals from Toro; new possibilities were emerging and the younger generation of scarification artists had a whole new aesthetic and were already seeing where they could take it.

trooperAfter ModCon, with Shannon Larratt’s encouragement, I took over IAM/BME’s scarification forum and we started talking about collaborations of style, technique and artists envolved and several weeks later the idea of an event was on everyone’s mind. Having already co-created ModCon with Shannon and hosted a score of IAM related events, I volunteered to take the reigns and with the help of my sister in law Carmela, we began working on what would become the world’s first Scarification ‘convention’.

We knew off the bat that it would be a niche event; the scarification community was small and opening it to the public would be a bad idea so we decided to go underground. Rent a private studio space. Only invite people we knew or that were able to be vouched for. Organize a staff. Arrange hotels. My sister in law Carmela  worked overtime getting all of the practical stuff planned out while I concentrated on artists, supplies, artwork, shirts etc. We knew that we had to name the event and inspired by the weekend it was planned to happen (which saw the opening of StarWars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith) we decided to go with SCARWars. It was a little tongue in cheek and had great potential for marketing, so with no fear of George Lucas caring about us (much like he didn’t care for the prequels) we went ahead with it.

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Officially, no invites went out to artists. That caused a little bit of ruffled feathers long term, but at the time the event was a small thing and the artists who took part in the IAM.bmezine.com Scarification forum were the core group of people expected to work it. We were open to folks who, after seeing the website or the mentions on BME (most specifically Shannon’s GLIDER profile on IAM- mentions on which got us a lot of attention) contacted the group and asked about attending, but when it came to inviting folks to work- that never happened. Sadly, egos got bruised (One artist said that it was ‘totally American to make cutting about Wars” and somehow managed to equate him not being invited to the event with why September 11th happened) and there was a little bit of hurt feelings, but ultimately the event went off without a hitch.

Not exactly a stranger to having underground events I was able to creatively explain to other residents of the building we used for the inaugural event why they couldn’t peek into the studio we were using to see what was going on (“sorry. We’re shooting porn” tends to get people to leave you alone) despite the occasional scantily clad and sometimes bloody people we were parading in and out of the space.

DSC_2950-copy-2We had reached out to my old friend Philip Barbosa to document the event and along with cutting and branding stations we set up a small studio for Phil to take portraits of the clients who made the trip to Philadelphia to be cut or burned. In contrast to his start black and white work at the ModCon events I asked Phil to shoot in full color with a white background; to not focus necessarily on the cuttings themselves (that was handled by suspension pioneer and sometime photographer Allen Falkner) but on the clients themselves. Philip is one of those guys who never gets the credit he deserves; someone who was there with us on the front line hosting events and getting things done but unlike the rest of us had the talent and skill to make art while doing it. His images from the events- ModCon, Scarwars and the IWASCURED events document a collection of communities from the inside; one of us and not an outsider looking to shoot weirdos and freaks to impress his jaded friends. The images that he shot over the three days of Scarwars have joy, personality and a bunch of blood; can’t ask for much more than that.

Once the event got started we had a hell of a time. Artists included:
Brian Decker
Ron Garza
Dave Gillstrap
Monte
Ryan Oullette
Vampy
Jesse Villemaire
Vampy

Some artists only worked on a few pieces, others were booked all weekend. Pieces ranged from small brandings to an almost 11 hour full back cutting by Brian Decker (with assistance from Jesee towards the end) that become one of the most well known scarification pieces ever to grace internet memes. There was a casual fun vibe as folks met each other, got cut, went out on sidetrip adventures and enjoyed the company of people who understood them. Artists worked together on collaborative pieces, sometimes at the same time and pushed the limits of what had been done before us.

Dave Gilstrap at work

Dave Gillstrap at work

For me? It was difficult. I was going through a divorce and really wasn’t processing everything well. I was trying to keep everything afloat- my staff was amazing but I was still in that raw emotional state where chaos was a more frequent guest than calm. I decided to ask Brian Decker to cut my face. Not exactly a spur of the moment decision, but certainly one that meant a lot to me. Towards the end of the last night of the event we started planning things out; a cutting by my left eye that could look natural enough to have been an accident but clean enough to make you wonder. Cutting your face is intense; there’s no hiding it from the world and more importantly no hiding it from yourself.

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 4.36.21 PMI needed the vulnerability; I needed the trust and the healing to help me get out of the funk I was in and with the lines drawn on my face, laid down and let Brian get to work. Everyone with a cutting has their own story.. for me it was this feeling of letting go. Of all of the negativity and fear and loneliness that that I had been going through. Trusting a friend to take a scalpel to my eye. I let go and as the blade started making it’s cuts felt a hand grab mine. And another. A hand on my leg and my shoulder. One on my head. My friends, the guests who decided to stay at Scarwars till the end, had wandered over to Brain’s station to support me. It was unspoken. One hand followed the other and soon I felt nothing but love. Right then and there Scarwars became something else for me. Not an ‘event’ I was hosting but a community. A place where people could change themselves- body and mind- and be surrounded by others who understood.

We wrapped it up shortly after  and went our separate ways. In time we had two more Scarwars events and were eventually invited to do another- in the open and not underground- as part of a tattoo convention. My old friend Ron Garza continued what we started recently with his own ScarCon in London. But for those who made the trip to a little studio space in Port Richmond back in 2005… you were part of something special and new and you’ll always have my thanks and my love.

http://www.scarwars.net


This article originally appeared on BME’s MODBlog on 06/05/2013, edited on 01/19/2014