Curt – Let me tell you a little bit about my start, I know all your interviews start with that. I grew up in Ogden, Utah, which is about forty miles outside Salt Lake City. I started having ear piercings around middle school – I got influenced by heavy metal so I thought, “fuck, I gotta have my ears pierced now!” After high school I moved to Maui, Hawaii, and while I was living over there a friend of mine got back after having spent the summer in New York. We were having coffee and she was eating soup, and I kept hearing this clank! I asked, “what the hell is that noise?” And she said, “oh, it’s my tongue piercing!” This was around 1993, and she showed it to me, and I’d never seen one, or even considered it for that matter! I became very fixated with it, fascinated by it, and decided I had to have one or else I couldn’t live anymore! The closest place for me to get one was in Honolulu on Oahu. This woman who called herself “The Piercing Elf” had a little piercing only studio there, so I flew out, rented a car, and failed to check her hours. I spent a lot of money to fly out there and hang out and fly back to Maui without a tongue piercing. So I saved up and a few months later I flew back out, made sure to check her hours first this time, and got it done. The experience for me – not being involved with the industry, not having any tattoos and only having some ear piercings – I was rather intimidated by her. She was sleeved and had a lot of piercings, but she had a great bedside manner, which made me feel comfortable. My first professional piercing experience was a piercing only studio with good jewelry and good bedside manner. Continue reading
It’s been thirteen years since we held the first Scarwars event in Philadelphia. Over the years, both on the (now defunct) Scarwars blog and here on Sacred we’ve posted tons of pics from the event(s) and there are still hundreds that have never gone online. Like this photo by SW1 photographer Allen Falkner of Dave Gillstrap working on a cutting with removal.
The design is a mashup of an anatomical heart and a set of brass knuckles; Dave contributed t-shirt designs for the first two events- one featuring an anatomical heart, the other brass knuckles.
Earlier today while procrastinating on the first wave of proof reading the Better Safe than Ari interview with Séan McManus, I was doing my normal mindless scroll through my Facebook timeline, hoping against hope of less mindless political bickering and more pictures of people’s pets; the lament of life in the age of social media. As I scrolled past pictures of what my friends had for dinner or check-ins at various movie theaters and restaurants I saw no less than two photos of friends hanging from hooks in their skin. The photos were peppered with comments, positive comments, from friends and family. One had a “I knew you could do it!” encouraging post from the suspendee’s mother.
None of this would be possible without the contributions of Sean McManus (director) and Allen Falkner (primary subject) of The Marionette. Sean’s film- back when films were actually shot ON film- is a nodal point in the advancement of body ritual/body art in Western Culture. And it was a by/for production; the people involved in the film were also involved in body suspension. Predatory media often sees body modification as a quick and lurid bit of exploitation. “Look at THESE freaks” is a call older than Barnum. What The Marionette achieves is the removal of the shock value of a pretty shocking process. It’s accessible. At times emotional. And always entertaining.
The suspension community has changed a lot since it’s filming, but anyone who is interested in body-as-medium owes a great debt to this film, and you should absolutely have a copy in your collection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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.