Tag Archives: Hook Suspension

Bizarre Rituals

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-Bizarre Rituals VHS packaging. Cover Photo © Mark I. Chester

I’ve been sitting on this post for weeks; every now and then I’d go into my drafts queue and tinker with it a little bit here and there, adding new photos or blurbs from suspension practitioners that were influenced by the film but never quite finished it up. Earlier this morning, iconic photographer, anthropologist and counterculture icon Charles Gatewood- the subject of the film- passed away. Dances has taken on a life of it’s own in the suspension community but ultimately is a documentary on Gatewood’s photography and is a great snapshot of one of the most important photoanthopologists of our time. We’ve screened it several times at the Overground Cinema in Philadelphia, with each screening converting a new fan. Rest in Peace, Charles- and thank you.

Charles Gatewood, November 8th 1942-April 28th 2016.


Canadian speculative science fiction author William Gibson first introduced me to the term ‘Nodal Points’ in his 1996 novel IDORU; the book’s protagonist Colin Laney sifts through vast amounts of data looking for points of particular relevance 1 and since I’ve always wanted to be a protagonist in a cyberpunk novel I tend to use the term quite often here on SD when talking about particularly influential moments in body modification history.

For the hook suspension community, the 1985 release of Dan and Mark Jury’s Dances Sacred and Profane was one such point. A documentary on photoanthropologist Charles Gatewood, who’s Forbidden Photographs would go on to help define the Modern Primitives era of the late 1980s/early 1990s body modification scene, DS&P has gained a cult following thanks to it’s admittedly brief footage of Fakir Musafar and Jim Ward performing their interpretation of a Sun Dance ritual and Fakir’s chest suspension from a cottonwood tree.

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Fakir Musafar ©Charles Gatewood

Thirty years after it’s initial release, Dances, which was retitled Bizarre Rituals by Gorgon Video 2 in 1985 when it was release on home video, has become a classic, influencing the pioneers of the modern hook suspension revival.

I saw Dances Sacred and Profane for the first time after I had already been into suspension for some years; somebody shared a link to it online, after the second Dallas SusCon I attended in 2010. After watching it I gained a different perspective, and appreciation for not just the history of modification, but also body suspension as ritual. I suddenly felt a certain reverence for suspension, and wanted to revisit its history with this new point of view. I have always been drawn more to the artistic and technical aspects of the form, and am heavily driven by the urban roots by which I was introduced to it. With Gatewood’s coverage of all the intersecting scenes, and the climactic, crazy, deep tissue chest suspension at the end, I had the realization that ritual and art were co-dependent, and that understanding suspension’s place in other environments would be the only logical way to make progress towards something unique with this medium. I guess nobody had ever explained suspension to me in that context before. It was either science and art, as with Stelarc’s body of work; ritualistic, as with Fakir’s approach; or purely recreational, which defines the majority of the modern state of body suspension. After DSP, the consideration was there that all of these things were somewhat co-dependent, and make for a more wholesome experience. In short, DSP was the trigger for my fascination with just how far we can go with our minds and bodies, with suspension as the carrier. It made me approach suspension with more reverence, respect, and patience. I would not want to insult those that came before us. – Orb Ism, Anchors Aweigh

I was captivated by the Kavadi. As much as I love suspension, bearing Kavadi holds a special place / appeal for me. The film and Fakir where a huge inspiration for me building my 1st Kavadi around 1995- Xeon, TSD

“I was captivated by the Kavadi. As much as I love suspension, bearing Kavadi holds a special place / appeal for me. The film and Fakir where a huge inspiration for me building my 1st Kavadi around 1995”Xeon, TSD Photo © Mark I Chester.

I started my piercing apprenticeship in the spring of 1994 and soon after read Modern Primitives, which led me to Dances Sacred and Profane. To put it lightly, I was overwhelmingly intrigued. But being from a smaller city in the midwest, where simply having a few facial piercings was enough to get you publicly ridiculed, I remember thinking that would probably be something I only ever got to read about. But the imagery and the ritual and the way the flesh looked being stretched and used to lift the human body were things that stayed with me. Fast forward to 2004 and I finally got my chance to swing from hooks. There was no ritual, no tree, no epic scenery, just me and some friends and some hooks. It was at that point that intrigue turned into a drving passion, to not only do it again, but to share it with others. In 2014 this all culminated with me getting to work with Fakir at a performance during Dallas SusCon 2014. Suspension has been nothing short of life-changing for me. Being a part of the suspension community has made me the man I am today. And I owe it all to seeing this amazing film- Mike Coons, HOOKED

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– 2004 Dances Sacred and Profane DVD main menu featuring Fakir/Kavadi photo by Mark I Chester.

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In 2004 the film was released on DVD by the Jury Brothers under the title Dances, Sacred and Profane Redux. This new digital version included footage of Fakir and Mark Jury reconnecting ten years after the completion of the film.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, visit Fakir Musafar’s site for more information: http://www.fakir.org/store/index.html

 

Notes:

  1. A nodal point is also a photographic term: noun, Optics. 1. either of two points on the axis of a lens or other optical system, determined by extending an incident oblique ray and the corresponding refracted ray to the axis for the pair of rays that are parallel outside the optical system. Also called node.- Source Dictionary.com
  2. Gorgon Video is a film production and distribution company focusing on the subgenre of extreme horror and “dark documentaries” based in the United States and Spain. The company is best known for the film Devil Doll (1964) and the Faces of Death series.- Source: Wikipedia.

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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Circus Convergence II: The Squid Shift Solution

tumblr_mjmrgsQrM51qc2oo7o1_500Philadelphia Area body mod fans may be interested in a performance by the Headmaster himself- Haave Fjell from Pain Solution (and friends) will be performing in Philadelphia on Wednesday 2nd April in South Philadelphia.

Press release:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1403997519864920/

Prepare to witness the freakiest group of death defying weirdos!! Join “The Squid Shift Solution” for a night of mind boggling sideshow stunts that will leave you in stitches one minute and your jaw on the floor the next.

Circus Convergence II brings Clowns and Fakirs from around the world together for a tour across the eastern half of the United States enroute to the Dallas Suspension Convention. In each performance these entertainers push the limits of the human body making the impossible possible, challenging their minds and the audience around them, night after night.

Andrew S. (Swing Shift Sideshow Las Vegas, NV) brings classic circus entertainment screaming into the 21st century. Andrew Specializes in ancient and deadly feats of skill, along with jaw dropping original stunts. He is able to control “involuntary” actions of his brain and body and is one of the most deadliest sword swallowers in the world.

The Head Master (Pain Solution Oslo, Norway) combines the art of the fakirs and physical theatre to create a ritual experience, generating a rush of adrenaline and pure energy for both the performers and the spectators. Every show will leave scars on the body and give the public a thrilling sensation never to be forgotten. And yes, there will be blood!

Matterz Squidling (Squidling Bros. Philadelphia, PA) puts a comic and dare-devilish spin on classic American Sideshow stunts of the early 20th century. Combining acts of the fakir, slap stick comedy and burlesque into a unique style of performance.

Jelly Boy The Clown (Squidling Bros. Philadelphia, PA) brings humor and intensity as a host and to his original and death defying acts. A master of “Unusual Sword Swallowing”, Jelly is a pioneer of the modern sideshow arts. Jelly uses science, burlesque and physical acts of the fakir
always creating new stunts that push the limits of the body and mind.

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.


Gone Fishin’

Sometimes technology gets the better of me.
Capturing video is a real time proposition; hour long VHS tapes take an hour to import so when there’s a glitch it takes you a while to realize it. Last night I spent an hour and a half capturing some video from ‘the day of three operations’ at Dr. Brown’s Mexico City clinic so I could spend today editing them for Sacred Debris only to find that there was an audio synch glitch and everything needs to be recaptured.

I was a little frustrated, but my friend Gus Diamond reminded me that when things get bad… go fishing. You never know what you’re going to catch. Next time you go to a suspension event and find your phone/camera full of videos that you never do anything with, remember that if you don’t share them, they’re not worth taking.

When not being a trophy fish, Gus can be reached via his Facebook Page.

Night of 1000 Scars and the birth of Spinning Beam Suspension

In 1998, Keith Alexander 1 organized an after party for the release of Dee Snider’s Strangeland 2 at NYC’s Webster Hall. Called Night of 1000 Scars, Keith arranged for a variety of performances including a 3 person ‘human mobile’ style suspension by Dallas  collective TSD (Traumatic Stress Discipline) 3 to tie in with the film’s theme of ritual body art.

Due to a technical error, the beams were rigged too low allowing the suspendees (Allen Falkner, Xeon and Pat Tidwell) to be able to make contact with the floor while spinning, unintentionally creating the spinning beam suspension. Other performers that night included Essie and Spidergod5, who went on to become The Lizardman who had this to say about the event:

In alot of ways, this event was a pivotal point in the current era of my life – it was after this event that I cemented my decision to leave my doctoral program and devote myself entirely to performing as both my career and way of life. This was also where I first met and became friends with TSD. – Erik Sprague

While the film ultimately had very little long term impact (Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 6%)  Night of 1000 Scars remains a turning point in the visibility of suspension in the traditional media as well as creating one of it’s most loved styles.

Video footage courtesy of Allen Falkner.