O-Kee-Pa is the name given to a religious and spiritual rite among the Mandan tribe. It was done yearly when the willow trees along the rivers were in full bloom. It recalls a time when a great flood killed all the inhabitants of the world, and the first Mandan survived on a great canoe. A bird came to them with a willow branch in full bloom and showed them back to land, where they settled and lived out the rest of the tribe’s life. Each year, they recreate this ceremony, and welcome warriors into the tribe after a ritual of fasting, and body suspension, as well as pray to the gods for food, fertility, and fortune. This us one of the most well documented and known ritual practices of suspension, although even still documentation is scarce. Few outsiders were lucky enough to witness this ceremony, however, those that were published some records of it to keep these traditions alive. The book O-kee-pa was originally authored by an American painter named George Catlin in 1867. It covers his month-long stay with the Mandan Indigenous Peoples in 1832. Catlin, formerly a lawyer turned painter, spent years living among Indigenous peoples, painting them and documenting their unique way of life. He quickly realized war and disease were encroaching on the western tribes and rushed to document their lives. It is this book, referenced by Fakir Musafar in Dances Sacred and Profane as one of the inspirations for him to do the O-Kee-Pa and meet the Great Spirit. Continue reading
Ari – Sean, I always have everyone do a standard introduction to kick these off, so give us a brief bio.
Sean – I’m old, I’ve been everywhere. Ok, so brief history of Sean in bod-mod. Started with Sadistic Sundays at the video bar in 1990, roughly. I think it was right after high school – I was eighteen. Was doing that for a little bit, was just a Sunday night show type thing, and then left town for a while doing the hippie soul searching whatever, did Ren Fairs for a summer just to get away. When I came back Allen Falkner had moved back to Dallas and he and I became friends. I was hanging out with Allen, helping him paint his first room in his first studio when he was just renting space from a furniture store. He rented a room from them which soon turned into a piercing empire. We hung out for another couple years there in Dallas where I helped him attempt his first suspension, which was fishing line and just a ton of piercings. It was absolutely horrible. It lasted like three seconds – the fishing line started to snag and pull through because it was so thin. We look at it now like what the hell were we thinking? But you experiment, you figure shit out. At that time Fakir wasn’t as willing to share the suspension information with Allen; he did later, so until then there was a lot of us just looking at videos and guessing. Continue reading
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.
Tom – My name is Tom Brazda, I started piercing in an amateur way around 1989. I went professional in 1991, so 28 years of experience of watching things happen.
Ari – I would love to start earlier with some of the first experiences you had with piercing before you were a piercer. Were you getting pierced before you got into the business? Continue reading
Red(head) in Tooth and Claw
A night shmoozing with the sweetest hooker in the biz.
Dana and I actually talked about how nice Dana is. Renowned not just for his piercing and suspension work, but for being all around such a fucking nice guy. From his early come-ups in California to veering off into being one of the most notable suspension practitioners, taking his skills all over the world at suscons, Dana is truly one of those old heads that’s seen some dynamic shifts the industry has taken and rolled with the punches. We sat down to talk about his introduction to suspension, the ebb of ritual, and why age helps lock down the sweet spot of professionalism in the piercing room.
Ari – Let’s do the really generic usual intro, except I want you to do it for both piercing and suspension.
Dana – The beginning of my piercing career was pretty straightforward, I was able to start an apprenticeship and attend the Gauntlet beginning training seminars the second year I believe they were offered, 1993. I don’t remember if it was the second year or not. I took the Gauntlet seminars at 17. Sharrin was running the seminar, Sharrin from the NY Gauntlet, she was a real awesome old school Psychic TV head. I “never really finished my apprenticeship” according to Jerry Metzler (Shiva) but as far as all purposes were concerned I was piercing full time by myself, with Julian Ganesha in and out of the shop because he had another full time job to pay his bills. This was in Fresno at a shop called Spear of Shiva. In 1999 I made the move to San Diego to work at Superfly, and then got an offer to move up to Portland and I was there for a few years. My introduction to suspension started a little bit more in 1999/2000, when I got involved with the San Diego crew, and once I got to Portland it was really heavy, I moved to Portland, walked into doing performances once a month at Fetish Night for five or six years straight. Continue reading
The folks at PS Media are running an Indiegogo campaign to assist in the publication of an updated version of the classic Stelarc book The Obsolete Body. Campaign perks include volume discounts on multiple copies, postcards, posters and other books released by PSM.
From the site:
When PS Media approached Stelarc to suggest that we could run a new edition of Obsolete Body, his immediate response was that it would be more interesting to publish a new book that contains a complete presentation of his suspension performances, as well as new articles and a different selection of images. We agreed immediately! It is with great pride and joy that we can now announce that PS Media will publish Stelarc’s new book: Stretched Skin—Obsolete, Uncertain and Indifferent Body.
Stretched Skin will focus on Stelarc’s suspension performances—from the very first in 1976 to the most recent in in 2012, including the collaborations with Håvve Fjell and Wings of Desire in 2012 and 2013. The book will also contain some of Stelarc’s other performances; where they have direct relevance to, or lead up to, the suspension series.
Stretched Skin will be a work of art in itself. It is a book on art by an artist, with layout and design by our award winning team. PS Media takes great pride in publishing high quality books. Our choice of printer and materials is made with careful consideration to professional and ethical standards, so that our customers receive a high quality work that they will be proud to own and display in the years to come.
You can find out more here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stretched-skin-a-book-by-stelarc-photography-art#/
In 2014 the Sacred Debris project received a generous donation of 1990s/early 2000s video cassettes from influential piercer/scarification artist/suspension practitioner Ron Garza chronicling the early years of his career. In late 2016 we’re going to roll out a sponsorship campaign (an ‘adopt a cassette’ if you will) to help permanently preserve, archive and share Ron’s contributions.
This video from 1997 features Ron, Steve Joyner (who’s celebrating his 46th birthday today) and a host of other performers in a piece called NATIVE URGES. My intention was to cut it down to ‘best of’ clips but ultimately decided to publish it in it’s original run time.
His flesh was virtually white, his hairless head ritualistically scarred with deep grooves that ran both horizontally and vertically, at every intersection of which a nail had been hammered through the bloodless flesh and into his bone. Perhaps, at one time, the nails had gleamed, but the years had tarnished them. No matter, for the nails possessed a certain elegance, enhanced by the way the demon held his head, as though regarding the world with an air of weary condescension. What ever torments he had planned for these last victims— and his knowledge of pain and its mechanisms would have made the Inquisitors look like school- yard bullies—it would be worsened by orders of magnitude if any one of them dared utter that irreverent nickname Pinhead, the origins of which were long lost in claim and counterclaim. -Clive Barker, The Scarlet Gospels
The core value of Sacred Debris is to resurrect old mementos and put a new shine on them. Photographs, videos and body modification culture ephemera from the last few decades all polished and presented in a new context..
Which is sort of what I’ve done with the site’s layout. I was never (even remotely) in love with the WordPress theme we’ve been using since launching the blog in 2014 and, frustrated, I made the move tonight to aesthetically merge Sacreddebris.com and it’s tattoo sister-site Occultvibrations.com to add some consistency to my two history sites. They’re remaining their own unique entities (with the occasional shared post) but will look like one cohesive site.
It may be confusing, but I assure you it’s for the greater good. Or at least my own satisfaction.
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.