Each year Dallas hosts SusCon, a gathering for international suspension enthusiasts to pool up and exchange information they've acquired. They rap about knots, piercing methods, rope tensions and update each other on infection prevention. Also, some hang in the air from hooks. It's kinda their thing.
On Saturday night, SusCon invited the public to join them for an event at Lakewood Theater. Australian performance artist and suspension pioneer Stelarc opened the night with a wildly geeky and highly academic lecture on technology, the body and their inevitable shared future. After that concluded, he and the Oslo-based suspension team Wings of Desire choreographed a group scene, where six humans were fitted with hooks, rigged up and then lifted and spun.
I went. Here's my best recollection of how that played out. (This isn't suitable for work. For many of you, this also isn't suitable for life.)
11:30 p.m. -- Hmm, six yoga mats were just unrolled under a device that looks like the Wheel of Pain, from Conan the Barbarian.
11:35 p.m. -- A man dressed like a NASCAR pit crew member is inspecting the Wheel of Pain. That's nice. I like themed outfits.
11:40 p.m. -- Six people are lying on the yoga mats, face up, and smiling. I don't see how this could go wrong.
11:42 p.m. -- Oh my God. They've started pressing giant hooks through the skin of their legs and chests.
[Quick black out]
11:56 p.m. -- Hook thing is still happening, plus there's ropes. I WILL NOW LOOK AT MY iPHONE FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. OH, HI, INSTAGRAM.
11:57 p.m. -- That dog DOES look like it's singing opera. It deserves a heart and a comment. "Adorbs! #dogsofinstagram
12:03 a.m. [EASTER] -- I should really check the newsfeed on Facebook rather than lifting my head to where the fleshy hooks and ropes are, just in case those are still real. I will continue to pretend that they are not.
12:06 a.m. -- I accidentally looked up again. Now four people are being laced up like tennis shoes and tied to the world's least marketable baby crib mobile.
[Quick black out]
12:23 a.m. -- I'm back! And making a hair curtain around my face as protection!
[Quick black out]
12:27 a.m. -- Nope, there were weak points in the hair curtain. I certainly saw those hooks. Time to get answers. I grab the very nice Canadian girl named Tammy sitting next to me and ask if she does this. She says 'yes.' Our conversation goes as follows:
Observer -- Why? Very Nice Girl Named Tammy -- "What do you mean?"
O -- WHY? VNGNT -- Well, it's a different experience for everyone. Personally, for me it's more spiritual. And once you Go Up you feel like you can do anything. If you can hang from your skin from hooks, what else can you do? There are no limits.
O -- I understand. That is the same answer I'm given when I ask people why they do CrossFit. Have you ever just tried doing CrossFit? You don't need to put hooks in your skin for that.
VNGNT -- What is it, exactly about suspension that scares you? Let's look at it together. O -- Mostly it's The Everything? That it's a combination of my greatest fears: Giant needles, skin pulling away from the body, arguing with gravity, heights.
VNGNT -- Well, if you look at their faces you can see that they're calm and smiling. (Gestures gently toward stage.) Many people feel a tranquil, meditative connection with the needles. Also, skin is very strong, much stronger than most people realize. Maybe this is a good way to face your fears?
O -- I have other fears that I should face first, like jogging. It goes: Jogging, closet monsters, mysterious boogyman I assume is in my backseat when I drive at night, and only then, skin hook lifting. I'm a long way off from this.
VNGNT -- It certainly isn't for everyone. But for me, suspension has changed my life. O -- I'm still terrified of everything happening on that stage, but I can sort of understand it on an intimate level. I can see how you would get joy from experiencing the endorphin rush and/or following the personal journey that you're on, but do you get anything from seeing other people "Go Up?"
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VNGNT -- Oh yes. I've broken down and cried watching people. When you know that somebody is working through something in their life and they face it, then successfully lift? It's beautiful. O -- Thank you for talking me through this. You are kind, and Canada is lucky to have you.
12:41 a.m. -- OH MY GOD IT'S HAPPENING. The Device has started lifting the horizontal bodies, which are hooked face-up, bottoms-down. Next, it slowly carousels them around, the lighting shifts from blues to yellows. They raise and lower and spin more quickly until they resemble a meaty version of the swing ride at the State Fair. I'm still freaked out, but also see an experimentally artful element to the project. I take 800 photos with my phone camera. I tell myself it's for documentation, but really it's so I have a layer of technological removal.