flying on wings of desire
I first saw suspensions on late night TV about 4 years ago. I was fascinated, but grossed out, and I looked away while they did the piercings because it made me squirm so much. The guys performing it looked like they were stoned out of their minds and the environment made it look more like a dirty freakshow than a spiritual event. Since then I was fascinated by the way the human body works, and how it can cope with suspensions so well, but I never had any desire to do it myself. It looked too painful, and too dangerous from a hygene point of view.
About 5 months ago, I finally got my triangle piercing, which I'd been considering for years. It was the most painful experience of my life, but at the same time, it was wonderful. The pain pushed everything else out of my conscious mind, and after it was over, I felt calm and energised. I started considering suspension again....still thinking it would be painful, but that it would have a similar mental effect.
I asked Ginge if he would suspend me at some time, and asked loads of questions about it. I was convinced it would hurt, so I didn't even really ask about the pain. It wasn't the pain I was planning to do it for, but it was a necessary side-effect of the end result I wanted to attain.
Setting a date for the suspension took longer than I'd thought; there were always other things in the way. In September, I went to watch a suspension show that Ginge was piercing for at a club in Northampton. Even though I wasn't involved in the show in any way, it was an amazing experience, to just spend time with the guys after they'd come down was enough to pick up on their excitement. After seeing that, I really wanted to do my own suspension.
I had a holiday booked to Oslo a couple of weeks later to visit some friends from the internet. I found out that this was the same weekend as the Wings of Desire festival, and Ginge and Lesley were flying over for it. It was a perfect opportunity, so I asked if I could be suspended there. Ginge agreed, so I had 2 weeks to compose myself and get ready for it.
I had to decide what I wanted from the suspension. It wasn't a case of doing it 'because I could' or anything like that. I felt it was to be an important step forward in my life, hopefully helping me to get over being ill (I've had ME for a year now) and speed my recovery. Basically I just wanted to put the last year or so behind me, and focus on the future.
I spent quite a lot of time beforehand meditating, simply focusing on my breathing and posture and thinking over the important things in my life. Since being ill, I've noticed my posture has worsened greatly, and I've been slouching a lot, so one of the things I chose to base my meditations on was the first principle of Tai chi 'Lift the head to raise the spirit'. For the last couple of weeks before the suspension, I was meditating for about an hour a day, which is a lot more than I usually manage to cram in, so I was feeling mentally very well prepared.
I had to get up at 4.30 am to get to the airport in time, and even though I'd had very little sleep, I was still excited and full of energy. I spent most of the flight just trying to calm myself down and not get over excited. I went with my best friend (IAM: dispel) and he kept laughing at my excitement about the holiday and the suspension. On arrival in Oslo we met up with our friends and went to check out the hotel and get our bearings. Mid-afternoon I headed off to the Wings of Desire event with Dispel and Grimble. When we arrived, we bumped into Ginge and Lesley outside the building, and chatted to them a little before going in.
On entering the building, which was a large warehouse with a stage at one end and a bar down the side, there were a couple of people just on the way down after doing suicide suspensions. I'd decided a long time ago that that was what I wanted to do for my first, as it's only 6 hooks, and you're the right way up and you can move pretty freely. One of the people who'd just done it was also a girl, so I was convinced that if she could take the pain, so could I.
Another 3 people were suspended, and we watched and took photos and met some of the people there. Then I started to feel ready to go up, so asked Ginge when it would be my turn. He said 'Those 3 guys over there have to go up, then it's you after.' He paused then said 'In fact, you can go now' and took my hand and lead me on to the stage. It came as a bit of a shock, so I rushed off to the toilet to compose myself, and headed back soon after.
I sat on a chair and took my top off, and Ginge started to clean and mark my back, and set up the tray with six 2.4mm blades and six 2.4mm hooks. Lesley sat in front of me and we chatted, which helped immensely in taking my mind off it. I am pretty scared of pain, as I have a rather low pain threshold and pretty thick skin. Some people enjoy the act of getting a piercing; I hate it, it's something that has to be endured to get the end result I desire.
I have a large tattoo on my back, and I'd asked Ginge not to pierce it if he could avoid it, as I didn't want scars on it I'd have to get touched up. He managed to expertly position the dots so none of them were on the tat, and then we were ready to go. Lesley held my hand, and Ginge told me to take a deep breath, and pierced me on the exhale.
The first piercing was just to the right of my left shoulderblade, and Ginge carried on working from left to right. The piercing was very quick, and not that painful, even though it's through a few centimetres of skin, it's no more painful than most other piercings (and a lot less painful than my last piercing - my triangle). The second hook was put in pretty quickly, though it hurt a little more than the first because my skin gets taughter towards the spine. The 3rd hook was really painful, and I moved while being pierced, so the hook didn't go in straight. It wasn't far off though, so after a short break we continued with the other side of my back, and I tried my hardest not to make a noise or move my back.
I'd been told the piercing was the worst part, so I was feeling pretty relaxed once the hooks were all in, as it wasn't really that bad at all. I walked up to the centre of the stage so Ginge could hook me up to the rig, adjusting the tension in the rope until it was even. As he pulled on the rope, I moved onto tiptoes, and tried to lessen the pulling sensation in my back, which was starting to sting. The rope was lifting me very slowly, but the pain just got worse, and I asked him to let me down a bit more, so all my weight again was on my feet. I tried for a while to lean back into it, and then lift my feet off the ground, but I just couldn't do it, the pain was too much.
Ginge asked if I was okay, and said I should be ready for it by now, and to trust him. And I was ready, I felt ready in my mind, but my body was just saying no, it was too painful. I felt a rush of disappointment, and tears started to well up in my eyes. I knew it would be painful, but I didn't think the pain would be much of an issue, I thought I'd be able to cope with it. Ginge said he was going to take me up, and I was so lost in my thoughts I didn't say anything, just looked at him as he pulled hard on the rope and lifted me just 10cm or so from the floor. I shouted out with pain as I was first lifted from the floor, but then it subsided and I didn't really feel anything.
I heard a voice say to me 'just take deep breaths'. I think this was Lexx, who'd been lending moral support the whole time I was messing around on the ground. I took a large deep breath and held it, and then I remembered the meditation. I started to breathe properly, and counted my breaths. I got up to 3, and then lifted my head and opened my eyes. The bright spotlight that was on me shone onto the tears I still had in my eyes, and all I could see were gold stars. I rubbed my eyes and could make out the audience sitting around watching.
I just hung there for a while, taking it all in, looking around at the people, my friends, and at the floor below me. Ginge lifted me higher, so I was about a metre off the ground, and I carried on looking around in awe. The hook on my back to the left of my spine was pinching a bit, so he stood on a chair and tried to reduce the tension on that hook, but pulling on it hurt more, so I said to just leave it.
This took about 5 minutes, so by now I was getting used to being up in the air. The feeling was quite strange, as normally your centre of gravity is in a different place....normally there's like an imaginary 'line' from the top of the head, down the spine and legs....but when suspended the line is from the hooks on your back, so your head and shoulders are pushed forward. It's a pretty odd position to be in, but surprisingly comfortable.
Ginge then started to swing me around, giving me a small push, and then using his weight on the rope to pull me higher. It was such a good feeling, almost like being on a swing, but without having to hold on! I swung backwards and forwards and spun round and posed for the camera for a while, and then Ginge said 'It's a shame you've still got your boots on, or we could have taken your trousers off'. I thought about this for a while, and decided my boots were easy enough to get off...so I stopped swinging and he undressed me, before lifting me up again and starting to swing me.
It felt like I was flying. It was warm as there was a spotlight on me, but the air felt cool as it brushed past my body. I had a short moment of embarrassment as I realised that I'd had my legs wide open whilst swinging over the head of someone sitting in the crowd, but this soon passed as I realised it didn't matter. I could see my shadow on the wall, swinging back and forth. I tried to make shapes with my body, wanting it to look graceful, as most suicide suspensions look pretty tedious, with people just hanging there.
There was music playing, and it almost felt like I was dancing, like I was a trapeze artist making shapes with my body while flying through the air. It was amazing, and since the initial messing around over getting up, there had been no pain at all. My skin is very thick, and had hardly even stretched.
As any physicists among you will know, at the end of each swing the acceleration towards the centre is the greatest, and after a few minutes of swinging pretty high, the force on my back at the end of each swing was too much for me. It wasn't that it was painful, so much as disconcerting. I asked to come down, and about half way down I decided I wasn't done yet, but came down anyway, thinking that I could go back up later.
As it was, I decided not to go up again as there were other people waiting, and it felt as if the moment had passed. So I sat down and Lesley took the hooks out for me and covered my back in technicare and started to massage out the air bubbles. This seemed to be great fun, as dispel soon joined in. Not wanting to be left out, I put on a glove and started pushing the airbubbles from my shoulders down and out the holes. I seemed to have a lot more than the other people we'd seen come down; perhaps because I was moving more. After a good while of massage there were only small bubbles left that wouldn't budge, so they cleaned up my back. I didn't want to put my top on straight away, cos I was pretty warm, and I wanted the wounds to start to heal. The Norwegian weather got the better of me in about 15 minutes, and I got dressed.
I couldn't stop grinning all night. Despite my early morning, I managed to stay awake until about 5am after watching more suspensions, and seeing a couple of bands play, and walking round Oslo lots! I was so full of energy, I couldn't stop tapping my feet, and fiddling with my hair and generally being annoying. I was annoying myself, so I'm sure my friends must have been annoyed too!
It's been a few weeks since this event, and while I didn't achieve what I intended from the suspension entirely, it has no doubt had a positive impact on my life. I've been feeling generally more relaxed and calm, and have more energy and motivation. I would like to do a lotus suspension at some point in a more private ritual environment, as I think that is what I need to be able to focus on myself properly and sort out the things I want to sort out in my head. I would also love to do a knee suspension on stage, preferably in front of a large crowd. I get such a buzz from performing anyway, combining that with the rush of a suspension must be awesome.
I'd like to thank everyone at the Wings of Desire festival for making me feel welcome (and speaking English to me!), and would like to especially thank Ginge and Lesley for looking after me and making this suspension such a great experience.
There are photos of the event on my IAM page, or if you have any questions, feel free to mail me on the address in the top corner.
submitted by: vampy
on: 22 Oct. 2002