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"Venus Rising" - a delicate new suspension

They say there is nothing new under the Sun, and this surely applies to types of body suspension. That said I would like to share with anyone interested an adaptation of a couple of old standards. The resultant hybrid I have termed "Venus Rising".

What led me to suspension.

I am a 39 year old British woman raised in a culture and profession (theatre) where any form of body modification or pain experimentation is deeply frowned upon and considered "well dodgy". At drama school we young women were instructed to avoid at all costs getting tattooed or cutting our hair short – as this would 'lessen our chances of being neutral enough for a director'. I kid you not.

I very quickly found the quasi-liberal theatre world was corrupted to the core with this kind of fascism, and saw how deeply it effected every female working on stage/in front of the camera. Bulimia and self-harm were (and are) rife and the attendant misery shameful. I decided to pack my talent and as an act of pure political aggression began to use a small amount of piercing and blood letting in my performances, while still maintaining a traditional theatre narrative. The response has been very good, and I find the delicacy of the blood on the stage floor and the simplicity of the piercings (as Marilyn Monroe with 16 hooks through the arms for example) to be a relevant tool in the suspension of disbelief (forgive the pun).

In 2002 I had the chance to participate in a sus-con. I was very needing of some form of greater ritual at this stage, although unable to articulate this to myself. It was that instinct to suspend that so many thousands have experienced. I felt also the experience was extremely necessary – again as a political act, as so few women I knew – in fact none until the sus-con - were able to tolerate any form of pain in their lives. This inability to understand pain as sensation in which one can participate is very much about the culture of fear in which we live. Much entrenched by the Patriot Act and the Catholic Church, I think. A culture of fear keeps people down, especially women. There is, after all, very little to fear.

So I lay upon the bench and with my ex-husband opposite me (his first suspension too - and a far better ritual for a parting couple than splitting up the CD collection), and I accepted the first of twelve 3 mm hooks into my body.

I was very frightened as I did not know where to place these sensations, nor had I any frame of reference for them. I certainly had no part of my experiential memory that could prepare me for the lift. I will confess the fear was much like that before my first abortion.

The thirty seconds that took me in to the air are without doubt the most significant in my life. The battle with my body was violent and the letting go tumultuous. But (again as so many of you know) there was that moment of clarity where a part of me understood primally what was necessary, and I quite simply relaxed. I hung for three hours, sang, recited Shakespeare, did stand-up (well horizontal mid-air) comedy and laughed like I had taken some very serious drugs. You know the story, you've all been there. The next day I went back for a three point knee suspension, and hung 13 meters above the Oslo fjord in the late afternoon sunshine. The photos of that suspension are the most beautiful I have seen of myself – ever – and that is saying something for a woman who had battled bulimia and obesity for twenty years. In case you are wondering, I am no longer fat nor bulimic.

FAST FORWARD.

I did not suspend again for three years. Until last Sunday, actually. I did not feel the need to, although I continued to pierce in my work and let blood, although less as time went on.

However last week, quite out of the blue I was invited to a mini sus-con with the same friends who had enabled my first suspensions. A light went on in my head and for a number of (quite personal and uninteresting reasons) I knew a full circle had been reached and I should suspend one more time.

In this instance the challenge was not whether to suspend, but how to suspend. I spent some time listening to my body and almost asking it what it wanted. In some bizarrely macho way I didn't want to do a Superwoman or Knee (well I'd already done them, so there was no challenge). I was very drawn to a Crucifixion – both for the symbolism and æsthetic beauty, but you know it wasn't quite right. Certainly a Coma was out of the question – dunno why it just wasn't even a contender. Neither was a Lotus – it was too... foetal. I wanted to stretch, to be upright, but with the implication of motion, travel, moving forward. After processing my body's desires (much like it was a client and I was an advertising agency) I realised I needed to custom make my suspension, just for little old me.

I particularly wanted a suspension with a pretty name, as I find the current nomenclatures to be vaguely silly and macho. The macabre elements that are so often associated with body-mods by 'outsiders' are something I dislike, and if I may be frank I think the language around the rituals is oft used carelessly. I use language daily as a weapon in my work, but also as a balm, and that is why I wished to have a beautiful name for my suspension.

I made a number of sketches in preparation, which included some mathematical equations concerning which angles would best support the image I wished to achieve. I also used some hard core ballet stances as a reference point, all the while bearing in mind what muscles I would need to activate to support the suspension.

This was another element I was keen to explore, ie; working with the suspension rather than passively receiving it. I knew it would not be possible to achieve the effect I wanted without using some basic Pilates and Yoga systems. The suspension would look simple, but elegant, and would require me to support it.

Finally I whittled things down to a simple checklist:

The suspension must be beautiful, especially in profile.

It should look as if it were in motion, therefore vertical but slightly tipped forward.

The arms needed to be held (I did not want them free as this destroyed the elegance and balance), but at an angle away form the body that would look as if I were pushing through the crest of a wave.

This sea imagery was a breakthrough, and I realised I was referencing a Galleon Figure at the prow of a ship. Preferably something tacky like an old pirate vessel from the seventeenth century, manned by a crew of ghosts. The cliché made me smile, and that smile needed to stay in the supension.

The legs would have to be held behind the body, as if one were flying- they were a balance to the torso, a swallow tail. This meant they had to be together at the ankles, and with usual suspension rigs they naturally part, so here was a problem. I could have tied them together, or chained them or even used hooks, but I decided instead that this was where I would use my muscles to keep the image in place.

In consultation with the suspension team (it took three of us to work this out), we agreed to start with a six point Suicide, adding two points on each arm (nicked from a Crucifixion) and two points on each leg (from a Superwoman). The Suicide would keep me upright, and we'd keep the ropes long on the legs so they weren't level with the torso. The arms could not be straight out at the sides a lá Crucifixion, so we would work out the angle (slightly behind the body) once I was up.

It sounded very pretty, but we all knew privately it could look crap. It really was a fifty-fifty as none of us had tried these combinations before. If nothing else this suspension would be about the small nuances.

The working title for it was "Galleon Figure" – though I wasn't happy with this as it was humourless and sounded very...stout. When we gathered at the sus-con and the participants were saying what suspensions they wanted to do I found myself saying simply, "I'd like to try a new one I've made up. It's called Venus Rising."

A couple of women in the group cheered loudly in support (as only Norwegian women can), and that was groovy.

Come the day I found myself centered but nauseous. I helped myself by helping with the first two suspensions of the day, particularly after-care which is where I am most happy assisting. I think it's a really nice thing to massage the air bubbles out of a post-suspended body while the person chills out and processes his/her experience.

I took thirty minutes to do some Yoga before my own suspension. I was a little worried as a few months ago I had injured my back necessitating an ambulance ride and months of painful chiropracty.

I chose carefully what to wear: a green fabric wrapped around my waist, and a simple strapless bra in black silk. I have very pendulous breasts and I felt they would be distracting if left to swing freely. In this respect I am envious of the many beautiful breasted women who suspend nude or partially so. It is truly the path to liberation.

My hair was up to allow the neck to be visible and elongate the profile of the image.

We discussed briefly again exactly how we were going to do the Venus, and instinctively I brought up a nagging doubt I'd had: I just don't like Suicide suspensions. I don't like the name or the æsthetic, as there is a tendency for the shoulders to hunch which doesn't appeal to me. I stress this is a completely personal prejudice and I respect fully that others find the Suicide very appealing. But I really found myself revolting against the idea, so suggested instead I have the basics of a Superwoman in my back as the core support to the suspension.

The suspension team I knew were a little sceptical, but respected my wishes to the hilt without murmur.

I lay on the bench and breathed in – and took the first hooks. Oh hallo old friends. Fear, pain (momentary) then pure endorphines. By the time we got to the arms I was a very happy bunny – and anyway I have always loved arm hooks. They looks so darn pretty on a lady.

The rig was prepped and there was a nice tension in the room as we were trying something new. It took a while to adjust the rope lengths, and I felt myself becoming more nervous as I didn't know how the lift would feel. I was however able to give clear requests regarding the sequence of the lift, ie; back first, legs to follow, arms last.

And so it began. It was a little clumsy – I think because I still had the Suicide in mind and was resisting the hunched shoulders – thereby effectively hunching my bloody shoulders. Silly woman. And the vertical suspension was new to me and I just hate not being good at things. This realisaton made me laugh, and the magical release came instantly. I quickly wanted my legs up, and was soon barking for the arms to go in place.

We have a large wall of mirror at our suspension venue in Oslo (a beautiful old converted water mill called Månefisken – or The Moonfish). I turned and saw myself in profile, and fuck me! The Venus Rising worked like a charm! If I say so myself it was exquisite. So simple and small in it's details. So elegant. So very, very happy making. I asked to be swung and the sensation of travelling at the prow of a ship was phenomenal. A touch of Kate Winslet in Titanic, to be sure, but hey that worked too, didn't it?

As we'd predicted the legs kept splaying open like I was crapping myself, so I did a hard Pilates centering and pulled them together, pointing the toes, while keep the upper torso and particularly the shoulders relaxed. After a while I found my neck elongating, and the suspension made me elegant. If it's not too pretentious I would say it felt like I had taught the suspension what to do, and then it taught me back. Great symbiosis : )

I stayed up for twenty minutes. It was absolutely enough. I did not sing. I said very little. I simply recall smiling and smiling. And feeling very very peaceful, and lovely.

I would recommend Venus Rising, if I may, to anyone who would like to be pretty for a while. It is not in the slightest a controversial suspension, but there is a great deal of charisma attendant to it. And I think a man would be very beautiful if he gave himself over to this particular image.

I hope very much I have not made an ass of myself by claiming to have created something that has been around for donkey's years. Forgive me if Venus exists already with a different name. I am not an afficionado of this world, just a profoundly grateful traveller.

In closing I would like to say I am ever thankful to Pain Solution and the Wings Of Desire suspension team in Oslo for introducing me to this world of pain. I think it's made me beautiful.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 13 June 2005
in Ritual

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Artist: Pain+Solution+and+Pinpoint+Piercing+-+Oslo
Studio: Suspension+Convention+-+Oslo
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