Body suspension art event '˜not for everyone'

IT has long been an underground sub-culture regarded as too extreme for public exhibition.

Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 6:00 am
Body suspension is not for the faint of heart. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

But next Saturday hundreds of people are expected to attend a night showcasing the peculiar practice of body suspension.

Described by the organisers as an “art practice”, suspension involves the act of elevating a human body by piercing an individual’s skin with large sterilised metal hooks.

On the surface, it looks excruciatingly painful, echoing James McAvoy’s brutal torture scene from The Last King of Scotland.

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However, a host of famous figures such as former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro have described the practice as an “adrenaline rush”.

Jakub Sokolowski, who is set to perform and DJ at the event, christened The Freak Show, said: “The number of people expected to go shows there’s a huge demand for it.

“There’s a big community interested in watching this and even participating. In Edinburgh, I know they used to do suspension a few times a year but it’s been an underground thing for a while.

“It’s a controversial thing and I don’t think your average person on the street is happy to see it or watch it, which is why it stays underground. This is the first time I know of that it’s going to be a fully ticketed professional event in Edinburgh.”

The Bliss of Pain suspension crew, who are organising the event to celebrate their fifth anniversary, say the event is the “first of its type” where they won’t just be performing themselves and will invite other performers.

Not everyone is a fan of the practice – two years ago, Siberian police labelled masked performers “subway masochists” after they suspended themselves on an underground train.

There are a number of possible risks too including nerve or tendon damage and infection due to improper hook placement.

The delicate process is usually handled by professional performers, who arrange the hooks involved and ensure individuals are elevated safely.

Jakub said: “As long as it’s legal and under control, there’s nothing wrong with it. People do different kinds of things – I would never watch certain sports, but each to their own. There’s a big community who want to see it.”

Cait Owens, a makeup artist attending the event, said her interest stemmed from “curiosity”.

She added: “My best friend has been suspended before at an event like this by the same crew. It sounds wild, something I’d never be capable of doing, but it’s pure curiosity for me.

“It supposedly gives you a feeling of euphoria. All I can imagine is pain. It’s pretty cool, though. I’m very squeamish so I don’t know how I’d be.”

Gemma Campbell – Cait’s best friend – likened body suspension to an “intense massage” and said it had cured her bad back: “It’s not massively painful, but it’s hard to explain. Instead of the type of pain you hope is over quickly, it’s a pain that you experience and its all part of it. I used to suffer from a bad back and I’ve not since.

“It was like an intense massage getting the tissue lifted like that when your body weight is hanging from your upper back. It was an amazing feeling.”

The Freak Show is at 4pm on 9 June at the Biscuit Factory.