Disclaimer: Due to the fast pace of this journey, and jetlag, massive sensory overload and general crazy rope-time, these accounts are not always as detailed as I would like them to be. Furthermore, if there is anything factually incorrect, please tell me and I will do my best to amend this. I also sadly did not have time to see all the performances nor write down as much as I’ve would have like to. Also, please, if you know the name of the various model’s that the rope-artists worked with, please post. They deserve to be named and get as much credit as the riggers themselves, as they truly shined throughout the event.
A section of the program that I was really looking forward to was the Q&A, or talkshow as they had billed it in the program. The participants was be Esinem (E), Shin (S) and Midori (M) who all brought some different points to the table. As it was an international event, it was very exciting to hear the different experiences of these riggers, and I for one would love a longer session of these kinds of talks, as they are quite good in terms of gaining a broader sense of understanding the practices and the individuals behind them.
Once again, some very well needed translation was provided by NdT which was very appreciated. My pen was not as fast as some of the respondents, so here comes a condensed version of the Q&A.
Q: When did you first discover an interest in rope?
E: I first discovered rope about 12 years ago from a magazine, and then realizing its potential as something that could act as more than a restraint.
S: Me and my wife moved to Japan in 2003, when we started to find clubs and classes together.
M: I remember seeing it very early, becoming entranced by it. A bit later I travelled to San Fransisco, in a time where the scene was still very underground. I then went on to study rope between 92 and 97.
Q: Where have you performed with your rope?
E: I have performed at various venues in the UK, such as Torture Garden, Subversion and also around in Europe. I also give classes and tuitions regularly as well as play in private.
S: In terms of play in public, the relativley small economy of the Taiwanese BDSM-scene does not provide much opportunities to have public parties. But people sometimes organize smaller events in private studios. Me and my wife also had a dedicated space for rope in our apartment, but since the arrival of our daughter this has now been redecorated into a nursery.
Q: What do you think are the differences between Japanese and non-Japanese rope?
E: I think there are huge differences in terms of that in the West, people have only recently started to understand the potential of rope-bondage to me something more than just restraint, that it is about the journey one takes with the rope.
M: There is certainly differences and sometimes what we can see in photos is not what happens in the moment. A photo is often lacking that, a photo can’t tell us everything.
S: Rope is relatively small in Taiwan, but I have noticed a difference in that there is much more resistance at work in European bondage. They are all smiling and fighting!
M: In the West, SM and Shibari is much more intertwined and mixed in play. There is the elements of takedowns, capture and restraint, in which the model is fighting back. Furthermore, there is also much more communitybased events, even large conventions, such as Shibaricon, where 1000’s of people attend.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
E: I want to continue to develop both personally and professionally, first of all with the London Festival of the Art of Japanese Bondage.
On another level, I would like to bring more mainstream culture into my performances, such as incorporating ballet. The performances at Toubaku has been hugely inspiring.
S: I also found this festival to be hugely inspiring in regards to rope. I have learned so much about atmosphere from here, and have truly been reminded that it when you tie, everything is in the heart.
E: I also would like to bring more Japanese Kinbakushi’ to Europe, for teaching and performance, instead of having people looking at pictures and trying to emulate the ties without understanding them.
M: I’m interested in continuing performing in non-sexualized spaces, such as museums and art galleries. And of course, also to continue to do shibari with a clear mind.
That was all of what there was from the Q&A session at Toubaku. I found several points here really interesting, such as the different levels on which shibari works, both personal and professional.
First of all, rope in a larger context; depending on where you are in the world, there is certain rope’cultures’. Not only ‘the Japanese’, but ‘The West’ are assumed categories, that we might think we know a lot about, but most of the time it is better to ask than to assume. The US community based, broad kind of activism is not the same as the more individualistic approach in the U.K. Tying is different not only from different time-periods but also depending on where you are in the world. And I guess there is nothing inherent about the ways in which we relate to rope, but that it is very well coloured by our own cultural contexts.
One interesting thing that both Esinem and Midori mentions is to move rope outside of its assumed categories of ‘kinky’ or ‘sex’, or what ever it might be. That is being done more and more, and just a recent report from Brussels Opera tells us about suspensions in Wagners Parsifal, staged by Romeo Castellucci.
What Toubaku showed to me, was the various ways in which rope feature in our lives, and how it can be both a tool and a tactic in order to create, to communicate and to love.