Our Next Installment of 10 questions features someone in the community who has led multiple events. He is able to organize suspension practitioners from all around the world to participate in beautiful installations. Without further ado....
1. Who are you?
My name is Orbán Isma. I got into body suspension with DisGraceLanD HooK SquaD back in 2006, started Anchors Aweigh in 2011, and created The Skin Project collective in 2015. I am a humanoid carbon unit living in NYC. I like cats.
2. Why suspension?
The reasons change over the years. Initially it was a recreational release I got hooked on, and it evolved from there steadily into an experiential art form that I became further fascinated with. People's experiences, gratitude for the experiences, and the genuine trust and vulnerability that is at the core of the suspension experience that elevates our bonds have always been at the root of the "why."
photo by @ohgodwhy.me
3. Favorite suspension
Done: There's 2 that stand out.
The first was my third suspension (circa Spring of 2007), in Brooklyn, in our friend's backyard, where I kicked up the dust off the floor, kicked off a trimmed but solid tree, and learned to swing around like a nutjob. During this suspension, the physics of the swing really clicked for me, and I finally grasped the "sport" aspect of what Arwem Spliff Rosa was talking about in relation to the physical experience.
The second was over waterfalls in NW Massachusetts with RoP, back in 2012. I had an extremely elevated, calm, and clear experience as realization set in with the white noise around me, the sun beating down on my back, the bounce in the tensioned line I was swinging from, the perpetual motion of the water in front of and below me, and seeing Emrys Yetz in his element - sitting on the side of the waterfalls holding space and time for me. I had never had such an intense moment of clarity on hooks before, and it felt like the purest mental trip I had ever been on.
Facilitated: It's hard to say. I love all first time suspensions, for the pureness of the moment and experience that the suspendees go through. But as far as facilitating with enhanced intention, design, and drive, the moments of building, and ensuing experience that Jeanelle Mastema had during "Tether," was the most gratifying and ground-breaking suspension for me as a practitioner seeking the creative and aesthetic limits of the medium. Creating the structure I envisioned with Ganjeesh and Milo, and watching Jeanelle breath through her experience was incredibly gratifying. When we touched base with Jeanelle after her suspension, it became clear that we both shared a very high level connection, with identical non-verbal realizations of color, spiritual connection, and heavy occult vibrations.
4. How did you get started?
At the end of 2005, Arwem Spliff Rosa and Jill Marie Nolan of Disgraceland Family Freakshow (later leading to the creation DisGraceLanD HooK SquaD) made it possible for Lukas Zpira to come facilitate some suspensions at our old haunt, the Brooklyn Fun House, run by our friends Liana and Les. It was my first time suspending. I hadn't eaten well in days, and I was drinking very heavily for 3-4 days leading up to it. Kristin of DFF approached me with her hooks and said she would not be suspending, and asked me if I would like to go up instead. I didn't really think of it as something crazy or weird, and said yes with complete abandon. It was awful physically. But it was the first time Spliff facilitated/coached a suspension, and I remember his face and presence holding me here, present, aware, and forcing me to work through the experience. I felt every strand and fiber in my body straining, and got booted into a really elevated state that was out of my control. Afterwards, exhausted and beat, I realized there was something there I wanted to comprehend with more clarity, because I had never felt anything like that before without stimulants involved. The trust I had in Spliff also gave me the realization that this process was much more complex and nurturing, and I was at the time seeking more personal connection with people, that held these tenets. By the time we did the backyard suspensions (my third), Spliff had booked a show at Alex Grey's CHapel of Sacred Mirrors in Chelsea, NYC, and that day we suspended 30+ people in one night. It was insane, and I was super into the community, and the process after that day. I wanted to share the experience (what little I understood of it at that point) with anybody else that was curious.
5. Biggest suspension inspiration (Person)
There's never just one person, but I can count two easily, immediately. There are many inspirations for different aspects of my work with suspension.
Spliff, for introducing me to the medium, but also because I watched him go from having a basic comprehension of the technical aspects, to figuring out aesthetic rigging, and the joy that it brought him. I have always been fascinated by geometry, and the confidence he inspired in others coupled with his understanding of the fractal/visual nature of reality, made him the person that not only made me a better person, but also gave me everything I needed to (in his own words) "find my own flavor" with the medium. I am forever grateful for him.
Around 2008 we started seeing work from groups in other countries, and the most impactful work I was seeing, was coming from Wings of Desire, out of Oslo. After having met her, and watching her work, I fell in love with Christiane Løfblad's style, and sense of aesthetics. I had never seen somebody work so efficiently, elegantly, and effectively, producing such positive outcomes both experientially, and aesthetically within the medium of body suspension. I still look back to her work regularly to re-center my approach when considering the design of a complex suspension. Her energy while facilitating is something we can all, as a community learn from.
6. Biggest suspension inspiration (Concept)
This is really tough to answer. It's changed so much over the years. Initially, the work of Stelarc primarily, and then Fakir Musafar were huge inspirations. As I have changed and evolved as a practitioner, my inspirations have changed in priority. I can't pin point one specific concept, but I can say that the work of Håvve Fjell & Christiane of WoD, Eden Thompson of Skindependent, and Chandler Barnes have really pushed my comprehension of what is possible within the medium, and have changed the way I think about how I want people to experience my work in person. I believe that their work has opened up the doors of how to curate suspension as public art, not just on a performative level, but also as static installation pieces, and impactful stills (photography primarily).
To be honest, my biggest inspirations for some years now have been from outside our community. Chiharu Shiota has changed my entire way of thinking about rope as an art form, and Garth Knight's work has completely shifted my perspective on what can be done on a larger scale.
7. Favorite sandwich
Heat up a cast iron skillet. Throw some bacon on that shit. Don't burn it like an asshole; take it off in time for it to cool down while still cooking itself and not turning into a salt stick. Keep some of that delicious grease in the pan, and throw some freaking chopped up vegetables on it. Sweet red peppers, leaks, shallots, a fuckton of garlic, whatever you like. Put some corn in it, tell the people who judge you for this to fuck right off. Get those veggies off the pan, and wipe remaining grease off. Now throw some butter on that shit. Dump a ton of cinnamon on the butter. Beat some eggs in with some milk, and spread it out over the butter, across the skillet. Throw a bunch of herbs, paprika, Montreal steak seasoning, and whatever you like on that. Once it's starting to hold form, dump the veggies in there, the bacon, and even some cheese if you're into that. If you're not, that's not anybody's problem but your own. Roll that omelette up with finesse and elegance. If you can't do it every day till you figure it out. Watch a youtube video if you have to. Don't fuck it up. Then, put the rolled up omelette aside, and throw two slices of bread on the skillet. Let the remaining butter/grease fry/toast one side, then the other. Smear some mole poblano sauce on those slices, throw the omelette in between them, and enjoy the next however long it takes you to eat this delicious breakfast sandwich.
I also like brie, turkey and sun dried tomato sandwiches with honey mustard, on a New York roll, but whatever.
I can't share a photo of my breakfast sandwich, because it's basically porn.
8. Favorite piece of gear?
This is a tough question. The answer to this depends on what the suspension being facilitate is. If it's a dynamic setup to swing around on - I love using our Anchor rigging plate. My wife Genne designed it, and it was cut by SMS back in 2011, delivered in time for Dallas SusCon that Easter. It's got the most personality out of all of our gear.
photo by Sam Haxx
If we're doing a swaying/swinging static, like a lotus or coma, we have a 6-arm rig that was fabricate by my close friend, Tom Porter. It breaks down into 2 flat plates that can in turn be used as smaller cog-shaped plates, and 6 x 3' arms, which makes it the perfect modular multi-axis rig that I own.
I love rigging complex static work without pulleys, and we have a 8' cube that we fabricated with Svend Jensen a few years ago that I love dearly It breaks down into 4' arms that are not keyed, and it takes less than 10 minutes to assemble it alone, less than 5 minutes with 2+ people. Because the modular pieces are not keyed (AKA interchangeable), we can also arrange it into 4x4x4, 4x4x8, 8x8x4 arrangements. I am currently working on fabricating other polyhedra that will create new rigging and geometric possibilities, which will also be able to "snap" into the existing cube, suspended within it.
9. Whats next for you?
After exploring what we can do with body suspension as an art medium with The Skin Project for the last few years, I am now going down a rabbit-hole of conceptual work that is combining everything I have learned, while trying to trim the fat. I am primarily focused on creating a body of work that stands by itself, and has its own identity. The identity of our work changes along with the personal changes we go through - otherwise we stagnate, and do not grow, which subsequently disallows those around us to grow, and for the medium to become less rewarding for everybody involved. I will continue to focus on exploring the nature of the human experience, occult energies, non-politicized art, and the beauty of multi-dimensional geometry, by which we can shift our perspectives to see the world differently.
If I told you what's next on a technical level without all the fancy personal growth rhetoric, then I'd be spilling the beans, wouldn't I?
10. What would you tell the next generation of suspendees?
I'll try to say what I think matters, but to be honest, it doesn't matter what I have to say. People are going to do what they are going to do, regardless of what they think they're committing to, what they're promising themselves and others, and what they think is right and wrong. They will be disappointed by those that came before them, and they will disappoint the people around them at some point. You, me, us; we're all going to continue making mistakes. Just be safe and don't hurt drop anything. And if you do, get up, and fucking move on. If you don't have a support system, find one. And if you're committing to something, don't fucking bail on it mid-stream, because that makes you a garbage person. Don't be a garbage person.
On a (slightly) more positive note - body suspension is STILL young, and there's a lot of room for growth. Try to find your own flavor, but don't do this till you have put the work in, and are confident in your skills as a practitioner. If you do the work, you can play later. If you think 2-3 yeras is enough to consider yourself fully proficient at all aspects of suspension, go back to the drawing board and sit the fuck down. Check yourself often. If you do things right, body suspension can be the most gratifying experience to have and/or facilitate. And to do things right, you have to make sure you're being the best person that you can be. Don't bring your personal bullshit to somebody else's experience, and you will be a great practitioner. That goes for the people you work with as well (and choose to surround yourself with). Also, make good art, don't drop anything, drink lots of water, and don't fuck up your omelettes.
You can find out more about Orbán Isma by following @anchors.aweigh
Be sure to check out suspension.nyc