First, let me say that if you have an opportunity to attend one of Femina Potens‘ Art of Restraint events, you should run, not walk, to get your tickets. Each scene was truly performance art at its finest.
I was able to catch the full performances of Ms. Maggie Mayhem, Dallas Fivestar and Maxine Holloway & Twisted Monk, and saw part of Lilac Wine‘s performance as well. Sadly, because of the performance schedule and the limitations of the Mission Control space, I did not get to see Madison Young perform, or Dylan Ryan & JP Robichard.
Ms. Maggie Mayhem has a great write-up of her own performance — I was lucky enough to have a semi front row seat for that and all I can say is damn. The lady has guts. Her piece was shockingly physical and really, really fun to watch. She describes her performance as so:
My goal with the piece was to transform the room from voyeurs into participants into captors and finally into competitors. I wore a chain secured around my waist with 5 open padlocks hanging from it. Then I asked for 5 volunteers to take a 5 foot length of chain and lock it around my waist at a padlock. I then handed them the keys to the padlocks which were frozen in ice and already wrapped in cord to be hung onto the chain. “My goal is to get those keys, melt them, open the padlocks, and escape from the circle. Don’t let me get to those keys. GO!”
This was as astoundingly physical as it sounds like it would be. Her website has a video of part of the piece that shows how rough things got.
She also writes “Unlike more traditional SM scenes where the bottom, submissive, or slave can drift off and enjoy a sensual experience I had to stay fully alert and connected.”One of my favorite parts of watching scenes is seeing the effect of whether or not the submissive or performer is allowed to sink into subspace, and how that affects the energy of the scene, so her performance was really a treat (also the mohawk was fabulous).
One of the scenes that I was most looking forward to was precisely because of that exchange of energy, actually — I mentioned briefly seeing Maxine Holloway and Twisted Monk do a scene at the most recent Thin Line Between Art and Sex way back last November; one of the reasons I was so looking forward to their scene was because of how resolutely Twisted Monk seemed to keep Maxine from being able to enter into sub-space. They were using wax and straight razors, in addition to, if I recall correctly, very restrictive bondage, and Twisted Monk maintained a steady stream of chatter, jokes, conversation, banter and observations with both Maxine and those watching during the entire thing. It was quite a different energy than any other scenes I’d seen before, which usually involved intense silence and a somewhat heavy mood, where the submissive was able to sink into the scene and, perhaps, the sensations.
So it was with great excitement that I plunked myself down into the front row, needles in hand, to watch what I had assumed was going to be a scene with similar energy. And oh how wrong I was. Before the performance started, Twisted Monk set out maybe ten lengths of red and black rope hanging from what I think would be called a suspended spreader bar (please correct me if there is a better term for this — a long bar suspended from the ceiling at either end of the bar) and waited for his partner. After a bit of a pause, during which the lights managed to blow a fuse so dramatically that most folks thought it was part of the performance, Maxine came out in amazing lingerie, as always (seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her wearing anything less than stunning lingerie), and immediately the room hushed. She crossed to Twisted Monk and murmured in his ear. They might have well been completely alone in those moments before the piece started and the intimacy was breathtaking. She then pulled a green bandana out of his pocket and blindfolded Twisted Monk. For the rest of the piece she acted as his eyes, guiding his seeking hands to new pieces of rope hanging on the bar. When she wasn’t guiding his hands herself, he was using Maxine’s body as a compass and his hands as the needle to move from knot to knot. In the end, all while blindfolded, he completed a full-body suspension.
In the end it felt as though I’d shared something extraordinary with both performers and the rest of the audience. The energy of the room was so completely with the performance, and when Twisted Monk finally flopped onto the floor with exhaustion at the end of the piece and ripped off his blindfold, people couldn’t stop clapping. The whole thing was this amazing amalgamation of the showmanship of a magician and his magician daring assistant and display of suspension virtuoso —myself, I couldn’t suspend someone safely if you paid me (yet), so it was jaw-dropping to see someone do a full body suspension (both legs off the floor, all weight supported by the ropes) while blindfolded.
It was while watching this piece, as well as Dallas Fivestar‘s mesmerizing Self Crucifixion scene, that I started to make a really strong, visceral connection between the act of tying knots for bondage and rigging with the act of hand embroidery. There was something about how both Dallas and Twisted Monk handled the rope and used the sensation of pulling the rope through their own hands to measure and control the knots they tied, that reminded me of my own use of the sensation of thread moving through my fingers to gauge the state of the thread, the tension of the stitches and the state of the entire embroidery.
I originally approached the relationship of embroidery and BDSM through a cerebral connection – culturally speaking, embroidery and BDSM have very little in common, which is why I felt compelled to connect them: the implications of 50’s housewifery labour and all the trappings of women’s work and domesticity and the sexual, taboo nature of BDSM seemed to be diametrically opposed when I first started, but now I’m not so sure they are so unrelated. Their connection is something fascinating to explore!
As for me, my “performance” left something to be desired. According to the invitation to participate, artists were asked to “…take photographs and make art to lend to the creative atmosphere, give you some good content and see what you come up with!” I’m not sure how much I ended up lending, but folks did seem to like watching me embroider (and marvel at how I was able to embroider with only the light of a disco ball). Sadly I got very little done — a bit of detailed embroidering on the vagina piece pictured here, and some sketches of coils of rope for the border of a larger wall hanging I’d planned to work on durning the evening but never actually got around to working on further. But even if I didn’t get as much work completed as I would have liked to, I am so very glad I was able to be there and see some amazing performers and performances.