As a team, Anchors Aweigh has always been driven towards the aesthetics behind suspension; to us, body suspension is ultimately an art-form. The form is defined by the concept that each person is having a unique experience that cannot be replicated, and that everything around them supplements the singularity of the moment. Capturing the essence of these moments via photography, or videography, is just an additional layer of creativity, as well as a form of documentation without which live art mediums cannot survive.
What has really motivated my personal path to what this means, has been the realization that what we do is not exempt from the rules of qualifying something as art. Like all other mediums of art, body suspension also requires validation, and the most recognized method of doing this is to historicize it. In order to achieve this, it has to contribute some value to the medium it exists in. It makes sense then, to acknowledge, and learn from those that came before us, in order to give this form the respect it deserves, while attempting to contribute to it.
I learned practically all the fundamentals of body suspension related to piercing and rigging, and a mostly intermediate level of rigging knowledge from Arwem “Spliff” Rosa, while working with his project, DisGraceLanD Entertainment. After he passed, my drive to continue exploring aesthetic rigging that he had instilled in me increased; I was motivated more than ever to see where I could take it. I had ideas, but they were not well developed, and I had a hard time dealing with the void his passing had left behind. It’s hard enough finding a mentor in the world of suspension; it is impossible to replace a person like Spliff.
A year later, I started Anchors Aweigh, and found the motivation, support, and inspiration necessary to really explore what we could do, and where the intricacies of rigging could take us. The closest people in my life, Genne Laakso (who I later married), Brian Sane, and Melanie Levy pushed us to seek more creative avenues, which allowed us to experiment with a little more abandon. We gained a new level of confidence and knowledge regarding structural rigging, by working with Emrys Yetz and his group ROP; this allowed us to achieve a standard of safety we did not previously possess. With the feedback from experienced riggers like Havve Fjell, Mike Coons, and Joe Amato at SusCons and private meets, we were able to better grasp, and mentally automate the process of running cord in more unusual ways.
Photo by Sam “Haxx” Freund
Finally, it was taking a look at the history of aesthetic rigging in body suspension with Steeve Easley, where I realized there was a generation of rigging preceding us that we had much to learn from. I think this is where I really started to solidify Anchors Aweigh’s direction with suspension; historicized content made it all possible. The greatest influences in my fascination with the medium are Stelarc’s work from 1976 onward, Oliver Gilson’s work during the early 2000s, Christiane and Håvve’s work with Wings of Desire, and finally, Chandler Barnes’ revolutionary approach to anchoring suspensions below the suspendee’s body. Thanks to these bodies of work, I have mostly stopped improvising our rigging, and started to plan things out more; stick figures and squiggly doodles have begun turning into birds-eye view mandalas, and geometric oddities.
Recently, I have personally been fixated on the concept of skin topography and what this means. As a team, we have been exploring the concept of three dimensional polygons in-line with load-bearing cord and connection points. We have also begun to minimize lines on some projects, removing unnecessary lines where a chaotic aesthetic is not wanted. These motivations have culminated in an infatuation on my part, with the strangeness of visually turning soft organic and soft synthetic materials, into seemingly immutable, stiff objects. Concurrent with this track, our current direction involves less motion, and much more fully static work; we rarely even use swivels as of late.
While we have some goals on the horizon we are moving towards as a team, there is ultimately no “ultimate” destination. We have learned on this voyage through suspension that every stop along the way, leads to another waypoint. I believe that utilizing existing technique and expertise to steer with an organic process of discovery is the key to progression. With these tenets in mind, we can find balance, and we can move forward steadily.