5 Days of Making Shibari (3 Workshops, A Performance), & Stockholm

A slightly unannounced workshop (compared to the other two, I mean), three days of making performance with NYXXX at Rökridån, co-organised by Kokoro 2. Eleven people, some artists, one engineer (always one engineer), a social-anthropologist, part-way underground in the meat-packing district. We stay almost on the edge of Stockholm, one stop before the end of the line, Bagarmossen. The forest begins nearer than that last stop. Roads and cars encircle but do not enter. Wide, curved paths, trees, eruptions of glacier-smoothed granite. Most other places this would be the dead-end. Here, it’s like the ideal of high-modernist urban planning architecture—the antithesis of Le Corbusier—made real. It’s a little disturbing at first.

Rökridån is half-way from Bagarmossen to the centre of Stockholm, probably an half-hour walk, 15 minute brisk spin on a bike. We take the train, walk the last bit. Only four hours a day, though with warm-up before and drifting over the finish time, this stretches to five, six. And then we rehearse. I haven’t hung myself up since teaching at ImPulsTanz last year.

This is writing for remembering. Since working regularly with Florian, Dasniya’s teaching, performances, general ideas and interests have changed.

In-between stuff. Friday, we rehearse in Bagarmossen, then end the afternoon in Östasiatiskamuseet. Also walking around the harbours. Wednesday night we see a performance at MDT. It causes me to doubt that people with acceptable bodies (identities, desires) can have any understanding of those without, or even care. Sunday I go to the Historiska museet. A bus driver plays Swedish folk music. Later that night, we use it in a performance.

I eat a lot of liquorice. Sweet, salty, chewy, rubbery, stuff that melts and stuff that erodes. The sky is the kind that comes from across oceans, open, tattered clouds, the air sharp and polished. It’s often windy. Inside, or in the sun, it’s warm; if the sun was higher, it would approach harshness. As soon as the sun is gone, it chills like stone in shade. If the public transport doesn’t work, they pay for people to take taxis. I didn’t eat reindeer. Or fish.

Thursday night is Valborgsmässoafton, Walpugis Night. No burning of witches north of the Baltic, only celebrating the arrival of spring with bonfires. Stockholm seems to have a lot of immigrants. It felt a little like Sydney or Melbourne. I liked it more for that (I know it’s not straightforward or rosy).

Both Tova and Christian have a lot of books. Walls of books. Cheese comes in at least 1kg blocks. Smaller is possible but not encouraged. Coffee also. I wonder if in winter they are snowed in, and need such large amounts to get through. Granite is everywhere. The city and trees are a thin scraping on the surface, you could probably clean the whole place back to rock with a brush, vacuum cleaner, and an afternoon. It’s insanely beautiful.

The word for ‘child’ is the same as in Scots: barn, bairn. I try and not find similarities with Scotland and Northern England. When people greet you, even in shops or at work, they say, “Hey!” It’s so ridiculously friendly. If a ‘k’ is followed by an ‘ä’, it’s pronounced ‘sh’. I ask Tova who inflicted this upon them. She laughs and tells me about ‘sj’. ‘Hen’ is in the Svenska Akademiens ordlista as a gender-neutral personal pronoun. People we meet use it easily.

What else?

Monday we arrive, are met at the central bus station, cross the road to the train station, find ourselves on the T17, south-south-east to Bagarmossen. A long meal together, roast aubergine with walnuts. Tuesday we are early heading to Rökridån. Dasniya sent photos of our performance, we both took many photos throughout the week (as did everyone). I’ll defer a description in lieu of those later. NYXXX are LARPers. I found that out late in the week. When she told me it was like the secret that makes coherent everything which preceded. First day: a warmup, some exercises/tasks/trials with ropes. Second day: a warmup, Dasniya showed some of her work from rehearsals, talking about how performance is made. The difference between performance for each other, playing publicly, and performance as a branch of theatre are discussed. Third day: an assemblage of objects, ideas, wishes, things to try; an agreement of who does what with whom; experiments with rope that become installations. I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking good” to myself quite a bit.

Friday. May Day.

Saturday, Yoga and Shibari. On more familiar ground here. The performance workshop went into new things for Dasniya (and myself). Some things worked, others not completely. Working or not-working for me are somewhat questions of engineering; it’s the ground they operate on that’s either fertile or arid (pushing a shaky mixed metaphor there). I think the performance workshop, especially with LARPing was really this, several things coming together that fit so neatly and I’m kinda watching myself watching it thinking, “Faaark! This can go so far into Weirdsville…” and wanting that in all its rawness, messiness, bits of failure and bits of sublime on the stage at MDT cos it’s so much more relevant, so much more real.

Dasniya’s yoga approaches Isabelle’s warmup from different directions. I’m doing all the same all over the place. Same. Different. Slightly different. Kinda the same. We rehearse before and after. Firstly after is a Podcast dinner. NYXXX, a Tascam, a table of food (yes, large block of cheese). The talking goes from performance to stomach bacteria to cosplaying … I thought there was an interesting formality in how this was prepared, which contrasted with the informality when let to run on its own accord. After that, full stomach, more rehearsing.

Sunday. I go to the museum. The bus driver and his music. Later, after the Self-suspension workshop, Tova helps me find the music, poems of Gustav Fröding arranged by Torgny Björk. People start laughing immediately when we play it. Different people in the weekend workshops to the week one. Many the same. Different energy in Rökridån also. I try suspending myself in two different hip harnesses. I’m unsure lately if I want to hang at all. I do find some possibilities, but there’s a physical reluctance towards pain that comes from dealing with chronic injuries, as if the surface of my skin is too sensitive.

Performance. Rubber dog mask for me. Cat for Dasniya, Pig for Tova. A green bicycle. A white calico skirt, beaded green vest, also a black ballet tutu, gold glitter heels, a table and chair, a ladder. From the inside performing with masks, it can feel nothing, or stupid, or whatever, but from the outside with these not-quite human not-quite animal masks, it’s dead strange. It’s like they become blank signifier volumes. It’s not anthropomorphic either; more like becoming animal. The practicalities of dealing with much-reduced vision and hearing, the inner experience of wearing this cave-like helmet causes a different mundane physicality and movement. They’re also good for shy performers.

It takes an hour to pack the ropes,

A rope jam takes place. Stockholm people are well-handy with shibari. All quite astounding, really. Dasniya and I have a beer in the local pub. It closes early, by pub standards. The sky still has a faint tint of the sun riding the horizon at 11pm.

Monday, pack, train, lunch with Tova, we don’t manage a ferry ride and wander. Bus to airport, liquorice and chocolate. Plane makes land somewhere around the border of Germany and Poland. We see Uferhallen on the descent. Florian is at the arrivals gate with a sign, “Shibari Express” and chewy sweet stuff.

 

Gallery

Historiska museet

Sunday. Not a day off. I squeezed an hour from the morning to devote myself to mediæval art. Train to T-Centralen, confused directions and opted for a taxi to Historiska museet. “I am here for the mediæval art!” “Well, that is good because the collection has just been restored! You must go up the stairs, into the Baroque collection, then follow the timeline backwards. Here is a map.” I lost the map.

Up the stairs, onto the timeline (it’s an actual timeline on the floor), into the—nope, not that way, back onto timeline, into the battle room, cases of skulls and bones hacked, chipped, dented by swords. One skull has a red oval drawn on it, marking a dent grown over with fresh bone. There are chainmail and steel plate helmets to try on, and gloves. The gloves have polished metal fingernails and spiked knuckles, satisfyingly heavy and damage-inducing.

Into the art.

I was looking for the Swedish or Scandinavian regional equivalent of what I’ve seen in Berlin, Wrocław, and elsewhere. Also hoping to see how far north St Mauritius travelled, and if Balthasar was represented as African. As well, wondering if a couple of more obscure Saints turned up north of the Baltic sea. Was I disappointed? Nope! Only 50 minutes for all of it though.

The earliest pieces, from the 1100s, are gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere. The square, frontal, tall and narrow symmetrical sculpture style takes an alien countenance in Madonna från Mosjö kyrka (Närke, c. 1150), huge, black-rimmed eyes, down-turned mouth, long, almond-shaped face, high forehead, and the Jesus som överstepräst från Forsby kyrka (Västergötland), both seem barely human with such unreadable expressions. There were some more recognisable pieces, but none I saw ventured far into the International Gothic Style—Madonna från Hedesunda kyrka (Gästrikland, 1350-1375) and Sankt Olov från Frötuna kyrka (Uppland, 1325-1350) are about as far as it goes.

The colours used also seem distinct, as in Helgonskåp från Fröskogs kyrka (Dalsland, 1250-1300), with pink and rose skin and clothing. Mary here looks especially Swedish to me, like people I’d seen on the streets (I kinda wanted to say to someone I know, “Hey, you look like a 13th century Mary!”, but that’d probably sound weird, no matter how I phrase it). The crucifixions, like the magnificent Triumfkrucifix från Botkyrka kyrka (Södermanland, 1325-1350), often had this pulled-up, twisted legs, and sharper, geometric limbs and clothing.

Then into the big hall, name forgotten because of aforementioned loss of map. (Found map. Name is Gotiska hallen.) Two things in here I especially found charming. The first, by the entrance is the cordoned-off work area where two painted panels are being restored. For all the museums I’ve been in, I’ve not seen this, and it somehow made the works around stronger for the mundane extension cables, work chairs, utilitarian tables. Next to that was a small door into a dark room: a recreated rural mediæval church. The altarpiece lit only by candles, the walls, ceiling rafters, almost everything in darkness, the works now seen behind glass or properly lit experienced as they often would have been. I wanted to stay here, let my eyes adjust, feel the cold. No time.

Other side of the restoration tables, Altarskåp från Vadstena klosterkyrka (1383-1394), behind glarey glass but a fine piece of Bynum (what I call excessively bloody crucifixions). Same side as the church is the quite massive Altarskåp från Ganthem kyrka (Gotland, 1325-1350), which I assembled from several images. Jesus’ vagina-shaped inter-dimensional orifice is splurting gloriously, and Mary’s chest bears a heart of similar shape. Her hands and fingers, Jesus’ torso, feet, arms are all long curves and unusual proportions.

And then St Mauritus turns up. Well, I’m guessing it’s him in the Altarskåp från Törnevalia kyrka (Östergötland, 1470-1490). He’s missing a forearm and the banner-pole but otherwise he’s dead jaunty. This is also one of several attributed to Hermen Rode of Lübeck, and one of several here that seem stylistically closer to what I’ve seen in Berlin and Germany than specifically Swedish. I didn’t stop for an audio guide, but quite a few works have additional notes beside the captions that are informative. Context! Historiska museet does it!

Rode also is responsible for the massive Altarskåpet från Österåker (Uppland, Lübeck, 1468). Besides the gigantic central section and wings, there are the outer panel paintings, (the right one I couldn’t photograph). I find it frustrating that photographs don’t convey size so well, it could be this piece is no larger than say, a tabletop. It’s in fact several metres long and almost as tall as me. It can be seen in Historiska Museet — 64: Kyrka Hall on the right-hand side.

Altarskåp från Odensala kyrka (Uppland, 1514) next to it isn’t in that photo, but is equally large. This piece is interesting for several aspects: Mary standing on the moon, surrounded by sunbeams which are also stylised in a manner that represents Jesus’ spear wound; the partition of his wounds from a single body to isolated parts, hands alone in the upper corners and feet in the lower. On the left at her feet, the clergy, but on the right, the laity and females, possibly Beguines and Beghards.

From here into a smaller chamber, darker though still with windows. From outside only the back is visible, but one turned around to face it, the vast, tall, incredibly detailed carved wood altarpiece with Life of Christ is one of the most beautiful objects I’ve seen. A problem here in this room is almost all the works have no captions. I could spend ages photographing this one. The depth of the sculpture, its massiveness combined with the multitude of small figures, the detail of their clothes, headdress, the animation in their bodies, their facial expressions, it’s a whole lot of wow, I was going, “Faarrk!” grinning like a loon, squeezing just one more minute out.

These pieces also mark the arrival of the Renaissance, and coincide with the end of the mediæval art collection. There are other rooms though, many of them. I dash (broken-toed dash, that is) through the tapestry collection, difficult to photograph because the light is dim and yellow. The Wall Hanging from Fogdö Church (Södermanland, late-15th Century) I made an effort on for the almost houndstooth stitching of Jesus’ blood, which covers him from head to toe in a regular pattern. I have no idea what the actual colour of the thread is, I tried to balance out the yellow of the light without pushing the white thread to bleached, guessing it’s something like this, but could go either way, more brilliant or more muted.

Departing and getting lost, I find a room for Saint Birgitta. The hand is actually a seal’s foot. The reliquary itself contained part of an upper arm. It’s a strange and close to incomprehensible object. I would come back to Stockholm just to go through this museum properly.

Departing, into the sun, I land on a bus. The driver is playing what sounds like Swedish folk music. After the second song, I have to ask him. It’s Torgny Björk, arrangements of the 19th century poet Gustav Fröding. Later in the day, Dasniya, Tova, and I perform to this music.

(Edit:)

I’ve been very remiss. I wrote to the Historiska Museet shortly after getting back to Berlin, and received a beautiful reply (which has been sitting in my “reply” folder for three months) from Elisabet Regner, Senior Curator in the Department of Cultural History and Collections, filling in the missing information on images 56-63 below. More than filling in. Oooh excitement!

Gallery

Östasiatiskamuseet

Had planned to go to Historiska Museet and look at mediæval stuff. Made it as far as Skeppsholmen and going to the Östasiatiskamuseet. “We close in an hour. But an hour is usually enough. For most people.” Even for me. Small and average. The collection of Chinese (and pre-China) pottery and ceramics was the best part. Also the stone sculptures of various Buddhist, Daoist (I know!) deities. The Japan collection was mediocre. I wanted to steal quite a bit of the Tang and Song dynasty. And use it. The Ming stuff looked like Lack of Subtlety by comparison. Even cheap tea would taste better in a Song Dynasty bowl.

Gallery

Berlin–Stockholm

Not too early departure for airport. Across city and past my favourite forest. I miss the early mornings cycling there. Again, soon. Meet Dasniya at the gate, direct to the bus to the plane to the seat. Plane to the runway. Depart. Berlin evaporates. Later, above, northerly, sky clearing, islands, inlets, forest becoming farm, farm becoming shore, one becoming the other. Lower, over granite quarries, over fringes of Boreal forest, landing. Stockholm.

Out of airport. Onto bus. Every roundness of the land worn through to expose stone, crystalline, cut through with intrusions, mostly grey, sometimes pink. Train station. Arrive. Tova and Christian meet us. A train, south and slightly east. It looks like where the girls live in We Are the Best! Long dinner and talking, sun blazing across table. To the supermarket. The sun goes down only a few minutes later than in Berlin. It rises almost an hour earlier.

Yoga + Shibari April 21st Berlin & Ballet & Stockholm

OooyesssStockhom! Rather excited. Never been so far north. Only two weeks to wait. In the meantime:

1. Yoga & Shibari monthly workshop with Dasniya Sommer
When: Tuesday, April 21st
Time: 7-11 pm
Cost: 20€ for the evening
At: Teatris/Alte Kantine Wedding in
Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt in Wedding, Uferstraße 8-11, 13357 Berlin
U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr
In case you don’t find it, or the door is locked, please call when you are in the courtyard:
+ 49 174 393 70 49

Please register beforehand, then we send you the details!
General description: English + German

2. Intermediate Ballet class at Motions* Berlin
Dasniya will be teaching Jo Siska’s ballet class:
When: 12 – 12:30h
Saturday, April 18th + 25th
Location: Motion*s, directly at Moritzplatz (U8 und M29),
Access via Oranienhof coming from Oranienstraße, staircase B1
Costs: 6 €

3. Performance & workshops in Stockholm
From April 28th – May 3rd Dasniya and Frances will be teaching three workshops in Stockholm at NYXXX:

  1. 3 days workshop Tuesday-Thursday April 28-30
  2. One evening Yoga + Shibari, Saturday May 2nd, 14:00–17:00
  3. Workshop on Self-suspension in ropes Sunday May 3rd, 14:00–17:00
  4. Performance at 18.00 on Sunday May 3rd

More information at NYXXX

4. Zurzeit Blog & photos
Dasniya was in Vienna for the 3rd Wiener Fesselspiel and blogged all about it.

yoga + shibari regular berlin classes for february

Sunday, Thomas’ last day in Berlin, and post-breakfast a soup was prepared. By 1 o’clock, up-and-down stairs was occurring, on our way to the Alte Kantine for an afternoon and evening of Shibari and self-suspension. With only five rings (until we drag ourselves upwards to drill more), the dozen of us was a perfect number. Happy to see some faces returning from the end-of-year pause also, and two coming all the way from Sweden.

Dasniya started with some (gentle) bootcamp warmup, and then spent the first two or three hours teaching basic tying and harnesses for hips, legs, torso, then going on to full-suspensions and showing some more painful possibilities like the single-bound-leg inverted hanging. Dinner was all us around the table, which is why Alte Kantine is so perfect for these classes and workshops, with much talking about philosophical, social, feminist and gender issues in BDSM and shibari.

And so on to February, more yoga and shibari classes every Wednesday evening in the Alte Kantine, and a trip for Dasniya at the end of the month north and east to Finland to teach in Helsinki.

Jeden Mittwoch Yoga & Shibari im Wedding.
1., 8., 15.,22., 29. Februar, 19-23 Uhr.
Ort: Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt, Alte Kantine, Teatris, Uferstr. 8-11, 13357 Berlin,
U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr.
Kosten 20/15 Euro
Workshop Text Deutsch

Every Wednesday there will be Yoga & Shibari in Berlin-Wedding.
February 1., 8., 15., 22., 29.
Location: Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt, Alte Kantine, Teatris, Uferstr. 8-11, 13357 Berlin, U8Pankstr/ U9 Osloerstr.
Costs: 20/15 Euro
Workshop text english