Suspension Artists Not Just Hanging Around
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Suspension Artists Not Just Hanging Around

Human body suspension as an art form has been around for about 20 years, but it has been a rite of passage for much longer. Some people say that hanging from hooks relieves stress -- others just do it for fun!

Human suspension as an art form has been around for about 20 years. Many people do not even know that this activity exists, but those who do are fascinated by it. It’s not just for people with piercings and tattoos anymore…anyone can swing with minimal training from professionals that view safety as Job #1. Imagine inserting large, metal hooks into your skin and swinging from a support – for fun!

Let’s take a look at the history:

Some cultures such as the Hindu or Native Americans used suspension as a rite of passage, for emotional pain management, and even just for the sensation of feeling “something” spiritual. According to modern day suspension artists, joining hooks and skin together and then pulling or hanging can bring about a connection that is almost other-worldly. “It’s hard to explain the overwhelming feeling of release you get when you are hanging,” (Joslin P. after her first swing).

Those that participate in this activity fall into two basic categories: “hookers” are the people that insert the hooks using professional safety measures including latex gloves and antibacterial solutions; “swingers” perform the act. A person can be both with the proper training.

There are two basic types of stainless steel hooks used in human suspension. The first one is the basic hook which enters the skin at two points and resembles a huge fish hook. The second one is the locking hook which helps keep hooks in the skin when performing at high heights and doing adventurous swings. These hooks usually range from 6-4 gauge and hold up to 80-200 pounds per hook and must be cleaned in an autoclave immediately after use

Proper skin/hook placement must be monitored to keep skin from bunching during the swing. It’s very important to distribute body weight evenly for a healthy, safe swing. The skin can be disinfected and hooked within minutes (see video below). Hooks should only be placed by experienced personnel so that no muscle is punctured! Once the hooks are in, there is about an hour grace period where the endorphins are flowing, after that, puncture points may stiffen. It is important to remember that professionals will be needed to expel the air between the skin and muscles after every suspension to avoid a possible brain aneurism. Finally, the punctures are cleansed and covered with a sterile gauze pad for the first night. As the skin wounds heal it is important to refrain from scratching them or an infection will occur.

Next, rope or chain is attached to facilitate the swing. Rope is most common in smaller shows since it is easily obtained and may be knotted securely using a figure-eight or clove hitch. Some people enjoy pulling a tug of war between two potential swingers standing on the ground or pulling a small vehicle before they actually swing. This is strictly a matter of experience and choice on the part of the artist. Once ready to swing, a hoist of some kind is necessary to lift the swinger off the ground. The hoist chain is usually attached to a horizontal bar with holes in it to facilitate the hook-ups.

The proper mind-set is a must for suspension artists! It is important to find that mental place that will help the swinger achieve enough concentration to block or embrace the pain swinging involves. This activity is not for the faint of heart or those that have a low pain threshold. However, most swingers are trying to experience a higher level of awareness and have found a method of concentration to meet this goal. Fear is a component that must be overcome in order to participate in a successful swing.

Of course there are dangers in human suspension. These dangers include nausea, dizziness, fainting, regurgitation, bleeding, numbness, shock, and obviously, bleeding. People with diabetes, hepatitis, epilepsy or blood-clotting disorders should not try this activity. Then there is the resultant scarring…puncture areas can never be used twice.

Watch actual puncturing

National Geographic investigates how suspension pain is tolerated

Allen Falkner, the founding father of modern day suspension:(contains graphic and adult content)

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