Rawmotions is a collaboration between artist Joakim Erixon Flodman (photo and photobased art) and artist Andy Buru (Japanese and European rope bondage). Andy and Joakim first met in May 2016 when Andy modeled for a photographic experiment of Joakim. The experiment wasn’t so successful, but what came out of it was the start of their collaboration – documenting the art of kinbaku, or Japanese rope bondage.
Rawmotions is a poetic interpretation of rope bondage that Andy and Joakim have been collaborating on for more than a year. Together they have worked to portray the emotional and artistic sides of rope bondage, using their friends and fellow enthusiasts as models, from a little studio in southern Stockholm to the Värmland woods. Joakim and Andy wanted to avoid the pornographic cliches of Japanese rope bondage, or just plain documentation of the rope-practitioner’s work, and explore what rope can bring out in people emotionally – portraying their emotional transformations before, during, and after the experience of being bound.
Rope bondage is a well known, but fairly hidden practice. While kinbaku still remains a part of the underground world in Japan, it is becoming a popularized practice in Europe. With its popularization, rope bondage has been brought into many different lights – acrobatic, meditative, artistic, sexual, therapeutic, ritualistic, or playful. Rope bondage can bring up strong emotions, both for the participant and the viewer. It can appear as brutal, as well as soft and loving. This project is an artistic way to come closer to the phenomenon of rope bondage and all its facets.
May 2016 Started to work on the photography part of the project
August 2017 Started to build technical platform for the performance
November 2017 Exhibited the photographies and performance at Wip:sthlm (SE)
January 2018 Started to work on combined poetry and photography book
July 2018 Performed in a poetry soundscape at Natural High Healing Festival (FI)
This project attracted me since I had been studying and teaching very traditional form of Japanese rope bondage. It is known as Kinbaku or Shibari. I wanted to approach rope bondage from a new perspective. Kinbaku just like RAWMOITIONS is often focused on portraying the emotions of the tied person. However it comes coupled with a traditional Japanese erotic fantasies, like geishas, schoolgirls and secretaries. And almost always with a very feminine expression using ties that twist the body and break visual lines. The dominating emotion is usually suffering or sexual excitement. All though I’m very attracted to Kinbaku, I wanted to explore a wider array of emotions, characters, and bondage.
It was important to take my work out of the traditional Japanese context, to look at the subject with fresh eyes. Doing this by adding a wider variety of characters with different genders, ages, atmospheres, and such. As well as extending the bondage techniques by changing material, and introducing more abstract bondage in the form of colour and dirt. It became clear that the emotion, character and bondage are closely related. Changing one of them affects the other two. My main point of interest has always been the emotion, and the ongoing poetry part of the project became my way to express what I learnt.
Working together with a professional art photographer like Joakim, my goal was to make something good enough to be considered contemporary art in the eye of the public, with minimal dependency on the Japanese heritage. I soon realized the potential to use a multitude of artistic expressions, to show my feelings and thoughts on the subject. Especially exploring how modern technology could be integrated to express the emotional journey of the tied person.
The basic concept of the RAWMOTIONS performance was follow the work process that me and Joakim had established during our photo sessions. It aim is to portray the emotional transformation of the person being tied. And it often involves objects to explore the difference between a human and an object in relationship to rope. The relationship between the person tied and the ropes is more important then the relationship between me and person tied. A asymmetrical but balanced and harmonic composition is key, in everything from the knots and ropes, to the bodies, and overall picture.
In order to better communicate the emotional state of the person tied I decided to research the possibility to use biometric sensors to shape the performance. I read about the research and technical solution of wide array of solution from reading brain activity (EEG), skin moisture (GSR), body motions (accelerators), heart rate, and more. In my ignorance I thought that EEG would be the coolest but it turns the brain waves that controls body movement is much stronger than our emotions, so it requires the body to be still, or very advanced filtering mechanisms. Skin moisture is what is used in medical research to track emotions but the only sensors with an open programming interface are crazy expensive 3000€ and up. There is an overflow of cheap fitness trackers that uses accelerators and heart rate but sadly they don’t follow the Bluetooth LE standards to report the data. In the end I used a cheap chinese Bluetooth heart rate chest strap, and a web camera to track motions. It works well enough to demonstrate the concept, but I’m still looking for something better.
To present the biometric sensory data to the audience, I decided to generate a soundscape, and some video projection. So the incoming data was transformed into MIDI commands, and fed into Ableton Live. I still consider this to be the first attempt of the performance part of the project, and is looking to either integrate other outputs, or setup collaborations with other artists. The next output that seems easy and cool is light control using DMX. Anyhow if you want to explore the technical side of this, you can find the source code on Github.
Photography & Poetry
These are some examples. I hope to publish a photo and poetry book together with Joakim sometime during 2018.