Leave your bikes at home, folks – this is Germany’s premier Body Modification eXchange Conference.
Sure, the BMX reference is long since played out, but I must admit the first time I heard mention of “BMX network,” I envisioned a German X Games for modified people; for those that attended, some might agree that some of the performances qualified on that front. But I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, sit back, relax, keep reading and we’ll get to all the gory details soon enough.
|The Saviours, Jussi and Lassi|
So, where do we begin? How about this: It was hot. And not in a Paris Hilton-esque “that’s hot” sort of way. No, I’m talking about sleeping-on-top-of-the-sheets, butt-ass-nekkid-with-the-windows-wide-open hot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Texas boy that loves to vacation in the desert — I like the heat. (Although, I also like my air conditioning — something of which Germany and most of Europe has very little.) Actually, it was quite amusing how easily you could spot the Americans: We were the ones sweating to death and drinking copious amounts of water. If nothing else, you can say one thing about Europeans — they’re an adaptive people.
Then again, you would have to be. With so many different languages and peoples all coexisting, Europe is quite the incredible mixture of culture, innovation and ideas. Heat be damned, Germany was a perfect place to hold a body modification conference, even if it was in the middle of nowhere.
In all my international travels, I’ve learned one simple fact: Almost everyone in the world’s modern cities speaks English — so, as an American I’ve always had it easy. And, sure enough, the BMXnet conference catered to English speakers. Yes, there were many classes labeled “German Only.” But, fortunately for those non-Deutsch speakers, the organizers had interpreters on hand to translate via headphones. Granted, the system wasn’t perfect: Technical terms were often difficult to translate, and there were times when the lectures were better heard in the native tongue. But, overall, the information flowed smoothly and everyone came out better informed from the experience — and what an experience it was.
BMXnet was not a tattoo convention, nor even APP meets the EU. This conference was purely educational, with very little of the party atmosphere we’ve all come to expect from modification conventions. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t fun; there was, of course, plenty of socializing and some quiet debauchery that those who were there might speak of in blogs and forums … but don’t hold your breath. What happened in Germany stayed in Germany — unlike Vegas, where the pictures seem to hit the Internet only moments after the deed has been done. Plus, this crowd seemed a bit different. Rather than the week-long drink-fests I’ve attended in the past,this event seemed a bit more polished. The days were structured like college lectures and the nights were filled with some very cutting-edge entertainment.
|Havve of Pain Solution|
You may have seen some of the images featured on ModBlog or the hundreds of images in the BME gallery, but photos and even the small bit of video that are floating around really do not do the performances justice. Operafication put on a show featuring suspension and Hilary’s beautiful operatic singing and visual imagery that as always, moved the audience. Pain Solution, with Havve’s quirky humor and some new twists on some classic sideshow acts, was definitely a crowd pleaser. Samppa von Cyborg put on a performance that was best described as bizarre and somewhat disturbing, but in this writer’s opinion, The Saviors stole the show. How, you ask? My friends, photos are worth a thousand words. (I’ll let ModBlog do the talking on that front, but … poor, poor Lassi.) Good times, folks, good times — but I digress. The real reason we were all there was for the convention itself.
BMXnet was an incredibly well structured, highly organized event dedicated the sharing of information pertaining to the body modification industry, hence the name Body Modification eXchange Network. During the day, the lectures and demonstrations all flowed like a well-oiled machine. There was a small area where vendors sold supplies, equipment and even a decent selection of body jewelry. However, the main focus was on the classes. Every attendant was an established body art practitioner that was there to teach, share ideas, learn and ultimately network. Yes, there were older, fairly famous people that many people considered mentors, but generally the participants viewed each other as equals. In every class I attended, the audience sat attentively, soaking up all the information and asking well-informed, highly intelligent questions. The general attitude was definitely serious, but also pleasant and relaxed at the same time. Of course, there were some differences of opinions, but everyone listened and there never seemed a point when voices were raised or egos were bruised. In fact, I know this may sound hard to believe, but I swear I sat amongst several hundred well established and highly acclaimed body modification professionals and for the most part there seemed to be no ego at all.
|Hillary of Operafication|
With any good review there should always be positive and negative points. However, it’s honestly hard to find problems. There was a free buffet available all day. Beds — yes, beds — were set up in different areas for people to sit and relax; I managed a quick nap while waiting for the magnetic implant lecture. We were even shuttled back and forth from the hotel to the venue. Truly, the crew of BMXnet were very gracious hosts that went above and beyond the call of duty to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. If I had to point out any potential changes for next year, it would be the input of more opposing views. Maybe we have just evolved as an industry, or possibly it’s that Europeans are so courteous, but this author loves nothing more than a good high-spirited debate. Yes, I’m known for being the devil’s advocate, and I do have a history of provoking arguments. However, there is a method to the madness. If there is one thing the body modification industry has been guilty of doing, it’s accepting knowledge without question.
Doubt me? Well, here’s a simple fact that was often discussed during the conference. Over 95-percent of the world’s piercings that are done with threaded jewelry are healed using externally threaded jewelry. Now, it has been commonly accepted — at least by the Association of Professional Piercers, of which I am a founding member — that only internally threaded jewelry is suitable for new piercings. Sorry, the numbers don’t lie. Yes, there are many factors that make one piece of jewelry better than another, and I still stand by the quality of several of the internal manufacturers, but it’s time to look at the statistics and accept the facts. The days of, “We’ve always done it this way” and, “This is how we were taught” are long since over.
[Steps off the Soap Box]
OK, it may seem that this article has gone off course, but nothing could be further from the truth. Statements like the paragraph above were the true foundation of BMXnet. We were there to challenge each other. Once you know it all, there is no more room to learn, and if there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s that there is so much experience and knowledge that far surpasses my own. I went to teach a class on Laser Tattoo Removal, co-present a suspension safety seminar and further participate in a suspension roundtable, but I walked away with so much more.
There were questions asked that made me rethink many of my fundamental ideas of both my past experiences and my future direction. I saw many new techniques and learned interesting new facts on topics I once thought there was little left to know. I watched amazing practitioners work and put faces to names that were once just photos in magazines. I got to know colleagues that were at best acquaintances, and earned new respect for people I have known for many years. I gained more confidence in my personal accomplishments and was humbled by the skills of others. Treated as an equal and indulged like a guest. If you can stand the heat, this is the best kitchen this author has visited in a while.