Losing Your Lobes: An Interview With David Kitts

A little while ago, we got an e-mail from a man named David Kitts. Having been around the body modification community for about a decade, he’d stretched his lobes to two inches, but recently underwent surgery to reconstruct them to their original state—the idea and process of which has left him conflicted at best. He felt like his story could be useful as a cautionary of sorts, and so we spoke to him. In our interview, he discusses why he went the surgery route, what the procedure itself entailed, the effects it’s had on him mentally and more—after the jump.

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Live From Oslo SusCon: Interview With Havve and Christiane

Alexander Trowell is a body piercer and student nurse from Southport, U.K. He’ll be filing reports for us from the Oslo SusCon. Keep checking ModBlog for updates!

To give a better insight into the 2009 Oslo SusCon, I thought an interview with organizers Christiane and Havve might be interesting.

Havve Fjell is a freak-show artist/fakir performing under the name Pain Solution both in Norway and internationally. He runs the Fakir Academy in Oslo. Christiane Lofblad is a body piercer in Oslo, running the successful Pinpoint Piercing studio. Together, they are responsible for the Wings of Desire organization, which arranges the Oslo SusCon and smaller suspension events throughout the year.

Alexander Trowell: This is the eighth incarnation of the Oslo suspension convention. Can you briefly tell BME readers how the convention has evolved over that time?

Wings of Desire: Well, the first year we aimed for too much. We were in a big warehouse with no sinks, and partied every night. There were performers and bands and things like that, and although the suspensions were supposed to be the main part of it, they weren’t. We soon learned that we needed to keep it more to the point, focusing less on the unimportant stuff. Then the second year, we had no crew and trained everyone who participated. What we didn’t think of was that some people didn’t want a workshop, they just wanted to hang, so from there we changed. The third year, we had our first lectures, courtesy of Allen Falkner. We have grown in that direction since, accommodating guest speakers, and having a dedicated crew to handle the action.

AT: The convention sees members from all over the world and seems to be widely recognized among much of the body modification community. I know from personal experience that this is due to hard work and good organizing skills, but has it come as a surprise at all how popular it has become?

WOD: It has been something of a surprise, but we’re good [laughs]. We both have friends, within both the body mod industry and among performers, so it has kind of grown from that. Plus, of course, Allen Falkner helped spread the word.

AT: I have a feeling this isn’t going to be the last Oslo SusCon. Do you feel that the level it’s at now is good, or do you want more/fewer people for future events?

WOD: From last year, we decided not to increase it much. There’s a really good atmosphere at the Oslo SusCons now, and we get a lot of positive remarks in that regard; we don’t want to lose that. The way the crew and team leader system works means all suspendees are followed by a set of crew members, which we have also been told is a nice way of doing it. That connection between crew and participant could be difficult to maintain if the convention grew too big.

AT: Obviously you guys travel to other conventions and body mod-related events around the world. How do you feel this has affected your own practices, and do you consider it reciprocal—do you find you get to influence other suspension groups’ practices?

WOD: Well, we do learn a lot of little tweaks from other people, and we are able to help others out too, so yes. There is a kind of social consensus to share good methods and technique, and the community seems good at that. Most people who run groups seem to do so for the love of it, as opposed to financial motivation, so most people want to expand and share their knowledge base.

AT: You guys appear to have excellent communication with local government, to the point where the local council provides you with some funding. I think it’s safe to say that this is quite rare in this subculture. How has this “partnership” formed, and what advice would you give to other suspension groups that want to function more dynamically with local government?

WOD: We are really lucky. We are really lucky, because legislation is quite relaxed and open in Norway. Scarification, subdermal implants and things like that aren’t banned, and it’s relatively easy to communicate with the council. We have the approval of the local council in Oslo to do this event, so that’s cool—they’ve inspected our protocol and are happy. In other countries, the situation is completely different, so if you don’t think you’ll get approval for suspension events, don’t ask [laughs]. Funding-wise, it’s very much intertwined with networking again. Havve has ties to cultural and art agencies, so that’s where the funding comes from.

AT: The Oslo SusCon sees well-established practitioners from Europe and America function as team leaders. It has piercers from all over the world that all seem to work very well together, and the convention no longer has the workshop feel it had in the beginning. Is this a result of wanting to include more people and suspensions, and do you feel this is the direction you want to keep moving in?

WOD: Well, from the beginning, we have communicated with piercers internationally because the “scene” was quite small to begin with and not that many people were available locally. The way it’s run now, with experienced team leaders in charge, is very good, and when we do workshops, we do smaller events. We still try to teach our crew continuously of course—it’s an evolving field. But yes, we do plan to continue in the same way forwards, since the recipe works well.

AT: Thank you very much for the time guys, I look forwards to coming back next year.

That’s all folks, now it’s time to start partying. Pictures will be on the way soon. Until then, I spy with my little eye, a branding iron…

- Alex

Tattoo Hollywood, BME’s first tattoo convention, is coming to Los Angeles from August 21-23, featuring contests, prizes and some of the best artists from around the world! Click here for more information.

Live From Oslo SusCon: Day Three, Plus A Roundtable Interview (Of Sorts)

Alexander Trowell is a body piercer and student nurse from Southport, U.K. He’ll be filing reports for us from the Oslo SusCon. Keep checking ModBlog for updates!

On this third (or fourth if you count Thursday) day of Oslo SusCon (OSC), the atmosphere is quite relaxed. The weather is good and the suspendees are still going strong. Here’s a list of the suspensions for Sunday:

Christiane (2 point resurrection), Norway
Bena (coma & 2 point suicide), Sweden
Oscar (superman), Sweden
Stein (angel), Norway
Sanny (suicide/spinning beam), Germany
Stephan (suicide/spinning beam), Germany
Martin (suicide), Norway
Lea (crucifix), Slovenia
Kristin (lotus), Norway
Ida (seated), Norway
Becky (superman), US
Angst (4 point suicide), Norway
Nancy (6 point angel), US
Tracie (chest), US
Alice (knee), UK
Havve (angel), Norway
Stine (knees), Norway
Tommy (knees), Norway
Oddbjorn (single point chest), Norway
Line-Therese (knees) Norway
Lucky (2 point resurrection), Finland
Jussi (metal), Finland
Andreas (Angel), Norway
Zumo (suicide/spinning beam), Italy
Enrico (suicide/spinning beam), Italy
Bastian (suicide w/rib hooks), Germany
Morten (knees and ribs), Norway
Alex (calf), UK/Norway
Michele (suicide/spinning beam), Italy
Daniel (suicide/spinning beam), Norway
Ana (crucifix), Croatia
Ninak (suicide), Norway

For those with a keen eye for details, you’ll notice a few of us were able to hang twice this time around—a nice byproduct of the efficient team effort of the crew. By the way, this list may be somewhat wrong in terms of nationalities and such, so sincere apologies to anyone who has been mislabeled in any way shape or form..

In other news, we had our first fall today when Obbe did a one-point chest suspension. A tear occurred within a minute of his going up, and as Christiane noticed the formation of the tear and started lowering the rig, it was already too late. Being that he was on his way down anyways, Obbe managed to land solidly on both feet, and was repaired promptly with sutures by flesh-seamstress Christiane.

Aside from this, the convention has been very incident-free. Well, incident-free, but not event free. So many beautiful suspensions, so many beautiful people. A friend of mine pulled me aside a little while back with a little secret to share, which I had no choice but to include here, purely for the sake of comedy. Integral to the story is that OSC opened its doors to the general public for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday. It was during this time our friend was doing a suspension of some variety. She really enjoyed going up…like, really enjoyed it. At some point, mid-air, she ended up climaxing—in my opinion, a hell of an advertisement for suspensions…

I guess the bar is set for how much fun it’s possible to have while suspending, but I hope you all go forth and try to top it, although I struggle to see how that would go down.

It’s Monday, and my intention of interviewing Havve and Christiane came to a halt last night due to them being extremely busy all day. Nevertheless, I am sat with Ben & Alice from the UK, Muffe from Denmark and Bena from Sweden, so why not do an impromptu interview with them, right?

Alexander Trowell: Guys, you all have a lot of experience with suspensions, and are all part of the standard OSC inventory at this point—how do you think this one has compared to previous versions?

Bena: Since 2002, the convention has improved hugely. This time we have water running and stuff, you know? [Laughs]

Alice: It’s been really accident-free. There are usually a few hiccups, but this one has been really good.

AT: Have you got any particular memories from the SusCon, either from this year or previous ones?

Bena: [Laughis] You remember being tea-bagged, right Alex?

Alice: Yeah, and you remember me biting your ass so hard it left a huge mark?

AT: I think it was pretty great watching Allen Falkner swing hard one year from a two-point suicide and his hook failing. He landed quite miraculously, and seemed quite unaffected by it.

Alice: I think the tea-bagging effort has been really poor this year, so we all need to sharpen up for tonight!

AT: There was no ass-suspensions this year. What happened, Bena?

Bena: Ah, that’s so 2005, you know? Plus, my hemorrhoids… There were a lot of knee-suspensions this year, and a lot of angels. That seemed to be the theme this year.

Alice: The two Italians on the spinning beam was a highlight though.

Ben: Yeah, 20-kg weight difference and crazy spinning! [Laughs]

AT: I am the worst reporter in the world, I can’t even think of any more questions to ask.

Bena: I’m worse. I went to a tattoo convention with a press pass, and ended up taking 10 photos over a span of three days.

Alice: Muffe, you haven’t said anything in this interview, how about some words?

Muffe: Bollocks.

I think that caps it off nicely. Now, it’s just a waiting game for the proper interview with Havve and Christiane, and, of course, the gang-bang.

- Alex

Tattoo Hollywood, BME’s first tattoo convention, is coming to Los Angeles from August 21-23, featuring contests, prizes and some of the best artists from around the world! Click here for more information.

BME Presents Tattoo Hollywood!

Whoa hey, so here’s some news! Coming this August is the inaugural Tattoo Hollywood convention, presented by BME. That’s us! Awesome, right? We’ve partnered with Bob Roberts’s World Famous Spotlight Tattoo, rounded up some of the best tattoo artists around and, for three days in August, will be playing host to a back-to-basics tattoo convention that we’re all pretty excited about.

The workhorse here, however, has been BME headmistress Rachel, who has been busting her ass and is far more qualified to speak on the subject than I am. So, on that note, take a look after the jump for a quick interview I did with the boss-lady, which should explain a bit more fully what this is all about.

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New Article Posted! (Working-Class Cyborg)

A little while ago, Phil and I spent the evening with Rob Spence, the gentleman in the above photo. When he was a boy, his right eye was severely damaged in a shooting accident. Three years ago, he finally had it removed. Now, he’s not satisfied with a vacant lot in his face, and, with the help of a brilliant young engineer, is trying to build a miniature video camera he can wear as a prosthetic eye. We talked about the difficulties of being a recession-era cyborg, whether he’s setting a bad example for future generations, how to get laid as an amputee, and much, much more. If nothing else, go read it just to see Phil’s wonderful photography. (And there’ll some great video from Chris coming soon, too!)

To read Working-Class Cyborg, please click here.

[Ed. note: Comments on this post have been disabled. Run amok in the forum attached to the article. Thanks.]

Working-Class Cyborg

People are angry at Rob Spence. It’s April Fools’ Day, and his prank of choice was to make a morning post on Facebook that a battery exploded in his eye and that he was in the emergency room awaiting…well, whatever sort of treatment such an accident requires. But he’s quick to shift the blame.

“That was your idea,” he scolds Kosta Grammatis, the brilliant 23-year-old aviation electronics engineer who’s been living in his home office for the last two months. Kosta laughs him off and goes back to his dinner. We’re sitting in Harry’s (along with BME photographer Phil Barbosa), a bar near Rob’s home in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood. Less than an hour ago, we were in Kosta’s makeshift bedroom while he assembled a prosthetic eye for Rob—a clear, rounded silicone case housing a small red LED light—to give us an idea of the technology with which they’re experimenting. To be fair, his April Fools’ joke seems entirely plausible.

When Rob was 13, his right eye was damaged in a shooting accident on a family member’s farm. Six separate surgeries were performed over the years to repair the eye’s vision, but each time it regressed, and the eye grew larger, turned white, and became increasingly disfigured and painful. “I’ve had a doctor stick a needle straight into my eye about 10 times,” Rob says, “and I was thankful for it. Like, ‘Please stick the fucking needle in my eye.’” Several years ago, the ophthalmologist father of a friend of his told him he had to prepare to let go of his eye, and after a year and a half of deliberation and anxiety, he decided it was the right move. “It’s a hard thing to let go of a part of your body,” he admits, “but it was time for that garbage to go.” Three years ago, he finally had it removed. Now, Rob, 36, a filmmaker and videographer, wants to make good use of the vacant lot in his face: He’s trying to build a miniature video camera to wear as a prosthetic eye in the empty socket.

This is where Kosta came into the picture. He contacted Rob after hearing about his project and realizing, hey, he was more than qualified to run point on this. (Or, at least, he was no less qualified than Rob.) The two met in San Francisco while Rob was there visiting his father—Kosta, at the time, was squatting in a coop warehouse—and found they shared a similar vision. Kosta came to Canada and took up residence in the back room of Rob’s house, and the two have been teammates since, trying to devise a working prototype. The main difference between their operation and a proper lab, of course, is funding; that is, they have none.

Rob is broke, he says. His credit cards are maxed out. He borrowed $500 from his little sister earlier in the day. Plus, you know, he’s trying to build the world’s first miniature prosthetic eye camera, and now he’s pissed off a whole lot of people with this April Fools’ stunt. Now, thinking about the LED he was just wearing in his eye, he realizes the whole joke could have thoroughly backfired. “Imagine if the battery really had blown up in my eye tonight after I’d cried wolf on Facebook?” he says. He remembers, though, that his brother-in-law had a good point. “Do people think if I’d really blown my eye apart, and I was sitting in the emergency room, that I’d be talking about it on Facebook? It’s come to the point where people feel like sitting in the E.R. with my eye bleeding profusely is a perfectly reasonable time to update my Facebook status.”

Except, if anyone were to do such a thing, Rob would be a prime candidate. Ever since the initial accident, he’s developed a talent for drawing attention to himself. “When you’re a kid,” he says, “and you have a dramatic accident, it’s like the origin of a super hero. When I came home from the hospital, I’d turn to my little siblings and say, ‘My eye really hurts, can you get me a glass of lemonade?’ And they would actually fuckin’ get it for me.”

The Tiny Tim act only lasted so long, though, and, with his current project in mind, he realizes investors won’t be refilling his glass if all he has to offer is a sympathetic story. This is the part of the job Kosta calls “skepticism management.” According to Rob, the typical engineer mindset is that a person should build a prototype of an invention first, be modest about what he’s created, and then start showing it off to people. Not him. He’d rather create excitement for the project among the people working on it, the people expecting and, ideally, the people financing it.

“I’m all about the sizzle before steak,” he says, grinning, “because sizzle can buy you steak.”

Kosta perks up at this. “We shouldn’t even be building anything,” he says. “You don’t even need me.” Kosta is equal parts easy-going, sun-kissed southern Californian and genius scientist; it’s a disarming combination. And, to be sure, Rob does need him. The pair have two working prototypes for Rob’s camera-eye, success Rob attributes largely to Kosta, due to both his technical skills and his ability to seek out the right people to do the jobs they can’t. Thus far, they’ve built devices that create wireless NTSC signals—the sort of standard wireless signal a television uses—and are now working on getting this to work in sync with a miniature camera and a battery, all attached to a printed circuit board, all of which has to fit inside a prosthetic eye.

What about what we saw earlier in the evening, though? Rob sporting a glowing red light in his eye? Does that count for anything?

“Oh,” he says, taking a draw off his scotch, “that’s just bullshit for press like you.”

“Yeah,” Kosta adds, “that’s just for your entertainment.” Right. Sizzle before the steak and all that. And all of a sudden, they’ve just driven a truck through the fourth wall. It’s an admittedly respectable sort of transparency: Phil and I thought we’d captured something unique for our article (which we had), and Rob and Kosta thought they’d done due diligence in drumming up some more attention for themselves (which they had). They’re not approaching this project like seasoned veterans of the scientific community: They’re trying to make a breakthrough on a shoestring budget.

“Can you write, like, ‘Rob and Kosta looked emaciated, as if they hadn’t eaten for days’?” Kosta asks, laughing.

“Hey!” Rob says, pointing a finger at Kosta. “You look emaciated. I look fuckin’ fine.”

In the search for funding, they scared off National Geographic by requesting $75,000; apparently, the publication thought they could achieve their goal with closer to $10,000. This is a common experience, Rob says, and one that betrays a sort of myopia. He compares it to Alexander Graham Bell’s first success building a telephone: “How much more money do you think he needed to build a robust version that worked all the time?” Even as far as video devices go, he thinks he’s being reasonable. “People tell me I’m crazy if I want a hundred grand to build the eye,” he says, “but the standard high-definition camera they shoot with on T.V. is worth about $120,000 to buy. How much do you think it cost to develop?”

So in the meantime it’s bullshit red lights for guys like me, but even stunts like that can be beneficial—that’s the sort of sizzle that earns them credibility with the cyborg culture. This, it seems, is something of a concession for Rob. Support is welcome regardless of the source, he says, but this is a segment of society with a bit of an identity crisis. Lots of people have fake eyes, so what’s the difference between a cyborg and someone who just has a prosthetic?

“Someone with a wooden leg is not a cyborg,” he says, “they’re a pirate. Meanwhile, I have a fucking eye patch on…but if I take off my eye patch and you see a red light, then I tap into the cyborg culture that you know and love.” This, it seems, is the extent of the difference. “That’s really what a cyborg is. A fake eye with a red light in it is different from a fake eye.”

And therein lies the problem with the amorphous definition of “cyborg.” Clothing, he says, technically makes you a cyborg, because it enhances a human’s ability to live in the world as a naked animal; the same goes for glasses, pacemakers, breast implants and any other invention people use every day that’s been welcomed into the mainstream. “It’s adding shit to our bodies within the context of popular culture,” Rob says, that makes a person a cyborg.

“That’s why we went for the Terminator eye,” Kosta admits. “It’s quickly identifiable.” But the truth, he says, whether or not he’s just trying to sell me sizzle, is that once funding comes through, the possibilities for Rob’s eye are endless. He talks about an idea for installing a laser in the socket that he could bounce off mirrors and panes of glass, and with the right piece of technology, the reverberations off those surfaces could be translated to hear what people are saying in the rooms in which said glass could be found. “We could make you a bionic eye-ear! We could have a little transmitter that transmits audio into your ear.”

Rob belches in response. One of his dreams is to be able to screen movies from his eye. “What I want to do eventually,” he says, “is walk around always shooting Breakfast At Tiffany’s onto a wall, because chicks love it. And Dukes Of Hazzard, because guys love that. That’s why I’m mutilating myself and letting Kosta stick batteries in my face—because mostly, I want people to love me.”

He’s joking, but there’s a kernel of truth there. As much as Rob doesn’t deign to treat the loss of his eye with much seriousness, he admits to the difficulties in adjusting to life after the surgery. “You don’t feel quite right,” he says, “you don’t feel like you’re as attractive as you used to be, you feel like you’re not quite the man you were. It might sound stupid, it’s not like I lost a leg or something, but you don’t feel quite as confident as you used to.

“But,” he says, “if you start to feel like you can actually be cooler by replacing the shit you lost with something better than other people have access to, then that’s when you start to feel pretty good about yourself.”

“There are already scientists working on connecting [prosthetic eyes] to the optic nerve,” Kosta says, “so imagine if, all of a sudden, having a night-vision eye was possible and available to people who were missing an eye? Wouldn’t you be like, ‘Fuck, I want a night-vision eye’?”

And so is presented a modern predicament. For years, it seemed like the ostensible purpose of prosthetic limbs was to as closely resemble the original appendage as possible. Recently, however, this has been uprooted by a focus on mimicking the function of the missing part (and, in some cases, exceeding the original’s capabilities), with aesthetics becoming a secondary concern. Now, these two paths are converging; limbs and organs that look “normal,” but that carry possibilities far beyond what the human body can accomplish in its natural form.

Rob foresees a disturbing trend. “One day,” he says, “I might have a grandkid that will actually want to remove an eye voluntarily, and I would tell that kid not to do that. But, I know that kid would just say to me, ‘Well, grandpa, you did it!’” For him, there is a significant difference between him augmenting himself because he lost something, and a person purposely chopping off a limb with the intention of “upgrading” it. He worries that what he’s doing, playing the role of “Eyeborg” and whatnot, will make people think that he thinks it’s cool to remove parts of their bodies. “Which,” he says, “it’s not at all.

“But,” he admits, “I’m open to the idea that that’s where things are going.” He goes on: “I think the main point is, how can our kids shock us? My kid could be a gay punk rocker and I’d be like, so? I don’t give a fuck. Gay punk rocker—big deal! The way they’re going to shock us is, ‘Dad, I’m gonna get a new fuckin’ hand.’ And we’re going to say, ‘Well, I’m not sure you should be doing that.’ But we’ll be the worst offenders, because we’re all in the movement. We won’t like it. Even though we’re already buying into it, we won’t like it.” It’s the duality of the conscientious cyborg: How do you balance a desire to improve your own life—and find someone to give you hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so—with not wanting to set a precedent for future activities of which you already disapprove?

But maybe this is all just so much navel-gazing without grant money in hand. Until funding comes through to ensure Rob will be able to cement his legacy as Grandpa Hypocrite, there’s still the matter of living his life as a one-eyed man—which is not without certain high points.

“When he sees other people with eye patches, they give each other high-fives,” Kosta says, laughing. This reminds Rob of Steve Fonyo (“Terry Fox light,” as he calls him), a Canadian who lost a leg and, in the spirit of Terry Fox, ran across Canada; unlike Terry Fox, however, he made it the entire way.

“Except,” Rob says, “he was a drunk, and so was his father driving the van. They made it the whole way across and he never died, but he never gets any credit. And I did an interview with him, and I asked him, ‘So, Steve, did you get laid? When you were running across Canada with your one leg, did you get laid?’

“And he goes, ‘Oh yeah.’ And then, after a pause, ‘Big time.’”

Rob isn’t quite as shameless, but he’s got what seems like a go-to maneuver nonetheless. “When you’re at a party and you’re wearing an eye patch, girls are thinking, ‘Are you vulnerable? Or are you mysterious? Or are you a bad boy? Or are you all three of those things?’” he says, cracking up the table and breaking into a snort-laugh of his own. “They’re curious, so all I do is say, ‘Well, I’m curious about what your boobs look like. This is my raw fuckin’ naked eye here, it’s vulnerable for me and I don’t feel so great about it. So, maybe it would make me feel better if you showed me your breasts.’ And inevitably, it’s a fairly good deal.”

Kosta, the sidekick, is picking up life lessons. “You have to have some kind of emotional experience,” he theorizes, “because they’re going to have a unique emotional experience.”

“That’s the thing,” Rob says. “If you’ve got an eye out, and you show someone the flesh inside, it’s almost like you’ve got a pussy in your head. That’s what it feels like. They always want to see it. ‘Pull your patch aside and show me what’s in there.’ And when I do, it’s the same look as a 13-year-old boy who wants to see a pussy for the first time.”

All photos © Philip Barbosa / BMEzine.com 2009. Video is coming soon!

Visit the Eyeborg project online at EyeborgBlog.com. Rob can be found here, and Kosta can be found here.

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VIMBY Video: Miya Bailey

Miya Bailey from City of Ink likes to inspire and be inspired; he’s constantly surrounding himself with art and creative minds. He’s also been featured in Inked Magazine, Urban Ink, Blackmen Magazine, The Source, and many others.

City of Ink Tattoo Shop and Art Gallery
Castleberry Hill District
323 Walker Street
Atlanta, GA 30313
(404) 525-4INK [4456]

New Article Posted! (Markus Cuff interview)

Even if you don’t know Markus Cuff’s name, you’re probably familiar with his work: For the last 15 years, he’s been one of the chief photographers for Tattoo magazine, as well as an accomplished travelogue and live concert photographer. He recently spoke with BME about traveling the country visiting tattoo shops, the anatomy of a great photo shoot and why he’ll probably never get a tattoo.

To read Markus Cuff’s Got a Head Start, please click here.

[Ed. note: Comments on this post have been disabled. Go tell it on the mountain in the forum attached to the article. Thanks.]