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The Art of Body Suspension

Updated on November 27, 2009

What Started It?

Suspension rituals were performed by the Mandan tribe, located on the Missouri River. The Oh-Kee-Pa type of suspension was derived from this ritual. Today's suspensions are closely related to the artwork of performance artists who use their bodies as canvases. Roland Loomis was an artist who specialized in suspension and piercing performance pieces, and helped bring attention to the suspension "scene" in the United States.

How Is It Done?

The process of body suspension should be done by an experienced individual or professional in the field. It usually only requires a small group of people to get everything running smoothly. The actual suspension is just a tiny part of the process and takes up a small amount of the time needed to prepare. Although some people choose to remain suspended for hours. The persons' body should be examined to determine the placement, number and size of metal hooks to be used. Multiple hooks are usually placed on the shoulders, upper arm, and back as well as possibly the knee (depending on what position is being done). If the number of hooks is too few, the skin could rip. Normally 12 piercings do fine. The amount of weight each hook has to hold is also taken into account. A powerful rope is attached to the hooks and to a machine and the person is very slowly and carefully lifted a foot or two off the ground where they hang for a predetermined amount of time. Depending on the type of suspension, there is usually a great deal of freedom of movement.

What Is Used?

The most commonly used hooks for flesh suspension are deep sea fishing hooks (normally used for the fishing of sharks, octopuses, ect.) that have the barbs removed. There are two main types of rigging; dynamic and static. Dynamic rigging typically uses ropes, or something similar, and one long piece is used to connect the suspender and the apparatus. In static, each hook is attached to the apparatus separately. The apparatus is usually rigged to a tree, ceiling, scaffolding, ect, using pulleys or a winch.


Types of Suspension.

There are several different types of body suspension.

  • Chest. Sometimes referred to as a Oh-Kee-Pa suspension, is when the hooks are placed in the chest. Usually two hooks are used for this type of suspension. It is named after the Okipa suspensions of the Mandan people, a rite of passage for young men.
  • Coma. In this suspension the hooks are placed in the chest, torso and legs. Usually in two rows so that the person is facing up.
  • Knee. In this suspension the hooks are placed in both knees. There is no set amount of hooks for this type. It solely depends on the anatomy of the person doing the suspension.
  • Suicide. In this type, the hooks are placed in the upper back so that the person is hanging up right. It gets it's name from the fact that the view is so similar to when a person hangs his/herself.
  • Resurrection. In this, the person is hung from two rows in the belly giving the look of "rising from death".
  • Crucifix. This is similar to the suicide suspension, but hooks are also added to the arms to give the person a look of being on a cross.
  • Superman. This is the reverse of the coma. The hooks are placed in the back and legs in two rows with the person facing downward.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      how much does it cost to walk into some place and put me up on a rack ?


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