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The Manopsychotisches Ballroom

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Saturday, 25th May, saw the birth of something new and interesting: the inaugural event of The Manopsychotisches Ballroom at 2022 NQ in Manchester. Promoter, Frankie Knuckles (of Torture Garden, Manchester) promised to bring together experimental art and fetish. He did not disappoint.

The glamor and dark, animalistic sensuality of Červená Fox’s Vampire’s Dance lead the eager audience into a night of cultural kink as she bathed herself in blood and her lustrous wings whipped the audience into a state of rapture, preparing them for a trip into the darkness.

Eustratia Latex’s guerrilla style fashion show ran like a latex clad art installation with the models moving amongst the audience, showing off Eustratia’s latest range after being broken out of a wall by muscular, turf-laying eye candy.

The evening’s performances were topped off in truly squeamish style by a collaboration between New Aktionists and Gyrl Grip that was not for the faint-hearted. Their performance was a gut-wrenching mixture of self-mutilation, cling film and physical endurance leaving audience members agape with emotion.

The mixture of avant-garde performances and slightly sinister, institution-like setting created something unique amongst its diverse audience. The intensity of raw emotion evoked by such visceral art was palpable in the room and evident on the faces of those privileged enough to be there at the inception of such an experimental, refreshingly intimate but deeply kinky night. Way more fun than a trip to a gallery.

Here are some highlights of  The Manopsychotisches Ballroom.

Manospychotisches Ballroom History

In 1992 a fetish club called Club Fuck first gave a platform to a young performer called Ron Athey to create the sections of montage that would become the epic Martyrs and Saints. Undoubtedly a performance for many that sparked a revolution in live performance arts.

The fetish club has for long time provided the space for experimental creative expression in front of an audience liberated enough to appreciate the movement. During interview with Dominic Johnson, a Queen Marys scholar and collaborator to Athey, Ron summarizes the space that Club Fuck provided, he says;

‘Club Fuck was in a small but high-ceilinged cha-cha bar called Tobasco’s, with a corner for four go-go dancers off of the dance-floor. The regulars throughout the entire three years it was at that location (and valid) were myself, Cross [Athey’s former co-performer], Michelle Hell [Michelle Carr] (before Velvet Hammer Burlesque but same harsh look), and Christian White. Rotating were Jenny Shimizu, Bud Hole, and Jake [trans-man porn star Buck Angel]. Performances were sometimes short sets by bands like Vaginal Davis’ art band PME, Rozz Williams and Eva O’s Shadow Project, Drance, and Babyland. There would also be a piercing or SM demonstration, by Elayne and Alex Binnie, Durk Dehner of Tom of Finland fame, and myself. This is what led me back into making performance work again, after a nine-year hiatus. Martyrs & Saints was created there, as a series of individual ten-minutes pieces. In and around our group, the ‘first family’ of Fuck, the early 1990s were really the heavy time of AIDS deaths, so the project was powered by frustration, grief, anger, despair. Sexually charged, exhibitionist behavior rattled through this group like an affirmation of life, and I’m not being wordy with the sentiments.

My vision is to create a space equally powered out of the frustration, anger, grief and despair, but this time as action against the political stream that is motivating arts funding and closing many of the avenues to experimental body artists. Given the financial motivation of public organizations it is my view that we once again turn to the fetish club as a liberatory space to re-affirm a sense of living and the freedom of self expression, to again celebrate the body and its use in human expression as communicative form.

The Manopsychotisches Ballroom attempts to do just this but as emancipatory space creates its ethos in a way that is open for all. The framework is relatively simple, a underlying consistent theme will exist throughout all performances and it shall be an escalating scale in terms of levels of extremity. We will always start with a lighter cabaret performance that will open newbies to the delights of performance art, then create an interlude of visual exotica to showcase the products of those who work in fetish, to then drive the evening towards the more extreme live performances of body artists experimenting with the extremities of their own bodies.

The first version of the Ballroom held theme with Birth/Death and was entitled ‘Metamorphosis.’ It was staged through the minimality of the vampire body represented through Cervena Fox’s vampires dance, a gore Burlesque performance. This was followed by the moth inspired lingerie range by Eustratia presented through a guerrilla fashion show with emphasis placed upon degradation through the use of live turf as walkway. This paved the way for the finale, a kollaborative performance by New Aktionists, ‘gyrlz grip’ and ‘sacred things’ who performed an aktion incorporating mummification to celebrate the wake of ‘Sleazy’ (founder of Throbbing Gristle).

All will agree that they witnessed something very special and the whole evening had a sense of early 90s fetish I feel.

Although the long time ambition of the Ballroom is to hopefully nurture talent in much the same way as Club Fuck did within the 1990s, its short term goal is to provide a safe house for primitive human expression in the form of live performance art and those who like to express themselves freely beyond the realms of social/vanilla regulation. We see the Ballroom as hopefully tailoring to a similar audience as TG’s Body Probe or Club Flesh events did in the early 90’s , whilst still providing the more familiar fetish clubbing ethos, in the form of the legendary Torture Garden, which we will continue to bring to Manchester under the Frankie Knuckles name.

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