Ri Dickulous’ Top 5 inspirations (good and bad) for “Roped In,” an exhibition on binding rope

roped-inWHAT: “Roped In: Binding Rope and Art Photography Showcase”
WHEN: Sat. (Sept. 24), 6 p.m.
WHERE: The Art Garage, 2231 St. Claude Ave.
MORE INFO: Visit the Facebook event page

She does sword swallowing and glass art, sure, but, performer Ri Dickulous is bound and determined to expose, educate and entertain people about the often-misunderstood world of all things binding rope. So that’s why we asked her to ponder some of the cultural ties to the form, so to speak, and she responded with an amazing description of the form, and the elements that might help informer “Roped In” exhibition in collaboration with photographer Josh Hailey on Saturday at The Art Garage. (Check out this preview on WGNO’s “News With a Twist.”)

Shibari, taken literally from the Japanese phrase meaning “to tie,” has a long standing tradition within Japanese culture entwined into the erotic arts, more specifically known as kinbaku. Before that, it had been utilized as a method of torture for prisoners and soldiers, known as hojojitsu. Within the past 50 years or so there has been a surge of Western fascination within the art, spurring people who had been playing tie ’em up games as children and turning it into damsel in distress games seen by popular figures such as Bettie Page.

Today we are able to see many applications of Japanese and Western inspired rope bondage, from fashion macrame clothing, to suspensions geared to challenge the mind and body. It seems as if the art form itself is only hindered by the imagination of those that hold the knots in their hands, and so we currently are in the process of a Renaissance of rope bondage.

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Ri Dickulous

Personally, I began my rope journey nearly 10 years ago in the Washington, D.C., area, bottoming predominantly and learning all the while how it would feel to experience different styles of tying, the different types of materials used in tying, and learning basic terminology/names to know/essential ties seen in traditional shibari and Western tying.

Personally I was always drawn to rope bondage because I loved all of the sensory elements of it (sound, sight, smell, feel and occasionally taste) that would be able to focus my attention and bring me immediately into my body with the right rigger. Since moving to New Orleans, I decided that I wanted to tie myself predominantly, and within the past two years began tying others in an effort to translate my knowledge gained over a significant period of time. Josh Hailey approached me about doing a photo series inspired by these sorts of ties, and I agreed with the caveat that each four hour photography session would begin with a half hour lecture on the essentials of being tied up. I insisted on not teaching others how to tie, but what they needed to know in order to stay safe whenever they were tied up.

The result was thousands of images of individuals in beautiful, unique ties, as well as a small community of people who have been tied together into a unique experience focused on education, personal advocacy, generating safety in community, and of course art.

Below are five sources of inspiration that drove me to this project, ranging from “I wanted to inspire people to not do it this way” to “I want people to feel that this style of art of accessible and open to their involvement.”.

“FIFTY SHADES OF GREY” — I grit my teeth whenever anyone mentions “Fifty Shades,” but the fact of the matter is that the subject matter opens up the whole world of BDSM to people who may have previously had preconceived notions of what the BDSM scene is all about. The reaction of the community to this book and movie was astounding, and people who had been living and performing in this lifestyle for years flocked out of the closets and dungeons in order to enlighten the public that “Fifty Shades” is in fact a great example of BAD BDSM practices. Many have heard the songs from The Weeknd, and seen the music video where there is a woman suspended as a chandelier. Not the best example of suspension I’ve ever seen, but it’s super shiny and a great way to begin to explain what sort of things can be seen within this scene other than whips and chains.

“TIED,” BY WYKD DAVE — This video is emblematic of artistic posing seen in much of shibari video art. In performance art, the rigger plays much more of a role, often becoming incorporated into a sort of a dance. This video, however, is a stellar example of technical skill and variation within differing poses. The artist is able to continue her work, with the rope simply adding to her work as opposed to completely taking over her work. I was fortunate, years ago, to attend an intensive hosted by Wykd Dave and learned a great deal of focusing on the basics of tying, especially things like the morphology of knot work, how the lines should lie, and why all of those things are important when overall conveying the desired effect in tying.

FRED KYREL — I cannot tell you how many people refer to this man’s work whenever I mention that I do shibari. This falls into more of the erotic macrame element of shibari and is considered to be very modern, experimental, and Western. The designs are laid on the body so that once they are removed, they can never be replicated exactly the same way ever again. True couture, at its finest.

GARTH KNIGHT — In the more experimental realm of artistic installation and performance art, we see Garth Knight. Well known for his bindings to render his models to look like they have grown into the roots of trees, or the inter bindings of cardiovascular tissues, he continues to be brought up as another artist who is brought up consistently to me as a jaw-dropping rope artist.

KINOKO HAJIME — Finally, blending traditional and experimental Japanese rope art is Kinoko Hajime. I feel bad to include him last within this five-part pop series, but I figured that I would approach this topic from how a Westernized American may be approaching Japanese rope bondage. First, “Fifty Shades,” then music videos, then what would you get if you did a simple Google search for rope bondage. Kinoko Hajime is a contemporary artist who certainly deserves mention within this field, as he is one of the driving forces for innovating the current rope Renaissance, along with other artists such as Akira Naka. Kinoko’s work focuses on red rope of different sizes and different purposes, giving it a very visceral feel to every one of his images and blends the traditional with the innovative seamlessly. Even if you haven’t seen his work before, you should take a look and get an idea of what sort of images can be created while blending the old styles with the new.

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