on Saturday, February 12, and to many of the thousand-plus people in attendance, the most exciting performances were flesh-hook acrobatics by local group Life Suspended
But for us, the most exciting performance -- and by far the most amazing thing we've ever seen at an Arizona fetish ball -- was the nearly-indescribable work of artist Midori
. Born in Japan and now living in San Francisco, Midori combines several elements in her performances, including Japanese folk lore, music, rope bondage, flower arrangement, and painting.
Though Midori's known as a sex educator, artist, and author, it didn't seem like everybody "got" what she was doing beyond the aesthetics. Some would probably sum up Midori's performance as: she took a nearly naked woman, tied her up and suspended her in intricate rope bondage, decorated her with several flowers and palm fronds, painted her body and made prints, and then turned her into a human swing. And it was beautiful.
But others could appreciate Midori's performance as an intricate concept filled with several intellectual and cultural layers. She was telling a story. After her much-applauded, 20-minute performance, Midori talked to us about some of the symbolism in her work.
Upstairs at Venue of Scottsdale, Midori says that although she's performing in a fetish venue, she does not consider herself a "fetish performer." She gets that label sometimes because she's an expert in Shibari (or Kinbaku), the art of Japanese rope bondage, but that's just one of her many dimensions. She has a degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and uses words usually only heard in academia and the art world -- things like "deconstruction" and the concept of "the other."
Midori is of Japanese and German descent, and speaks both languages. She's performed and shown her art in experimental venues everywhere from London to Sydney to Tokyo, and frequently conducts educational workshop on topics like rope bondage and safe sex. She's published books on those topics, as well as a novel titled Master Han's Daughter, which she describes as dark sci-fi/horror.
Dark characters creep through much of Midori's work. For her performance at Venue of Scottsdale, she became a sinister figure she likened to the Baba Yaga (a gnarly witch in Slavic folklore). She also incorporated the idea of the animal trickster figure, like the coyote in Native American mythology. But in Japan, she explains, that trickster figure is the fox. She explains that every part of her costume and face makeup means something.
The red dots on her forehead above her eyes denoted Japanese nobility, she says, and she painted her teeth black not just because it looked creepy, but as a nod to Japanese tradition. Teeth, Midori explains, were regarded as animalistic and unattractive, and so Japanese people tried not to show them. Women don't paint their teeth black anymore, Midori says, but they still put a hand over their mouths when they smile.
Midori doesn't map out the story in detail, but watching the performance, set to Japanese folk music (including a lullaby), we gathered this: an evil trickster witch approaches a girl, woos her with roses, then binds and ties her and begins to work magic. She adorns her with flowers, essentially gives her wings, and then flies away on her, having captured her spirit.
Now that's something you don't see every day, even at a fetish ball.