About the interconnectivity of Kinbaku

A few years ago, I participated in a music video for a contemporary com-poser of classical music, Hèctor Parra, and the Berlin based Zafraan en-semble. The piece is called “Palimpsesto”.
A few weeks ago, when I tied with my wonderful partner Addie, I untied some parts and retied and when I put ropes on already existing rope marks, the idea of a palimpsest stroke my mind. Here are some elaborations of this idea.

So far, my thoughts around tying, expressed in the interview metaphor and more recently in the poetics and reciprocity of Kinbaku, were circling around a single scene. We went deep into possible meanings of what happens throughout that one scene, but the more I practice rope bondage the more it comes to light for me that there is a gap in these thoughts. Nothing (yet) to overthrow them, nothing to worry about but rather an extension, or a connection to the established, so to say, that is needed to further deepen the understanding.

I want to understand the historiality of rope scenes and with it that of the persons involved in a rope scene not only, as I stated in ‘archaeology of personalities’, by means of their past in general, but rather how one rope scene influences another rope scene. This question has more than just a purely academic motivation, it is also rooted in two actual topics.
First, a regular question I get asked is regarding the advantages/disadvantages of tying with someone unknown and with someone very familiar. Often it is stated (not very tactful) by just asking what is ‘better’, as if this was a polar question in terms of better and worse. There is a difference but surely not a judgement.
Second, I think this question can add positive inputs to the discourse about the fluidity of the perception of rope scenes, i.e. what happens, if a scene had been perceived in a certain way but this view changed by adding information or the; a development that is reported in large numbers.

As always, I need to state at this point that I only speak from my frame of experiences and I am not able to make a claim of truth here. Also, I learned from previous publications, that it seems unclear for some that I am originating my thoughts in an utopian world, where technical problems don’t occur.
In ‘archaeology of personalities’, I was asking when a scene ends and the only answer I was and still am able to give is that a scene doesn’t end but transforms and (possibly) fades. Some scenes fade quicker than others and some don’t fade at all.
Let us restate the question from above: How do rope scenes interact with each other? Suffice to say that they do. It is as if they had their own agency and want to be remembered, forgotten, repeated, emended, … . (For a deeper elaboration of this thought, I refer the reader to Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory and the possibility therein for non-human entities to have their own agency.) What the rope scene seems to want is to provide something memorable for all participants, and therefore inscribes itself into both, the tying person(s) as well as the tied person(s). Furthermore, this yet to be determined interaction of two rope scenes, which are distinct in time, goes in both directions regarding the chronicity of events, as it is clear that with every experience one makes, the look on previous experiences becomes somewhat fragile and subject to possible changes. In other words, not only do the rope scenes from the past influence those to come, but also those happening in the presence and even those to come, are influencing the ones which happened in the past. The idea that the past is also a function of the present time is known as the historiality of events.*
Consider a scene happens; it takes place. This scene is an experience in the very meaning of the word and it leaves its marks in the persons’ (all of the involved!) minds. As such it inscribes a representation of its events into the memories. But this memory is by no means a tabula rasa, a clean slate; no, many other scenes from before have managed to inscribe pictures of their events into the minds. Even the scenes to come have, vaguely, also inscribed themselves through the pen of expectations. But right now, the only one inscribing, is the scene that happens at the moment and as such it is doing something with the inscriptions that are already there. It overwrites them without deleting them. It can’t erase what has been written before. It rather writes between the lines, between the letters, within the letters, until only those inscriptions are still readable that have been carved into the memory deeper and larger than others. Some inscriptions get scraped to use that specific space again or more likely to never read that inscription again (“Verdrängung”/suppression). Not only bad memories get scraped – also those who just refer to bad ones and sometimes also good ones. But just like the inscriptions on a palimpsest, those inscriptions are not gone and can come to the surface again. They keep being influential. They keep being visible through various methods. There is a palimpsest known in archaeology – what a beautiful parallel this is? – that is called a cumulative palimpsest.
“A cumulative palimpsest is one in which the successive episodes of deposi-tion, or layers of activity, remain superimposed one upon the other without loss of evidence, but are so re-worked and mixed together that it is difficult or impossible to separate them out into their original constitu-ents.”**

If every rope scene, or parts of it, leaves its marks in the minds of all the participants, and I believe they do, all these marks are not just separate, distinct layers. Every new mark is placed within the artwork that is one’s personality. It adds to it not only by itself but by the new light it sheds on the marks that are already there and by the marks it replaces or those it is made of. I would like to bring an example but I feel that every example I could bring is insufficient for the reader because everything I can think of is embedded into my own personality and doesn’t mean anything without pre-senting all context. Try to find yours. What rope scene, or part of it, interact-ed with another one you have experienced or dreamed of and how did they influence each other?

I want to add a little postscriptum: This writing, as well as the others I pub-lished recently, is a work in progress. It is my inner urge to throw them out into the world once I have the idea and that this enables me to think about them in a more connected way. So, please take my apologies if they seem somewhat unfished or filled with gaps. Those gaps are also interesting for me.
*Rheinberger. Towards a history of epistemic things. 1997. 197ff (based on Derrida. Grammatology)
** Bailey, Geoff. “Time Perspectives, Palimpsests and the Archaeology of Time.”

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About the reciprocity of Kinbaku

In ‘Archaeology of personalities’* we established a theory of how the communication between the tying and the tied person can be described. The person tying is interviewing the person tied and the reactions of the latter are constituting a picture of who they are. That picture, i.e. the personality of one’s vis-á-vis is in my worldview the main interest in interacting with people in general and tying in particular.

The problem of the interview 1.0, if one wants to call it, lays in its formulation which seems to favor a certain directionality from the tied to the tying person. It can be read classically in terms of physics, i.e. the outcome of an experiment is independent of how the observer looks at it.
It was absolutely justified to build up the theory of the interview based on this directivity but now it has found some rest to sit, I must break up this directionality of the interview and give one main agency back to the tied person.

Taking a closer look of any interview it becomes immediately clear that the questions are subjective and are born in the context of some ideology. In historical sciences, this circumstance is well known and it became “good scientific practice” to reflect one’s own background and under no circumstances neglect this. Since it has been shown beautifully that objectivity itself has its own historicity**, a great many of researchers deviated from the desire to be objective and instead reflect what to do with their ideological. I am well aware that in common language the term ideology has its negative connotations. I use it here as a substitute for one’s normative worldview – an association which has no judgmental value on that level whatsoever.
The same is true in the interview metaphor when we see the tying person as an archaeologist. The questions asked by the tying person are not objective. They are not coming from nowhere and, this is crucial, they are answers themselves. What does that mean? It simply means that the interviewer creates not only an interview of the tied person but in the same way also an interview of the tying person. The questions they give uncover answers coming directly from the ideology of the interviewer.

I want to call this bi-directivity the “reciprocity” of the interview metaphor. Not only the tied person reveals something of their cultural storage or archive. Of course not. The interviewer themselves, by asking the questions shows a great deal of their archive as well and makes it open and accessible for the tied person.

In that sense, it became interesting in recent tying as well as teaching situations to make myself or students aware of possible interpretations of answers given by stating this or that question.

I want to bring an example:
The distance between the tying people. In the interview 1.0 the choice of a closer distance provokes an answer that either shows there is a desire of more closeness or the other way around, it shows that a larger distance is what the tied person wants. But what does it mean to ask the question of the distance? Do I as a tying person have the desire to de- or increase the distance? How do I react to the answer (whatever that answer might be)?

A reflection of this reciprocity and of the why of any question not only consciously invites the tied person into the archive and hence excavates the personality of the tying person, it gives the tying person the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the function of ropes as a medium of communication.
This is in other words the modern, or quantum mechanical formulation*** of the interview metaphor. The reciprocity of the interview explains that it is not only a process of taking from the tied person. In my interpretation, Kinbaku from the perspective of the tying person is giving everything in order to get to know the tied person. If one is not willing to answer everything about oneself there is not only no right to dig in the archive of another person’s personality, it will also never go as deep.

*’Archaeology of personalities’. G. Barkas.
**e.g. ‘Objectivity’. L Daston & P. Galison.
***See quantum mechanical measurement problem and the role of the observer in the Copenhagen interpretation.

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An attempt to develop a poetics of Kinbaku – and I am still not Aristotelian…


In recent months, I saw myself confronted with two interesting problems, or rather gaps in my approach and I believe I can fill them and by doing that not only shed (more) light on a deeper understanding of what we are doing when we tie with each other but also answer an unsolved question.  Here is one of those problems*.

Considering every human being a cultural product unintelligible anywhere outside the space of language, we are led to the assumption that any interaction with each other is also always and foremost an archaeology of the individual’s personality**. Instead of imagining an archaeological site with all its shovels and the mud, I want to point at another place that is the working station of an archaeologist – the archive. The most interesting hints and artefacts can be found there, forgotten of their existence and lost in the processes of change, development, and renewal of the archive. The work to be done by the archaeologist nevertheless remains the same – Digging, acknowledging, interpreting, and then digging again. Nothing changes except, maybe, the weather conditions.

When we were speaking of tying with someone can be seen as an archaeology of their personality, it does not matter, if we locate the archaeologist in some ruins on Crete or the basement of Austrian National library. But switching over to the latter one, it allows us to develop our metaphor even further and, by doing that, getting answers we might not even have thought about and this awareness shall be nothing but beneficial for an even deeper rope scene.

One could say the human being is an archive themselves filled with all the notes, the artefacts, the evidences and stories of their past. Of course, all those things are nonetheless constitutional for the personality and it is interesting to go through them, read and watch them piece by piece, sometimes in order but mostly not. This is, if we want, the interview metaphor 1.0 but is that it?

Is the rigger just there to read the archive of the person in ropes? Is the tying person condemned to be a Laplacian demon***? The French art historian and philosopher George Didi-Huberman writes about the archive:

The essence of any archive is its gaps, its perforated being. […] The archaeological undertaking must inevitably risk to juxtaposition shreds of faded objects which always remain heterogeneous and anachronistic because they come from different times and spaces and those are separated by gaps. This risk carries the name montage or faculty of imagination.  

(G. Didi-Huberman. The archive burns)

 What is in my eyes so interesting about this approach is that for Huberman it is not the content of any archive what makes it worth studying, but rather what is not in that archive, what made it vanish from the archive and how are those gaps constituted, i.e. how to read what is not there. These questions become, in the context of rope bondage, even more interesting by projecting them onto a human being.

Any person is an archive; the archaeological work is needed to get to know them, that is one of the major points in developing the interview metaphor. Many more experiences with ropes and reflections about the archaeology of personalities as well as about the nature of the archive led me to the interview metaphor 2.0, if you like. I rather like to call it a literary criticism of the personal narrative for the moment. At this point, there must be a disclaimer that can’t be overrated. Criticism in this case means interpretation. It does not mean criticizing! This must be clear.

If we try to project Didi-Huberman’s claim onto a person, the following can be said:

Any person is and archive and because of that there are, consciously or not, gaps in them. Those gaps are the ones of their personal history, of who they are****. Following Didi-Huberman, those gaps are the essence of the person and as such they are the most interesting entities of a person. That is why I am so interested in those gaps these days when I tie with someone. My desire, from which I draw my pleasure as well, is to get to know a person and to find out what moves them, what touches them. Whether I find that by the simplest rope technique or the most elaborate, it doesn’t matter. Who are you?

And here lies the difficulty that I believe to be able to overcome with the idea of a literary criticism. Who someone is, is not just the sum of their reactions to a set of questions. The who is in my experience with ropes rather hidden in between those reactions. What is it that the person does not answer to several questions. What has been thrown out of the archive of a personal (hi-)story, actively or passively? Since it is not present (in the double meaning of the word, which I understand to be a present as for now and a present as for here) one cannot just look closer and closer or even force something. But what one can do is undergo the risk which name is imagination.

As someone tying with the aim of getting to know someone and seeing the scene as an interview, one has to fill those gaps with their imagination – a beautiful parallel again to Kintsugi, isn’t it? – in other words, to interpret the story that is told by the tied person. This story is filled with gaps, a cultural construction of the self. Everyone does that and I claim this to be constitutional for every being within the realm of language. The interpretation of this story, the dialogue with the book written by the person in ropes, cannot be random or it risks breaking the connection between the people tying with each other. The fillings must make sense to both, they must be consistent in order to work. It is, and that is the reason why I called it a literary criticism, like interpreting a work of literary, a work of art, or, as we said the story of an archive when you ask yourself why certain things are not there and what is its meaning – “who are you?”. Why? Because, and I believe that to be true for everyone, every individual wants to be listened to by its environment. By being listened to, I mean a profound and deep engagement with that individuals personality and not a meaningless “how are you – fine”.

Taking a closer look at the rope scene itself, the above means that there is more, much more than just the reactions one sees but rather what are the reactions that don’t occur? What is the meaning for this or that reaction of the tied person and how does it fit into the greater picture? “The archaeological undertaking must risk of juxtaposition faded objects…” and this risk is called “imagination”.

The interpretation comes from nothing but the imagination and here lies the source of a poetics of the artful language that is called Kinbaku. A language that is to tell the story of the person in ropes and read by the person tying*****.



*Problem as understood more in the mathematical sense. A challenge, an interesting, somewhat mystical situation: an epistemic thing.

**Archaeology of personalities – A linguistic approach to erotic rope bondage. 2017.

***What is a Laplacian demon? It is the originally the intellectual creation, the Gedankenexperiment of P.S. Laplace and this creature is gifted or condemned to know the position and momentum of each and every single particle in the universe at a given time. Equipped with that knowledge, it can according to classical mechanics calculate a “complete” history of the universe.

**** Before this idea gets opposed, I can calm the critics by comparing those gaps with the Japanese concept of Kintsugi where cracks in pottery are considered beautiful and are “repaired” with noble materials, so not to hide them.

***** This implicit direction will be subject of my next partial study. Stay tuned.

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