An artwork for practicing and teaching Kinbaku in a new light
We walk through a city, around all the buildings, the people, through streets and parks. We see the large shops and the small ones. We go to restaurants or grab something at a truck. We see the different people, the diversity and lack thereof fused together in their districts which often are indistinguishable for a first time visitor but very apparent for inhabitants. We see the animals, those that are on leashes and those who settled in the city to find themselves in a land of abundance. And we can get an idea of the topography of the land where the city has grown.
We can look at that city as an unconnected ensemble of buildings. We go to a museum to watch art or to little galleries. C. Landry writes about the creative potential of cities, or the city and its creative potential. But the city itself? F.A. Walker writes the following:
“It is [the] solid:void relationship, that pattern of buildings and streets laid down on the natural landscape, the perception of which reveals, as a work of art, the values of the community.”
(“The city is a piece of art – Artists and Architects in dialogue and collaboration” Glasgow)
I want us to imagine the city as a project of all the people who lived there and not only by a few architects in collaboration with authorities and corporations. This project of the community with its buildings, its streets, its restaurants, street art, parks, shops, and so on and so forth could for a moment be seen as one gigantic piece of art far beyond Walker’s solid:void relationship. Everyone adds something and it will change forever forth until it either gets abandoned slowly or destroyed and abandoned. And then nature adds, admittedly rather unconsciously.
So, let’s imagine we stand on the top of a hill outside the city and see it as a whole and later, when we walk through it, we still have that view from afar in the back of the mind. Of course, some cities will move us more and some less. I might enjoy this city more because of its labyrinth-like center or because of its modern architecture and the juxtaposition of old and new. Someone else is touched by the cuisine of another city and thus prefers that. It is exactly like going to a museum and liking this picture more than another but still appreciating the skill and thought that went into the other one.
The city that touches my heart is the one that ultimately talks to me and, by talking to me, answering my questions. Maybe questions that I haven’t even thought I have asked and this is, like all being, always reciprocal. We touch the city, we talk to it and give report to it. We fill its places, districts, shops, and restaurants and, by that, we answer to its questions: Why am I inhabited? What makes me interesting? The city I visit and I, we negotiate each other. This means that the city and I, we have a certain responsibility for each other. We are part of each other.
Now let us switch the perspectives and look from the perspective of a city at one person. We look at them and see their hair style, we see their clothes, their eyes, their way of moving through the city. We might ask them who they are and get an answer which tries to describe them according to the social situation. They might talk about their job, their relationships, their place of birth, where they grew up, etc. They could tell us about their favourite food or about their favourite place to travel but they might also show us darker sides of their personality by talking about traumas they have experienced or accidents they have had. Many things add to their personality and the more they have lived, either in terms of time or intensity or both, the more complex that human being becomes, the more little streets, little shops, buildings to live or love, parks to relax, museums to admire, concert halls, and so on are there to find in someone.
A human being, I claim, is in the same way a work of art, put together and grown by all their experiences, as a city can be seen as a work of art that has been put together by all the human beings who inhabited it. This isotopy between the city and the individual is necessary for their communication. Just like an individual, the city suffers from its traumas, is proud of its achievements, feels sad, happy, in love, and so on and so forth.
With this view on a human being and on a city, I would like to introduce a connection between them and Kinbaku. My aim with this is to create a two scale metaphor that offers tools for teaching and tools for tying at the same time.
How often does one go to (rope-)workshops, where one pattern or technique is presented after the other, usually beginning with a simpler technique going harder and more complicated and the great finale in the end? Workshops about ropes (and other subjects) often appear presented with the same lack of narrative creativity as pornography: the simplest teleological procedure intelligible.
How often has one tied where one started with a single column tie and became more complicated and then the great finale and an always somewhat awkward untying and that’s that? I know, no one likes to admit that and I am so used to people saying: “I know, I also dislike this and thus I already practice for a long time what you now say.” But then you see them tying… I was for a long time overwhelmed by this type of teleology in rope bondage and I still, from time to time, fall victim to it and that is ok because it teaches me.
Let us, instead of thinking about the end, go on a journey together. I want to invite you to a trip to Kinbaku city. My Kinbaku city, i.e. the one I built for myself and that is inhabited by not only everyone I have tied with but also by all my other experiences and backgrounds. I promise, I will keep it short.
First we arrive either at the train station or at the airport and because I am lazy, let’s take a cab to our place to stay. Once there, I try to get accustomed to the place, check how the bathroom is, take a shower to somehow separate the city from the long travel. Then, it is only in the morning, I want to figure out how the public transportation works in this city. How can we move? In the city of Kinbaku we have three different modes of public transportations, I read on a map*. We have an elephant. The elephant moves us with brute force. Not malicious but inevitable. It takes us over wide distances very quick, which is great if we want to be somewhere else in no time. But we easily miss a lot on the way. Another way to move in the city, the map says, is via Archimedes. He once said, give me a stick and a point and I will move the world. This mode of public transportation is the smartest but it requires us to think before we take it because it’s fairly easy to take a completely wrong exit. Archimedes needs a lot of practice and experiment. We look and see there is another, a last way of getting to places in the city of Kinbaku. It’s Peter Pan who takes us to places purely by believing in his existence. Taking this public transport is tricky because the schedule is unreliable and we don’t always know where it drops us off which is, you know, great for days we don’t have any plans and just want to get carried away in the city. I have to admit that the longer I stay in the city, the more I take Peter Pan. It takes me to places I cannot possibly anticipate.
The next thing which is always good to know when being in a foreign city with weird dialects and foreign languages is to check out facilities that can help us in case of emergency. Where is our embassy, where is a hospital and where are the places that are crowded and we find help immediately, such things? We don’t need to go there but it is calming to know where they are; like it is good to know where a person close to you needs to be in case of a bad situation, it is good to know where you can go in a city, if you need help. That’s usually a thing you check before going on your travels because when really something happens it’s too late.
Ok, we have figured that out and now we want to go explore the city. What are we going to explore first, the things we know or those we don’t know? Of course, we have seen pictures and read about the city, so let’s go first to the stuff we believe to know to make sure they are somehow related to our expectations. The landmarks of the city are close by and help us understand the city a bit better. We have the rather baroque houses with its ornaments and for which the city is also famous. They have been built a long time ago and seem somehow preserved but out of time. Almost like the childhood dreams of what you wanted to be when growing up and who you wanted to be. The city grew around them and even if there are still people living in them the houses seem to have come down to mere photo objects for us tourists. Don’t get me wrong, every so often, I am in the city, I really like going there but now that I have guests, I want to show you so much more than what you have already seen from my city. One thing I like amongst the most is the great concert hall that inhabits most of the musical life. The rhythms, the melodies, the different instruments, the weird modern compositions, all of that takes us on a journey in and of itself. I like to go there to dance the same way I love to go there to listen carefully to the sounds of something utterly new. We can go there several times within one trip.
After the concert, let’s go to a bar. I know one that serves cocktails so fantastically mixed, you taste layers after layers for minutes after the first sip. Getting carried home by Peter Pan, we sleep and get ready for a new day in Kinbaku city. There is so much we can visit; a science museum, the great park with its pond and the many benches that invite us to sit and meditate or to watch people. We find curiosity cabinets, brothels, these days even a circus is in town. There is a theatre that plays the classics and one that has scheduled the experimental, modern plays. In other words, we can spend more time here than we have and when we come back, some things have changed whereas others have remained the same. To visit the city of Kinbaku is to talk to it, to discuss with it and to answer its questions in a similar way it answers us when we ask it: Who are you and what is it in you that touches me?
Now, before the reader declares me mad, I feel the need to explain the metaphor.
First, when we tie we are confronted with each other as human beings who, in my approach, not only could be understood as a whole but should be understood as such. This includes all kinds of facets of the personality of the person we tie with. We cannot just pick one side of each other, we have to take the whole or else it becomes utterly flat and dull. So, when we tie with someone, instead of just imposing one image, we could see our partner as that piece of art with all its layers and explore all of them – at once in one large meandering walk or piece by piece, coming back to each other. There is no problem to go to the amusement park where everything goes so fast but then you want to sit together on a bench in the nature and just relax. Or to go the curiosity cabinet and laugh together. There is nothing wrong with going to the ornamental architectures of the part which we can admire and which, admittedly have added a lot to the understanding of modern architecture. What I am trying to say is that in tying there is nothing wrong with tying very technical or ornamental, there is no problem to burst out laughing or to cry together. As long as this is what the people involved found together and want to spend time with, it is good since no person is just one layer and ropes are able to express exactly this multilayer structure of personalities. When you tie with each other, go on a journey that touches you both and that doesn’t only rely on the first three pictures of a google image search. Show each other that you take responsibility for each other, that your intentions are not to mess up the other one. In a city, when a tourist throws out some garbage on the street, no wonder the city gets angry. On the other side, when many of the city’s people are rude and excluding to a tourist, it is just understandable that this individual doesn’t want to come back.
On a teaching side, I encourage teachers and those who try to share to not only present one rope pattern after the next but to take their participants and students on a journey where they can actually get something out of. I encourage you to write your teaching programs, but, if you see something interesting in a side street and your audience wants to go there, then do that. Negotiate each other, you and your participants! This includes that one should not teach at the limit of one’s own abilities like it is so often the case. Whether you literally go to a city built in your mind or something else, that doesn’t matter.
I started to implement the concept of Kinbaku city into my teaching (and tying) around 2018 in Paris and I am working on it since then. The above is a sketch, an idea I want to share for the sake of progress in a positive direction.