‘The Pain Is Part of the Process’: Why Two Artists Are Pushing Body Modification to the Extreme

Many men and women aren’t positive what to make of Tiamat Legion Medusa, the self-described most body-modified transexual in the world, who has transitioned not only from male to feminine, but from human to reptile. But for Carlos Motta, a Colombian artist whose practice is dedicated to documenting techniques of tough societal norms about sexuality and gender, it was instantly obvious he was encountering an artist.

Soon after conference, the two were being building designs to stage a effectiveness piece jointly, combining Motta’s expertise in Shibari rope bondage with Medusa’s interest in suspensions, which let the physique to hang from metal hooks inserted into the skin.

More than the program of lockdown, the task progressed into a video piece, with both equally artists suspended from the ceiling in poses that feel very painful—Motta in an upside crucifixion, Medusa’s pores and skin stretched taut by the ropes threaded even though the hooks piercing chest, abdomen, and legs.

The pair’s present-day gallery clearly show, “When I Depart This Entire world,” at New York’s OCDChinatown, also contains a second online video in which Motta interviews Medusa about the decision to transition not only gender, but also species, and how that was rooted in childhood abuse.

Forward of the exhibition’s closing weekend, we spoke to the two artists about their collaboration and friendship.

Carlos Motta, Inverted Earth (2016), video nonetheless. Picture courtesy of P.P.O.W., New York.

How did you two satisfy? 

Motta: We achieved at a gay bar in Los Angeles called Precinct in the drop of 2019. I was hanging out with two of my pals, and Tiamat confirmed up on the lookout like a fancy dragon. We liked each and every other’s vibes. I was fascinated about how Tiamat experienced decided to embark on this approach of entire body modification—it was clear Tiamat was a truly imaginative soul.

Tiamat: I was happy that Carlos took the time to basically prevent me and inquire me thoughts. Some people today run absent from me. I was truly appreciative that he didn’t run absent. It manufactured me come to feel extremely unique. I have been painting and drawing ever since I was in the 3rd grade—it’s a enthusiasm for me. It’s who I am.

What was your path to artwork like, Carlos? 

Carlos: When I started building get the job done I was undertaking mainly pictures, with performative self-portraits. And then I resolved to go to art university. I did a bachelors and a masters, and a fellowship at the Whitney Museum Independent Research Program. I experienced a pretty official training as an artist.

I’m not a one-discipline type of artist. I have finished a lot of video and sculpture and also performance. I’ve been extra led by tips and principles, and then I uncover the variety that I want to get the job done in.

How did your collaboration appear alongside one another?

Carlos: I confirmed you a person of my inversion performances, this function Inverted Entire world where by I’m suspended by my toes in a chapel in Italy. I asked if you’d be open to accomplishing something where by we we executed alongside one another.

Tiamat: That’s exactly how the discussion went. I outlined that I am an artist in the suspension planet, only with hooks. My possess conceptual artwork is my physique art. I’m a strolling and breathing function of artwork myself—I use my own human body as my canvas as I change myself into a human dragon as a result of system modification.

Do medical practitioners at any time have worries about the nature of the overall body modification processes you are going through?

Tiamat: Actually, no. I really don’t go to medical doctors for system modifications except the techniques involve likely to the clinic, these as my orchiectomy—basically a castration, which was portion of my transformation to develop into a genderless dragon.

Usually, I do the job with individuals who are termed human body modification professionals. They are artists who are serving to me change. I have no fear, simply because I only endure the method if I rely on the man or woman. It’s extremely important that they know what they are carrying out. If not, the conclude outcome could be quite terrible.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, <em>When I Leave This World</em> (2022), still. Courtesy of the artist, P.P.O.W. Gallery, and OCDChinatown.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, When I Leave This Planet (2022), still. Courtesy of the artist, P.P.O.W. Gallery, and OCDChinatown.

In the second video, Tiamat, you also communicate about becoming a longterm survivor of HIV. How is your overall health now?

Tiamat: I have long gone from becoming on death’s door. I contracted AIDS in the 1990s when men and women had been nevertheless dying left and correct. I went by way of a whole bunch of treatment options, and it pretty much killed me, but I survived. I think about myself to be a person of the blessed types who are continue to listed here. I had to watch a good deal of my close friends pass. It was via perseverance that I was ready to make it this considerably.

How did you make your mind up on Tiamat’s make up in the film? 

Carlos: The film and the make up were being really much influenced by William Blake’s paintings. A mate encouraged we function with Michael Mejia, a professional make up artist. The appear took about 8 hours to contend.

Tiamat: I had to consider a few of naps though he was operating on me. That’s the most elaborate makeup session I’ve ever sat for, but it was totally really worth it. I was so amazed. I was dumbfounded. He reworked me into anything so stunning with his artistry.

Carlos: Endurance overall performance jobs commonly involve paying out a good deal of time with others. All those eight several hours had been truly bonding for them. There was also all the time we had to spend with the suspension artists. I believe all those items translate into the operate. There is a certain sort of ethics of care that will come into enjoy. You create are bonds beyond the skilled, they also turn into sturdy friendships.

I have to confess, I had a tough time watching the movie, since the hooks looked so unpleasant. Is it as undesirable as it appears to be, and how do you do it properly without ripping through the skin? 

Tiamat: When a individual suspends, the men and women facilitating the suspensions are pros who know what they are doing. There is a selected protocol to be certain the suspension goes without the need of the hooks tearing. They have to be put correctly, and skin has to be separated from the muscle tissue so that the hooks only go by means of the pores and skin.

I myself go through a preparation system of fasting. I don’t eat the entire day beforehand, and I meditate to get myself psychologically ready for the time that the hooks go in me.

The very first time I did a suspension, I was truly frightened. I did not know that was heading to come about. But it was one thing that I experienced to do. It was a spiritual detail for me. Even now to this day, immediately after all the suspensions I’ve carried out, there’s a minor bit of dread of one thing possibly going completely wrong. But I believe in my folks.

The ache is element of the course of action, and it does not last extremely long—at least not for me. Absolutely everyone who suspends has their very own working experience, and it’s a incredibly beautiful and non secular knowledge for me.

Carlos: The exercise of endurance overall performance is one particular of education, when you have to study to endure. The education is physical, and it is also psychological, and it is also non secular. It’s also a follow of treatment. You have to get the job done with persons who know what they are accomplishing. You never place by yourself in the hands of novices, or men and women who are gong to be irresponsible with your physique.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, <em>When I Leave This World</em> (2022), still. Courtesy of the artist, P.P.O.W. Gallery, and OCDChinatown.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, When I Go away This Entire world (2022), however. Courtesy of the artist, P.P.O.W. Gallery, and OCDChinatown.

How did you occur to do this form of efficiency, Carlos? 

Carlos: In my individual lifestyle I have been fascinated in bondage for a prolonged time. It is a thing I have been executing with associates in non-community areas. I began thinking about reenacting the crucifixion of St. Peter, and it turned apparent to me that I required to acquire the exercise out of the erotic area into my get the job done. When I did Inverted Environment in 2016, it was the very first time I did that in front of a camera as performative act of artwork, relatively than an act of play in an erotic context.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, <em>When I Leave This World</em> (2022), still. Courtesy of the artist, P.P.O.W. Gallery, and OCDChinatown.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, When I Go away This Environment (2022), continue to. Courtesy of the artist, P.P.O.W. Gallery, and OCDChinatown.

How did these two methods occur alongside one another for this clearly show?

Carlos: Both Tiamat and I are extremely intrigued in mythology, and also the myths of Christianity, and the approaches that these myths have conditioned the methods in which gender and sexually diverse people are marginalized. We wanted to use this impression of both of us suspending to handle ideas about what it means to sin, for illustration, or what the part of the serpent or the reptile is in the Catholic creativeness all around sexuality or gender or eroticism.

The suspension video clip is lovely, but it desires context. There is a large amount of Tiamat’s everyday living and biography that is reflected in the suspension. The overall body modification and piercings and endurance of ache, all of these points are very a lot connected to your route, your transitions and your lifetime. I thought it was significant for the do the job to have this job interview with Tiamat speaking about how everyday living has taken care of you and the choices you’ve designed all-around that.

Tiamat: That’s real. A great deal of people are involved about the soreness. As the hooks went in me and hanging from the hooks and being raised up was really unpleasant. When I place my fingers up in the video, I was seeking to achieve out for a thing to cling onto. It was so extreme. Once I my body’s endorphins kicked in, I was in a position to allow go and enable unfastened. I took a true deep breath, and exhaled slowly but surely. Then I was equipped to chill out.

But I assess the pain of suspension to the pains I have had to endure as a human remaining, and how a lot I have been harm by individuals. I converted that pain to the ache of the suspension, and allow it go. It was about permitting it go.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, <em>When I Leave This World</em> (2022), installation view at OCDChinatown. Courtesy of the artist and OCDChinatown.

Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa, When I Go away This Environment (2022), set up check out at OCDChinatown. Courtesy of the artist and OCDChinatown.

Would you also equate that to permitting go of your humanity in this trans-species journey that you’re on?

Tiamat: Yes, unquestionably. It was like a rite of passage for me, heading from human to reptile. It all has to be with currently being deserted by my mother and my stepfather in the woods at nighttime when I in the to start with quality. That’s when I recognized that my mom and dad have been no extended human beings, but my moms and dads were reptilians.

I am far more snug with the pronoun it, but the feminine pronoun is also acceptable. I consider myself to be non-binary in phrases of gender. So as much as pronouns go, all pronouns go out the window.

When I Go away This Entire world: Carlos Motta and Tiamat Legion Medusa” is on check out at OCDChinatown, 75 East Broadway, New York, February 11–April 10, 2022.

 

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Kenneth Proto

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