In Wings of Desire — Learning to Fly (PS Media 2012), Håvve tells the story of how Wings of Desire (WoD) came to be and takes you on a journey from his first suspension, through the evolution of the team, and up to WoD’s 10th anniversary in 2012.
“In 1989, my friend Kalle, who at the time was running the Infoshop at Blitz, came across a book that would prove to be very significant to me in various ways. It was the RESearch publications book Modern Primitives. Knowing me and my interests, Kalle instantly knew that I needed to have that book.
Thus, he presented it to me and we made a trade; I had a pair of Sai swords that he liked so we swapped. Flicking through the pages, one photograph in particular caught my attention: Fakir Musafar hanging by two large hooks in his chest—inspired by the Mandan O-Kee-Pa ritual. In that instant my quest for suspension began. I knew I had to hang from hooks. I did not know how, I did not know when, and I did not know where. The details did not matter; I knew I would get there. What I saw in that picture was myself in the future.”
—Håvve Fjell, Wings of Desire — Learning to Fly
“It was like the first time I experienced sex, I wanted to do it again even before it was over!”
While his first suspension did not meet his expectations, the second was successful and led Håvve to continue to incorporate his newfound passion in his work as a Fakir and explore the world of suspension.
“Doing my suspensions publicly had an immediate effect on those in the audience who were predisposed to try for themselves. Surprisingly, it appealed to some whom I would never have suspected and not to others whom I did expect would want to try. After each live suspension, one or two people would approach me and ask questions beyond the average curiosity. Some had thought about hanging already because they had seen the film A Man Called Horse, or had otherwise been exposed to suspension. Others would discover the urge as they witnessed a live suspension as their first exposure. Often, they asked me if it would it be possible to try. I knew how hard it had been for me to find a way to get suspended, so it felt natural that I should make it easier for others.
I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin, but I knew I had to make suspensions available. I needed to share the experience with others! I went ahead and sought out a way to further my own understanding, as well as educating the performers in Pain Solution.”
After a period of recruiting the right people and arranging a successful workshop in Oslo, the first Oslo SusCon (then called Oslo Body Suspension Festival) came to life at Skur 55 in the late summer of 2002. To be able to pull off this event Håvve paired up with Christiane Löfblad, owner of Pinpoint Piercing. She became a crucial part in the shaping and development of WoD. Her input on the hygiene and aseptic protocol, as well as on logistics and creativity in rigging is a large part of what gave WoD a healthy direction right from the start.
“The intent of the event was to promote body suspension to a broad audience, as well as being an educational event for the core participants. We—well, mostly I—planned for a lot of added extras; way too many! On top of classes and suspension workshops for the attendees, I thought it would be a good idea to organize a huge party! Here’s a recipe for a disaster:
In a large, cold warehouse, combine:
4 top DJ’s
An ambulant bar run by a hired staff (of friends)
A “fashion” show with 14(!) models
Live piercing (of the bad sort)
Two unrehearsed suspension performances
Let security leave at 4AM. Keep the whole thing running until 6AM even if you are very understaffed. Watch things get pear shaped!”
The biggest lesson that came out of WoD’s first big suspension event was to bring it down to the basics; eliminate everything irrelevant and focus on suspension. In 2003, Oslo SusCon (OSC) was a much smaller event held at the floating venue of Nordic Black Theatre, MS Innvik—a great place run by great people. The ship turned out to be a bit too small for the OSC, but became the main venue for our occasional suspension days for several years.
“In the beginning, I did not know how big a part of my life suspension would become. When I look back, I can say that there were times when we had options and made choices in how to develop our practice and establish our suspension team. But, there were never any doubts or questions about if we should carry on with Wings of Desire. It was only natural that we should, obvious and clear as day. Like all the pieces had fallen into place by themselves in the beginning, they sort of kept on doing just that. I had to steer but my task as captain and navigator was easy: I listened to reason and intuition. I certainly picked up a lot of knowledge from others, and at the same time I understood a lot by practicing. With Christiane as my co-pilot, we made a good leading unit for our team. We completed each other with our professional backgrounds, and we both learned quickly and developed steadily. Requests to try suspension were met with irregular suspension days and the annual SusCon. Suspension became a somewhat regular activity and just kept growing on us.
In the first few years, my main focus was on educating our team, as well as offering workshops and classes to aspiring teams elsewhere. My purpose was to build a team locally and a scene in the region. I was perhaps too eager, and wanted more than I could achieve, but later I learned that everything has a pace of its own. No matter what you do, if you rush things it will lead to a setback sooner or later. Growing slowly and steadily is the key to successful development. It is like floating down a river: the river dictates the speed of the flow and you have to steer clear of the rocks in the water. You have to look ahead to see what is coming up downstream, stake out a route, and stick to the course. When you hit a rock, or happen to find yourself in an eddy, you have to find the best way to get moving again. I think that is the best way to describe how Wings of Desire has been carried by a natural flow, and how I have found myself to be a rather steady navigator. I have followed my intuition and more than a few times been surprised in finding it trustworthy.”
In 2004 OSC moved to Månefisken, an old textile mill from the 1850s that has been turned into an event venue. In addition to its high ceilings and many, solid, rigging points, we have access to the entire venue and make good use of all three of its halls and its main stage, as well as the back rooms and outside area. There are separate spaces for piercing and aftercare, and the second hall serves as the main suspension area with several rigging points. The third hall is used for dining, meetings, and chill out. While the place is central and easy accessible, it is also located in an area with no passing traffic and little disturbance from ordinary people. The river flows right next to Månefisken and the water falls, both above and below the building, create a nice atmosphere, an ambient sound barrier, and a sense of proximity to nature. There is no doubt that, in Månefisken, we have found the perfect venue and we have landed the Oslo SusCon there every year since.
“Finding ourselves in a position where our team is a model for others is not only a great honor, it is also a huge responsibility. We never had any vision of being referred to as one of the best teams, although our goal has always been to be good at what we do and to constantly look for improvements. Our aim has been to create a safe environment for people to suspend, regardless of their motivation (almost without exception), and to develop our practice in a healthy and conscious way. We have explored ways to combine efficiency and beauty in our suspension rigging and we have sought out simple and safe solutions to our structural set ups. We have researched and tried out different brands of medical supplies, and we have studied a variety of hooks. We have attended suspension events East, West, and South, and invited practitioners from all over the world to the Oslo SusCon to share their experience with us. The long and the short of it is that everything—and here I am speaking for myself—I have learned from others and all that I have discovered by my own research have been easy lessons; most of them anyway. I have been guilty of creating dangerous situations and been responsible for stupid errors for lack of knowing better, but I have learned my lessons—that is why I strive to share all that I have learned with our team and others. As I keep learning and exploring body suspension, most of it just makes perfect sense to me.”
In early 2010, WoD moved its headquarters to Blitz—a renowned center of autonomous activism and one of Håvve’s old hang outs. The house had just been refurbished and expanded with a concert hall that could accommodate around 300 people. The grid covering the entire ceiling allows rigging points for suspensions at close to every square meter of the space and the café on the ground floor provides cooking facilities for our events. Not long after the move to Blitz, WoD dramatically increased the frequency of our suspension events. Within a year we decided to have fixed Sus-days on the last Sunday of every month and we have been hosting our Suspension Sunday events here ever since.
“Suspension is a shared experience. It has been shared with us and we feel an obligation to share it with others. As a token of our gratitude and respect for this gift, we contribute our time, skills, and attention to create a space so that others may also share the experience. We care for, comfort, support, council, and encourage one another—newcomers and veterans alike. We never knowingly put anyone in harm’s way, and try to accommodate the wishes of each and every person who hangs with us. If we do not believe something can be done safely, we do not proceed. We assume responsibility for our actions and are able to explain our rationale for the decisions we make. We will do all that we can to be prepared for any and all eventualities. We provide advice and recommendations beyond our clientele’s requests. We care for the well-being of our suspension family before, during, and after a suspension.”