Aztlan Arts Suspension, based out of Dallas, TX, are best known for their bizarre body modifications and human suspensions. Human suspension is defined as hanging the human body from hooks pierced through the flesh in various places around the body. There are many styles of suspensions; some people hang from their chest others from their back and some take it as far as hanging from their butt. For the past couple of years, Aztlan Arts has traveled the country visiting various tattoo conventions entertaining thousands with their high-flying tribe of suspension artists. This July, they return to El Paso for the Texas Tattoo Showdown Festival. Silvie and Spartacus of Aztlan spoke with us about Aztlan Arts and human body suspension.
Who is Aztlan Arts and when did it begin?
Silvie: We are a collection of tattoo artists, piercers, riggers, enthusiasts, performers, artists…FAMILIA. Aztlan Arts Suspension started 6 years ago with a very curious Spartacus and a supportive Silvia. We currently have 12 active tribe members, 4 that are veteran suspension artists and 8 out-of-state suspension artists. Every single member plays a very important part in Aztlan.
Why do people suspend and what is the experience like?
Silvie: There are many different reasons to suspend, from a natural adrenaline/endorphin rush, conquering fears, reaching new spiritual level or discovering a deeper sense of themselves. Some are seeking a right-of-passage or a spiritual encounter to let go of the fear of not being whole or complete.
Spartacus: There is no describing the actual act of suspension, as far as what you feel and what you go through; its indescribable. Its the most perfect thing you can ever imagine. You can’t buy it in a sack; you can’t shoot it in a vein; there is nothing out there. It is beyond anything you’ll ever feel!
How do you get the hooks inside the flesh?
Spartacus: We pierce with a needle first and we chase it with the hook. The needles range anywhere from 8 gage to 4 gage.
The most common suspension I’ve seen is one where a person is being hung from their upper back.
Spartacus: Across the top of the back, what we call a “suicide,” is the most comfortable place for a first timer to swing and we usually have the greatest turn-out. In the 6 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve never had a bad experience with a first timer. I’ve never had anyone come up to me saying “I never want to do that again.” It’s always, “when are you coming back to my town!” With my guys, its the most fun for them because they can run and jump. It’s a high activity show. People want to see movement; they want to see flying around; it makes for a better show.
What has been the most unique suspension you have done to date?
Spartacus: One of our female artists, Tricia, hung from a crane 45 feet off the ground. She was doing what we call a “superman,” where she’s laying down flat and hooked on her back. She had ten hooks on her front and she was connected to Raul who was hanging from her. Raul had Brandon, one of my other members hanging from him. It was what we call a “three tier tandem.” She was supporting the weight of three people with ten hooks on her back.
I noticed your tongue is split. How did you get that done?
Spartacus: I had mine done with a “cut and back.” My tongue ring was stretched so much I could take my pinky and stick it through the hole. What we did was cut the tip and then cut back from the base to avoid any re-growth. I had mine cut back because I don’t like showing it to too many people but a lot of people do notice it and you go along with it. My wife loves it!
What are your thoughts on traveling back to El Paso for this year’s fest?
Silvie: Aztlan is super excited about our upcoming show in El Paso for the Texas Tattoo Showdown simply because it’s dear to my heart. It invokes emotions in our suspension being that close to Mexico and not being able to cross to the Basilica in Juarez to light a candle or lay roses. Why? Well, there are many personal reasons, a few would be Spiritual, an offering to my Virgen de Guadalupe to bless our little tribe, to keep us safe and to fulfill a promise I made in 2004.
TXT: Alex Duran