Why did you become a fakir?
I think it was a natural thing. I think I was born with this skill. It might be something from a previous life. It took me almost twenty years to discover that this was my path, that I had a talent for pain and was predestined to be a fakir.
How did you discover that you have this trait or talent?
Through years and years of playing with fire, needles and other sharp objects, exploring pain without any direction or thought behind it. Just instinctively, I had to push my limits. I found a book called Modern Primitives, read the first chapter about fakir Musafar and thought, “I am not alone... that’s the explanation — the an-swer that I've been looking for!”. All of a sudden I realised I was a fakir. Since then, I devoted myself to this practice and got plenty of new ideas looking at the pictures of different exercises and things that Musafar had done. I started exploring more and more, and after a year, I ended up doing my first public performance as a fakir. It was horrible. It was crap!
Not everyone knows that I am a fakir. Lots of people think I’m just crazy, and maybe they are right, but in my eveyday life I am just a regular guy: I get up in the morning, I go to work and I get my kids to school. It’s not as if I go to sleep on a bed of nails... every night. (laughs)
Why did you became an artist?
There is a little exhibitionist in me, although it took me a long time to have enough courage to admit it. I like to draw attention to my-self. The best place for me to be is on the stage — bleeding. I think it is interesting to provoke reactions, to push people to think, feel. I enjoy entertaining people.
What is the difference between your art performances, and performances that you do as a fakir?
Because for me personally the things I do on the stage became more or less routine. They’re not a big challenge for me anymore. The art performances from the Quintet series are a long term work, based on stamina and therefore a much bigger challenge for me. I need challenge to grow and develop. It’s a different principle than one in entertainment performances on stage where one is really out in open, getting all this madness through. In these silent pieces I am a living sculpture. I just stand, sit or lay, keeping that position for few hours. Some of the performances include music, but despite that they are very silent and poetic — aesthetically beautiful and strong pictures. I think the communication with the audience is stronger, because when people go to the exhibition to look at a work of art, they search for meaning, the message, they try to understand the work and what is behind it.
Is the message always the same?
No, not always. But the Quintet (Drops are part of Quintet) is about restrictions. In all five performances, I am restricted in different ways. It’s about having no real choice in our society. There are rules for everything. You can't decide for yourself — you have to follow the rules. Always someone else decides whether you can or cannot do this or that. On the other hand, no one can control my body — I can do whatever I want with it. So this is the ambivalent message. Some of the pieces in Quintet are also about torture and isolation, which are very common in the world today. We know it’s there but we don’t see it and therefore we don’t relate to it. So when I create an image where the audience can see torture live, that should make them think about it and relate to it.
How do you deal with the pain, do you enjoy it?
Pain is a very wide area, and it’s also very interesting. In our society we are raised to fear pain. Everything related to pain is negative and we should try to avoid it. If a child hurts itself and bleeds, this can’t be a positive experience nor it can gain anything from it. In other cultures, the so-called primitive and tribe cultures at certain points in life there are rituals you have to go through, and many of them involve a great deal of pain. If you can’t deal with this, you can’t deal with the challenges that you will meet in life. From my personal experience, I know I get strength from pain, and by doing performances over last ten years, I got used to it in a way. It’s pain and pleasure at the same time.
There are different ways and techniques of coping with pain. Basi-cally it’s all about focus. There are two main ways of focusing. One is to remove the focus from the pain: if the pain is located in my knee, and it hurts, I can think about my other knee which is not hurting, or I can focus on something completely else. The other way of focusing is to go into the pain: Where is the centre of the pain? Where does it start? How does it move through my body from my knee up to my head? Where is the pain more intense and where does it hurt less? The mind is then busy exploring the pain instead of suffering.
What do you think that the audience gets from seeing you in pain?
I think that within an art context, the audience relates to the sensa-tion they imagine I must be feeling. It’s a kind of empathy, and on the other hand, it’s a distance. Some might find it confusing, be-cause the image they see is so calm.