My wife's arm and mine freshly inked by Morgan Myers.
My first Interlocutor is Dr Ivan Crozier. Ivan’s official bio is impressive. You can read that here. He is an esteemed historian and scholar. He is also one of the most spectacular trashbags I know, a fellow techno lover, a hard player, a gorgeous Otter and self-proclaimed Dirty Faggot who is also in a life-partnership with an equally filthy Queer woman, Charlie. They're family to me and to my wife, Cassia.
I’m going to give Ivan a longer intro than most because the actual nature and texture of our friendship contains a lot of layers which are relevant to this research. In fact I want to use Ivan’s introduction as a biographical interlude to explore a few things that I know about Ecstasy, something which I am doing with his permission. I do this because my friendship with Ivan and Charlie is an ecstatic one. Our knowledge of each other has been forged and sustained in our mutual explorations of ecstatic space. We are often co-conspirators in each other's rapture. Which is to say: we party together, heavily.
I’ll talk about Charlie a bit as well because whenever Ivan is in the room for me, so is she. Not because their egos are are collapsed into each other in that way that we might expect of two people in a life-long domestic partnership. On the contrary, as a Queer, relationally anarchic pair whose partnership is very much an open one, they are quite firm about maintaining their individual agency and identity in the world. They are both forces to be reckoned with in their own right. But as a team their individual dynamism multiplies exponentially.
I met Ivan and Charlie (who is a commercial diver and undersea welder by profession- the first woman in Australia to hold that qualification) in 2014 in the queue for Berghain, or as the club is colloquially known to the three of us, “The Mothership”. Since then, I’ve clocked more club hours, and specifically more Mothership hours, with those two than probably anyone I know (with the exception of my wife, Cassia). As psychonauts and hedonists go, we are cut from a similar cloth. We shared dancefloors and in that space, our friendship deepened quickly. It's my honour to call them my family.
I have a nickname for Dr Crozier, which is Snowman. That one should be obvious I guess, but it also relates directly to something hilarious that he is reported to have said once when he was unspooling from a heavy trip. Those who are intimate with the Berghain main dancefloor will know of a doorway that sits to the left of the DJ booth between two podiums. This doorway in my mind is known as Snowman’s Corner- it has a deep frame, set into a concrete wall, which is great for physically anchoring yourself when you’re K-Holing but you really don’t want to leave the dancefloor cos you’re in the middle of a transcendental experience. None of us know where that doorway actually leads but we all know every notch in the concrete. Ivan owns that doorway. I've spent plenty of time in there myself, stretching into those deep muscular fibres and spooky tensions that can only be exorcised through the organic release of dancing. It’s bathed in a beautiful greenish light.
We’ve fallen again and again and again into the ecstatic void of dancefloors togther. We’ve literally scraped each other off the floor more times and in more ways than one. Ivan and Charlie have witnessed me through periods of violent, suicidal depression and housed me when I’ve been homeless. They have have likewise borne loving witness to the arrival and growth of my life’s most important relationship, as well as to my gender-transition. I’ve also been closely party to big changes in their lives, not least among them a leap into to another ecstatic void, the birth of their two children. We have yet to find a gender-neutral Aunty/Uncle alternative to describe what Cassia and I are to these kids, but for now we are sticking with Hexenmutter (Witch Mother). Ivan is also a yogi, an exquisite cook and a gardener. I’ve watched Ivan bring two extraordinary gardens into bloom- his other great ecstasy is nature and the nurturing plant allies, Irises in particular.
And we've danced and danced and danced and danced and danced. During my 9 years of living and committed partying in the Queer techno capital of the world, I have iterated through several cycles of Dancefloor Family. The very particular intimacy that is shared between rave slaves and other Dionysiacs of a beat-driven persuasion is something I have intimate knowledge of. These relationships are intense, often transformative, but also essentially temporal in nature. Especially in the transient Neverland that is Berlin. It takes a special kind of bond for those relationships to traverse the boundary that separates the Temporary Autonomous Zone from mundane life. People come and go. Some stick around.
Ivan and Charlie have never been lovers of mine, nor have they been play partners of mine or Cassia’s in any official sense- in fact, Charlie recently said to me “Babe, I wanted to fuck you so bad when we first met, and I’m so glad we didn’t because we could never have become the friends we now are”.
I’m a different character to Charlie in this way. Among my close friends, I’m pressed to find those whom I haven’t had some kind of sex with, at some point. I think a lot of queers would probably say the same. Likewise, I’m adept at that other hallowed channel of queer relationality: sublimation. Someone more versed in Freudian analysis (or someone who generally gives more of a shit about Freud than I do) might leap to correct my use of this term but here I am borrowing it to describe the unconscious (or indeed, sometimes conscious) re-direction of sexual desire into deep friendships and creative partnerships. Libidinal energy can be utilised to nourish and generate many things, it doesn’t always have to be expended in fucking. Of course its not just queers who do this but I think we’re very good at it. Probably because the language and affective terrain of improbable/impossible/forbidden desire is something that most of us get to know about quite early on in our lives, so we learn how to redirect these potencies as a mechanism of our own survival. Probably because the cohesion of our communities- which are the only source of safety and belonging for many of us- to a certain extent depend on our capacities to be conscious and critical around the nature of our desires and how we embody and enact them. This is a big, big part of what being queer even is to me, by definition.
But that's a digression. My point is, I fucking loathe most things that actively demarcate themselves kink spaces, and relationships which are rigidly self-defined as such don’t hold a whole lot of appeal for me either. I guess Ivan and Charlie are kind of the similar in this respect. We have a generally more organic and intuitive in approach to play than what traditional kink spaces often encourage or allow for. We share many deep understandings and mutual respect in this regard, and many of the same feelings when it comes to the integration of BDSM and life. We have a similar tendency towards especially meditative and cerebral practices, a similar revulsion for performative frippery, and a similar commitment to pain in its hardest, purest, most elegant forms. So, while we have never defined our relationship as any kind of play partnership, nor would we, when we party together we also beat each other up in the way that is pretty second-nature to kinksters who share similar interests as well as a deep intimacy as friends. Cassia, Charlie and I have gone to town on Ivan’s famously indestructable ass in the Berghain darkroom numerous times.
It wasn't too long after the three of us met that I saw them both on play on film. They were the subjects of the exquisite documentary Love Hard, made by another friend, wonderful artist fellow ecstatic, Gala Vanting, in 2013. This film comprised of a series of documentary portraits of BDSM partnerships, as well as a series of five other shorts of BDSM scenes between the films subjects. Ivan and Charlie’s scene is astonishingly beautiful- it was shot in the depths of the National Park south of Sydney, and features Ivan taking a brutal and artful beating from Charlie. She comes for him with her hands, her boots, supple branches and finally, most impressively, a wire-bristled brush which which she scourges his torso. He’s weeping by the end of it, on his knees in the dirt, Charlie’s Blundstone making repeated contact with his ribs. There’s no sound except for that of their syncopated breathing, the hum of the bush around them. A few minutes in, we hear a voice which we recognise to be Charlie's. The scene plays out, and becomes progressively more brutal and intense, as we listen to Charlie recite a letter that Ivan wrote her. In this incredibly tender, raw and poetically beautiful text, Ivan draws us a map of his own experience as a Masochist, the spiritual and somatic nature of pain, and of his loving submission to Charlie . He writes about what the space of masochism gives to him, how it transforms, holds and heals him in ways that I deeply related to. It's an extraordinary declaration to Charlie, the love of his life and the agent of his obliteration. It's also a a text that has been percolated through the savaged flesh of a Foucauldian scholar whose erudition and clarity regarding the dialectical tension between power, punishment and desire is pretty impressive. The whole thing is an incredible piece of art. I knew when I saw it I had found kin in the two of them. It confused the hell out of Marina Abramovic when I showed it to her, but I'll get onto that story later.
Speaking of Ivan’s ribs, I believe they are still faintly scarred from especially vicious claw marks that I gave him on the dance floor once. One of my own cardinal fetishes and greatest sources of physical pleasure in this life is all those things that might be placed under the broad umbrella of rough play: in other words, biting, scratching, clawing, pinching, punching, wrestling; anything that can be done with your bare hands and brute strength. In this, like most things, I’m a Switch, who enjoys the moebius flow of playing with other Switches. On of my favourite times and places to indulge this is on a crowded, sweaty dancefloor while just-high-enough on just the right cut of Ketamine and MDMA. Cassia I share this particular passion and playing in this way has galvanised our own entwinement as life partners. This is the meaning and origin of the tattoos that sealed our marriage vows: they are based on a Roman bas relief of a Maenad and Satyr. We also have numerous polymorphously kinky friends who are also very fine with a long, munted eccy hug turning spontaneously turning into a brutal rending of flesh. Ivan is a reigning champion among them. The marks on Ivan’s ribs are from one of many times I’ve savagely clawed the living shit out of him- I remember vividly the time I gave him those marks. Specifically, I remember our mutual favourite Boris was playing, and we were in our usual spot near the front left hand speaker between the booth and the darkroom. I remember grabbing him and sinking my nails into that most succulent bit of skin directly between the armpit and the waist. This time I took hold of him with such a swell of strength and intensity, buoyed along by a particularly robust drop in the music, that Ivan, who is the most seasoned pain-pig I've ever met, was taken aback. He was repelled out of my grasp involuntarily, and cast a look at me that was an incredible convergence of suprise, pain, and absolute, shattering delight. It's a look I'll never forget. I danced with his blood under my fingernails for the rest of what would end up being a 28 hour shift on the dancefloor (which was about average for us, at that time). Charlie took great relish in sending me pictures of his shredded torso the next morning.