Sunday can be an odd day. A cold Sunday morning at Rogue was quickly warmed up by the wonderful energy facilitated by Aiko Hosten, Alicia and our very own Aiden. Body modification in all its many forms, brings people from all over the world together over their shared interest in the weird and wonderful. Aiko has traveled the world learning and sharing his experiences as a body piercer, suspension practitioner, shibari rigger and podcast host. It was an honor to hang out (pun intended) with Aiko and chat about their experiences on both sides of the pointy end.
Gemma: Tell us your origin story Aiko
Aiko: I have always been interested in piercing and tattooing since I was younger. I was getting tattooed and pierced a few times before I applied for an apprenticeship at the studio I’m working at now. I never got the apprenticeship but I started piercing at home and then a local studio where I was living was looking for a piercer. I applied for it, and they offered me an apprenticeship which was more like, “here’s a needle, there’s a customer, do your thing.”
It was a biker shop, so there were a few bikers that did some piercings back in the day, which helped me in the beginning, but was not really an apprenticeship. So I started educating myself through BMXnet, APP etc. I was 22, so that’s about eight years ago. I worked there for almost a year and then quit the job cuz it was too much stress working for a biker.
That was a gap of a year or two until I found some people to start our own studio. After a few months, the tattooer and the other piercer quit. So I took the studio on myself with my best friend and ran the studio for almost three years right before the pandemic hit. We pulled the plug because a lot of renovations needed to be done and it was not really worth staying there for me.
Right before the pandemic hit, I switched to another studio where I was piercing. Then I broke my foot so I was stuck at home for two or three weeks. But the good thing was, I was still working part-time at a supermarket so I still had money coming in monthly and I had to work two to three days in the supermarket, which kept me sane.
G: When did you first get into suspension?
A: My first memory of seeing a picture of suspension was in the library when I was passing through books of ancient history, African culture, North American culture and everything. I think it was one of the National Geographic books about the Sun Dance ritual. So that triggered me when I was young and I always wanted to know more about it. I researched more, got on BME back in the day. I start scrolling there, clicking around ‘Are you allowed to be here? Are you 18? Definitely. Yes.’
And then it wasn’t until I was like 21/22 when I got the opportunity to suspend myself. It was with Indy Voet, a piercer who is now a hand-poke tattoo artists and Kevin Garcia who now works at Contraseptik
They did my first suspension and it wasn’t bad, but it was not what I was expecting it to be. Maybe it was just location wise that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more of a ritual and this was more like, ‘Hey, let’s have fun, just being friends together figuring it out’ which is perfectly fine and I can do that now. But for my first time, I was more hoping for a ritual experience.
It took about another year until I got the opportunity to be suspended by Beto and Eugenia together with the Pink Flamingo Crew, and that blew my mind. To me, that time feels more like a first experience than my actual first time.
G: What made the experience so much better with Pink Flamingo Fly?
A: It all started with the location. it was a squat somewhere in Brussels, it looked like an old ruin. The garden was so filled with plants and nature,it was so beautiful. It was great weather and it was sort of an outside experience because the building was like ruins.
The connection I had with Beto and Eugenia at that time, helping me suspend it was mind blowing to me. It gave me more of an outer body experience, more the thing that I wanted to experience for my first time.
G: How did you get started as a suspension facilitator?
A: I suspended a few times with the Flamingo crew and it triggered me to learn more about it. I just started talking with a few practitioners in Belgium including a tattoo artist friend of mine and some other practitioners in the world. At first I just did some suspensions with a friend of mine who used to do suspensions, who taught me the basics of how to prep the skin, how to find a great spot and everything. Then I did some seminars at BMXnet, went to some conferences and that’s how I rolled into it.
G: What do you enjoy about facilitating body suspension for people?
A: For me, it’s a look in the eyes. When you suspend someone or help someone suspend, you can see the light change in their eyes. It’s a magical feeling. You can just feel the energy. You put a lot of energy into that person to help them. But you get so much love and connection back and that’s what I love about it. It is amazing to do. I can say the best thing to do in the world for me. I love piercing, don’t get me wrong, I would never stop piercing. But suspension that little more.
G: I can really see that connection between the two worlds of body piercing and body suspension. For me and for a lot of piercers I speak with, our favorite part of the job is after you’ve done the piercing and that client looks in the mirror and they’re like “fuck yeah, I did that scary thing just for me.” And you’ve helped facilitate that. I guess with suspension, it’s a bit like that on a bigger scale.
A: Yeah because it’s guiding them to get through the pain, to get over the fear. The fear is understandable especially the first time you do something. Guiding them to that next level is amazing.
G: Can you tell us about some highlights from your suspension journey?
A: There are a few. A top one for sure is the first time I met Charlyne. I went to “Hang You” in Galicia organized by Alex Pereiro, I was in Madrid and I got on the plane by myself to fly to Galicia.Charlyne was on the same plane and she already spotted me. I was going to meet up with some friends to take a cab together and I was waiting outside. Charlyne walked up to me and she was like, “Hey, are you going to the Suscon (suspension conference)? And I nervously said yeah, why? I knew who she was, but I didn’t think she knew me but she asked to share a ride. We got a big cab for six of us, me and Charlyne were already talking and she asked if I wanted to do a spinning beam with her. I’d never done it, but sure. And just the connection me and Charlyne made there and during our first suspension together was, it was like brother and sister connecting together. That was one of the best experiences I’ve had during a suspension myself.
The second top time is also with Charlyne. Well, most of them are involved with Charlyne actually. It was my first Suspension Sunday, like a real small event, I organised because Charlyne was coming to visit. It was at a local club that hosted BDSM parties, and because of that – I was able to rent it to do suspenion there. It was just so fun doing that, organizing that myself and that started me doing it more and more.
Another top experience was doing a suspension here in Belgium, it was at a huge squat. They had a skate pool and everything built inside. Me, Joan and Charlene went there, and did a few amazing suspensions there. It was fucking cold there, but it was so warm at the same time. All the people living there came to check it out.and some even suspended for the first time. It was amazing to just be able to do that.
Of course the Pirate Piercing suspension hangout was a great time. My boss had bought an old piece of land, a big wooded area, and we did a suspension there. We had a few first timers there. It was nice to be hanging out, drinking, chilling, placing hooks, making mistakes, doing stupid shit.
G: Can you tell us about some of your experiences traveling and volunteering?
A: The first traveling I did was a Galicia convention, which was actually right in between Covid lockdowns. I volunteered at the APP convention in Las Vegas. I’ve been over to the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. I’m trying to travel way more cuz I’m tired of just staying in Belgium. I love Belgium, but traveling is so much more fun. Meeting a lot of people and suspension gives me the opportunity to do it.
G: What’s the body modification scene like in Belgium compared to other places you’ve visited?
A: Honestly, we’re a little behind. Quality jewelry isn’t that big in Belgium or the Netherlands compared to places like the UK, US or Canada. I was one of the founders of the APP Benelux, which for personal reasons I’m not involved anymore. I still think quality jewelry should be promoted a little bit more.In Belgium, I think there are like four or five studios that really promote quality jewelry. There are a lot of studios that are working up their standards.
Tattooing is big in Belgium, especially in Antwerp. It’s really huge. A lot of quality tattooers. There’s a lot of other people doing it safely.
G: I’d love to talk about your suspension performances and events.
A: I rolled into it. A friend of mine here in Antwerp is really big in the BDSM community and he also does some suspensions within BDSM, more hook play and needle play. He was talking to me one day about trying to promote health and safety in the BDSM community and I said if you ever need somebody to talk about hygiene when it comes to blood play/piercing etc, I’m totally up to that. A few weeks later he messaged me about doing a performance.
I like being on a stage so we worked something out. A friend of mine helped and we did the first performance where she was suspended in a scorpion position and then we dropped her to a two point back placement, just to show the possibilities. The day after, they got sick so I had to do something by myself. I pierced myself on stage, did everything safely by myself and it just rolled from there.
Now, they keep asking me to come back to do some small performances, which is perfectly fine. I love doing it, it’s fun. I have an excuse to suspend myself. With the performances, I’m not good at shocking people. So I try to do what I would do for somebody in a sort of ritual setting. I’m not gonna say it’s a ritual that I do, but I just try to focus on the suspension and not on the pain and the hooks, which is always involved but it’s not the main attention.
G: So it’s not performative, it’s not for the shock value, it’s just like sharing an experience with a room of people. In a BDSM club.
A: I love the audience but I’m not really involved with the BDSM scene really. But the piercing world, the suspension world, a lot of it became what it is now because of the BDSM world.
G: Any upcoming plans for 2023?
A: Charlyne is coming back in May and we’re doing a suspension Sunday here in Antwerp. I have a lot of travel plans. I’m going to Italy for SusCon as a guest. Then after that there’s APP then I’m going to Oslo. I hope to go back to Croatia to suspend above the sea again, but we’ll have to see. Travel is expensive. I also want to go back to Canada to do some suspensions because I’ve been there in the past. to meet up with Alicia but I want to go back and do suspensions there as well. We’re looking for a location, looking for people who wanted to help, cuz traveling there with all the gear sucks.