WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT – Luna Duran regularly practises hook suspension – where she is hoisted up into the air by hooks pierced beneath her skin.
A woman with 33 body piercings has told how she has replaced her love of skin jewellery with being hoisted up from metal hooks punctured into the flesh – after suffering a “life-changing” car accident.
Fascinated by the sight of sharp objects entering her skin since childhood, Luna Duran, 35, from Berlin, Germany, embraced hook suspension following a car crash that resulted in her breaking over 10 bones, as a means of “taking control” of her own body.
Insisting that suspending – which has been a practice of Native Americans for hundreds of years – is a “beautiful art” and far from the erotic masochism that it is often portrayed as, Luna explained: “I never feel so alive as when I’m suspended above the ground, with nothing but my skin holding me up.”
She continued: “After the accident, I realised how lucky I was to be alive and I wanted to find some kind of outlet to express that.
“And suspending was perfect. It allows you to be fully in control of your own body and to explore your psyche as you are so focused in the moment itself.
“When I am up there, I feel so beautiful. Not in a sexy way, but far more in a deep and spiritual way.”
Luna, who is married to fellow body modification professional Tim Gerdes, 34, with whom she runs a piercing business, was drawn to needles and skin pricking from an early age.
“As long as I can remember, I have always liked the feel of sharp things beneath my skin,” she said.
“At around the age of seven or eight I started experimenting with putting needles and thread beneath the skin on the palm of my hands and making little patterns and designs.”
She continued: “Then at school I would staple my fingers together, which all the other kids would be grossed out by, but to me was fascinating – the way you could have that kind of power over your body.”
Careful to keep her unusual hobby a secret from her parents, who divorced when she was 11, Luna, who grew up in Bolivia with her mum, nurtured her enthusiasm for flesh puncturing in the privacy of her bedroom, never going far enough with her pinpricks to leave a lasting mark.
That changed, though, when aged 15 she saw an image of the famous performance artist Fakir Musafar, who died aged 87 in 2018, hanging from two metal hooks inserted into the skin on his chest.
“Everything changed at that moment,” Luna recalled, “and I knew that this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Without knowing anyone in Bolivia who could help her achieve her dream of hook suspending, however, the teenage Luna had to content herself with looking at body modification images on the internet, discovering that there existed a whole community of people around the world who were also involved in the unusual practice.
She explained: “It was the really early days of the internet, but I found these sites – which looking back were really the first social networks – where people from all parts of the globe would share pictures of themselves doing things like hook suspending.”
She added: “And it made me realise that it wasn’t just me that had this weird impulse – there were others like me.”
Getting her first piercing in her tongue a month after seeing the Musafar picture, Luna went on to have 33 piercings in the following three years, in her ears, nose, nipples and navel, and later moved to Richmond, Virginia in the USA where she gained a licence in 2010 to practise body piercing herself, a skill from which she made her living.
But she never forgot about those striking suspension photographs that she used to look at as a teenager.
“It was always an aim and I often had the opportunity to try it with people who I met professionally in the body modification community,” she continued.
“It didn’t feel the right time though, I didn’t feel ready.”
However, in July 2010 Luna was very nearly killed when a car she was travelling in, from North Carolina to Virginia, with friends drove off the road and plunged into a ravine, flipping three times.
Remembering the terrible accident, which left her with a shattered hip, a punctured lung and her face gashed down to the skull, Luna explained: “It was awful and we were very lucky to walk away alive.
“It made me realise that life is precious, so after that I became determined to get on and do the things I really wanted to do.”
A year on, in August 2011, she decided to go for it, suspending eight feet into the air for the first time at a body suspension gathering in Boston, Massachusetts – a “magical and powerful” experience, during which she says she regained her sense of smell that had been lost after the accident.
“I was definitely nervous beforehand as, of course, with something like this there are risks,” said Luna, who suspended from two hooks inserted in the skin below her shoulder blades.
“But it was incredible. All of the pain that you get at the beginning from when they put the hooks in just vanishes and you feel like you are floating in the air like a particle of dust.”
Now Luna – who moved to Berlin two years ago after meeting Tim, who is German, at a piercing conference in 2014 and marrying him in 2016 – has suspended over 20 times at various locations around the world, including Iceland, Spain and Mexico.
While Tim has only suspended twice, he fully supports Luna in her love of the practice and helps to pierce her skin for the insertion of the hooks before a suspension, a process that can require up to 10 people for ensuring safety and cleanliness.
Crowds of up to 300 people have watched Luna being suspended at performances she puts on – like her hero Fakir Musafar – in theatres, nightclubs and music venues, where she encourages audiences to learn about the practice, which she says is often “sensationalised” and wrongly viewed as a form of sadomasochism.
“People think that there is something erotic to it, that I get off on the pain,” she said.
She continued: “But I actually really do not like pain at all. I usually explain it to people by comparing it to marathon running.
“A marathon runner is in far more pain than I am when I suspend, but you don’t ask them if they enjoy the painful element of it, do you?”
Instead, keen to promote the practice as an art, Luna insists that both the feeling and images of people suspended by hooks are beautiful things to behold.
She added: “If people can get over the initial shock of it, the fact that you have a sharp object under your skin, then they can really start to appreciate the beauty of it.
“I’d say to anyone if they have even the smallest amount of interest – go out and try it or watch a performance, because you might discover, like I have done, something that can totally change your life.”
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