Here’s the description by the organizers, Norbert Pape and Austin Gross:
We are putting together a five-day course on BDSM. Every day there will be workshops and lectures, and every evening discussion and screenings. The workshops will cover a range of practices and the lectures will give a good basic understanding of the history of these practices and of the thought that has been devoted to them.
BDSM practices are first and foremost forms of consensual play hinging on power exchange. Of the techniques we’ll introduce, some operate more on a bodily/sensorial/tactile level (sensory deprivation, flogging, wax-play, rough play, play fight and similar), while others develop scenes, and make complex usages of space, theatricality, costumes, props, rules, and scripts (role play, dominance and submission, bondage, strip-tease). Putting these techniques and principles into play will mean refining sexual fantasies and characters, exploring the erotic potential of situations based on power relations in agreement, activity, passivity, visibility, invisibility, distance, and proximity.
BDSM practices played a major role in the thought of emancipation during the enlightenment and in the twentieth century, which we want to reactivate. Much of the theoretical work will aim at a kind of time-travel. In particular, we’ll go in depth into the origins of erotic bondage in Japan, and into the debates in 20th century French theory over the work of Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
Our approach to these ideologies, and to the practices themselves, will be one of curiosity, sympathy, and analysis, rather than of straightforward affirmation or personal affinity. The aim is to provide a safe environment in which basic techniques can be (re)investigated and, inebriated by theory, artworks, and historical materials.
We want this workshop to be interesting both to people who already engage in these practices, and to people who have never engaged in them. A desire for knowledge -- not a cold intellect, but lively sympathy and curiosity -- is enough to participate. It could be a very generative question: how is knowledge about an erotic practice relevant to people who don’t practice it in their intimacy? What makes such knowledge desirable? On what hypothesis, in what construction? The theory of natural polymorphousness is possibly the least interesting of such constructions, most of which are still to be invented.
The imagination is paramount for these practices, and for thinking about sexuality in general. Therefore, the site for this course couldn't be better: a former monastery on the edge of the woods near the Champagne region in the north of France. Reimagining the building with its cellars, attics, kitchens, refectory, chapel and surroundings will offer a surface for fantasy.
Rough plan: 5 days, 7 or more hours a day
Accommodation: 18€ per night (to PAF) plus a 12€ one-year PAF membership
Food is not included – there will not be chefs, so the teachers and students will just figure it out collectively (in the case of the BDSM course, part of the shopping will be done in advance.)
Teaching fee: 70€ total to the teachers
Location: Performing Arts Forum in Saint Erme, France
Places: limited to 20 participants per course. These will simply be the first twenty people to reserve, so if you want to come, reserve as soon as you can.
Make reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions about the BDSM course, you can get in touch with the instructors at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; and for inquiries about “night lessons” generally (if you want to organize one, for example!), email email@example.com
Norbert Pape works in the field of dance, performance and bodywork. Challenging the private/public distinction, curious about the tension between fantasy and the materiality of the body and interrogating power relations implicit in performance and performance-like situations – but also quite simply enjoying himself – he has also engaged in sex work and different sexual practices. His interest lies more in imaginative play and questioning the types of sociality that sexual practice produce than in the mastery of specific techniques.
Austin Gross is an independent researcher who works on psychoanalysis and ontology. He has been trying to reconstruct the question of the realization of desire in the history of libertinism, psychoanalysis, and militant thought.