BDSM translated into the natural world
The leather and latex aspects of BDSM have gained serious ground over the last few years, breaking taboos through entering the mainstream while also becoming a growing influence on fashion. But there’s so much more to fetishism, sexuality, consent and power dynamics than a goth aesthetic or the exchange of power between individuals.
Sacred Sadism is the art practice of Genevieve Belleveau and Themba Alleyne, who take the core elements of BDSM and translate them into the natural world, creating eco-fetishist experiences and sex toys inspired by Mother Nature herself. The project began back in 2014 but took its current form in 2017 after Belleveau’s partner, Alleyne, officially joined it. Besides the objects they make, their practice also expresses its core concepts through photography, video and performance, with the aim to broaden people’s horizons when it comes to topics around sex and power. They look at the relationships that humans have with their natural environment and at the exchanges between participants of that world, focusing on a reality beyond the human perspective. Ultimately, Sacred Sadism try and give people the opportunity to create their own worlds and feel free to play—something that we all too often forget to do.
What does “urgency” mean to you?
Belleveau: Urgency is very related to humans and our life span; it’s a human-centric view on things. What’s urgent to us is not necessarily urgent to many other timelines that are happening around us and at any given time. “Urgency” is a human construct of things that we need to get done. We can think of other beings having their own urgencies too, like a plant that has its urgent need to metabolize, photosynthesize and pollinate.
The current state of the world makes us feel overwhelmed. How does your practice deal with that feeling?
Alleyne: One of the biggest things we, and BDSM as a practice, encourage people to do is to be honest. I think so much interpersonal strife comes from the inability to feel safe, to be honest. We [Sacred Sadism] can give people tools and stimulate the fostering of a community, in which it’s okay to share what your truth is with others and hear their truths too, no matter whether those truths align with yours or not. Merely holding that space for others and their truth can help with anxiety.
Belleveau: Our project doesn’t necessarily tell people to do BDSM in one way or another. We just show others that they can create their own world; it’s a world-building exercise. It’s very easy to get caught up in the news of the day, but we want to think that in some ways we encourage people to create the worlds, kinships and communities that they need. Of course, don’t look past all the fucking terrible things that are happening in the world. Yet, somehow try and think beyond them, and find out what different kinds of future(s) could be possible. This is one way that we think our work can be really effective.
We’re torn between chaos and hope. Do you think hope can arise from chaos?
Belleveau: Chao is like the primordial ooze, the thing that allows new evolutionary jumps to happen; it’s just life.
Alleyne: I think it depends on your perspective. You can look at something and think it’s complete chaos, but from another perspective, this is what’s supposed to be happening. The current state of the world can be distressing, but in reality, if you look at it from a broader perspective, you can see that the Earth is balancing itself. Eventually, it’s going to come back to equilibrium; the planet has always done that.
Could you elaborate more on the relationship between your art practice and fetishism?
Belleveau: A lot of what we do is about taking traditional BDSM tools or practices and translating them into an eco-fetishist world. To us, eco-fetishism is a fetishization of the ecology of nature or the ecology of plants. So, for the fantasy we made [for the URGENT issue], we were imagining ourselves as these sort of hybrid, anthropomorphized beings that are able to lactate rubber, which—in its purest form—comes from trees. We enjoy different fetishes together as a couple and then find ways to translate those into a plant-BDSM world that might help people make connections to larger ideas. Like this idea of milk: I don’t have a kid, but I can still produce milk and in a way create food out of my living body. Trees do the same thing with rubber, which is an industrial material that’s so widespread and used so massively throughout the world. It’s interesting to find these corollaries within our own bodies and within plant bodies on a macro and micro level. It’s like looking at our own little machines of desire and everything that we can create within ourselves.
Alleyne: Ideally, this will expand people’s personal experiences and allow them to look out into a wider experience, because it’s a reminder of [inherent] interconnectedness. This is perhaps something we’re always thinking about when we share interpersonal, sexual and fantasy experiences.