Vice

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Article translated from German. view the original article here

By Johanna Senn

"Your body is a temple." A mantra that has made the fitness industry its own. Bonnie Bakeneko is non-binary , artist and would probably deny this statement vehemently.

In June, Bonnie, whose pronoun "he" or the English "they / them" is, released a video in which he eats his own nipples . The performance is called "Your Body is not a Temple." The seven-minute video shows Bonnie at the beginning, as he strokes his body. His hands are in red gloves with long, glued nails. A cheek spreader directly releases the look in his mouth. The whole thing has something oppressive.

When his voice says, "I came into puberty relatively late, at the age of 14," it is redeeming. He continues: "Because I was anorexic at that time , my body did not develop properly and I always hated my breasts and nipples."

His hand reaches for a plate. Under a bell jar are two small fleshy knobs - it's Bonnie's nipples. They are dark red, brownish and almost blue in certain places. Gently he puts a fork in the nipple, she leads to her mouth and bites seemingly with relish. Over the next few minutes you can see how he gets his nipples incorporated.

We talked to Bonnie, who lives back in the countryside in the East of England, on Skype.

VICE: You had your own nipples removed and eaten. How so? 
Bonnie Bakeneko: I've had body dysmorphia since I was little. I have never seen my body as a whole, but as a collection of parts that have no relation to each other. Sometimes, because of body dysmorphia, I'm fixated on one body part and then again on another. But I always hated my nipples. As I got older, the control of female nipples came along. For example, that women are not allowed to show their nipples on Facebook, but men are. Especially because I am non-binary, my nipples do not feel like a woman's. They are rather trans nipples. I never wanted to be a mother, and the idea of nursing a baby is totally strange. So I got it removed.

How did that go? 

First I went to a cosmetic surgeon, but he did not want to. So I came in contact with body mod artists . Many people in the scene thought it was not possible to remove female nipples as the weight of the breast tissue could rupture the scars. I've found someone who has done this once with a woman with smaller breasts. After I said that I really care about scars, the person agreed. Of course I can not say who that was. The laws in the UK are very strict in this regard. Just recently, a body mod artist ended up in jail . Also, because he had someone on request removed the nipples.


Why did you decide to eat your nipples?
First I wanted to put it in, like a formaldehyde drug. But I found that somehow disgusting. Also, the thought that my nipples would survive me or someone would inherit, I found oblique. I wanted to keep it in a transformative way. But not as they were now. Eating them seemed to me the best solution.

A part of you that you will always carry with you. 
Exactly, I'll take her back to myself. I do not blame him for all the problems I have with my body. He's only doing his best to keep me alive. Nevertheless, I did not want my nipples. I think I almost looked for a way to make it right. By having them with me, we are one again, but not the same as we were before.

Not blaming your body for how you feel is a nice thought. 
Eating my nipples was a healing process for me. My aunt said that I should hold a funeral for the nipples. But I thought that was stupid, because they were not dead, they just were not there anymore. She said I should not eat her, because that's why I would get a lot of hate. But the whole thing was about not giving in to social expectations. To do something so that I do not get any hatred for it would have nullified the whole point.

Did you feel liberated after eating them? 
I was like on a high. I was very pleased. One of my biggest fears was eating them and getting sick. I am also vegan and have not eaten meat for a long time. I thought about cooking them, but then they changed shape and color - I did not like that. So I ate it raw. As it turns out, it felt totally natural.

In the performance, it looks like you enjoy it. 
I do! Having so much control over yourself is very enjoyable. For me, the nipples were also associated with many traumas from the past and bad sexual experiences. It was beautiful to let this pain go. The next day, I mentally got to a very bad place. Not because of what I did, but because of all the things that had happened to me that I had to face.

It is very difficult to recover from trauma. 
Yes, I also have a dissociative and multiple personality disorder. Some of the other personalities identified themselves as cis-women and were very unhappy about what I had done. So I had to face them the day after. There was a personality who found that particularly bad and was acting totally crazy. The other personalities have silenced her, from then on I heard nothing from the voice. It was like one last piece of self-hating that got loud again and then died. The whole experience was very surreal.

It seems you are just yourself.
I am at a point in my life where I can not help myself. I had a time when it bothered me what other people thought. But I do not like adapting to other people anymore. I mean, I got a lot of hatred for the action. But there have also been many people who wrote me a message explaining how much it helped them. I do not care about the shit comments because I'm not part of the world these people live in.

How did you find out who you are? 
With a dissociative disorder, it's really hard to remember; what belongs to me and what not? I was ketamine addict. That helped me to understand. I think if you are not neurotypical, ketamine will have a different effect on you. Most humans make Ketamine foggy, but I've been able to access parts of my brain that I could not otherwise reach. I was a working addict; went to work and into training while I was constantly high. But that also got me in touch with my own mortality and I had to face a lot of my addictions. What has helped me the most is Exposure Therapy. So to face the things that you are afraid of.

Was the action about making your body your own? 
Yes, that's what the whole thing was about: reconciling body-recovery, body-autonomy, and the relationship to my body. This was especially difficult because of the body dysmorphism. I can never look in a mirror and be OK with what I see. Often what I see is not even human. I do not think, "I look ugly." But I do not know exactly what I'm looking at. I appear to myself then as a large mass of meat. It's also about having the freedom to adjust the body to feel more like your own.

What does it mean for you to own your body? 
To realize how I think about things, because I see them myself or because those views have been instilled in me. Find out what you think is good for yourself. Before I had my nipples removed, I made a pros and cons list. All Kontras had nothing to do with what other people might think. But I want to do what I like. I do not want to live for other people.

You break the norm, it scares people. 
That's OK, they do not have to like it. I am here for the people who understand it. Not for the others.

Why was this kind of gender suspension important to you? 
It is unbelievable how much women's nipples are sexualised and at the same time demonized. Men and women - both have nipples, but women, for example, are not allowed to walk upstairs without being in public. I've never had a sexual relationship with my breasts or my nipples, so I wanted to take that out of the equation.

Why is the freedom of sexual expression so important? 
It's hard to be non-binary and look as feminine as me. But I can not help it. I could cut all my hair off and dress differently, but then I would not be myself. If I were a man, I would run right around. After being a woman for most of my life, I want people to know that's not what I am. But I want to do it my own way. So I do not cut my hair, so I look more masculine. It should not be a non-binary thing to look androgynous or neutral.

For the people who do not know you, what kind of art do you do? 
My art is about trauma processing. For example, the cheek spreaders: I had enamel hypoplasia as a child. When I ate sweets, it immediately attacked my enamel. One of my teeth is not real, that's why I was always afraid to show my teeth. That's why I wanted to do something that exposes that. The trauma works with me, not against me. I try to settle the relationship with my body.

What do you have to do with art? 
It makes me feel perfect and happy. Especially in the current political climate, which is so bleak, I want to create something that has nothing to do with it. A safe place for other people. I also create this place for myself. It is my little island and all who want to come are welcome.

Your art is often dark and scary. What fascinates you about it? 
This is a safe place for me. I have always felt safe in the dark. It's a powerful place for me. It's not about shocking me.

What's the biggest compliment you got for your art? 
I love it when people say they have never seen anything like it. I try to explain a feeling without words, and when I realize that someone understood it, I did my job. Anytime someone says that my art helps them. That's one of the biggest compliments for me.

I am the beast I worship

I hit puberty relatively late at the age of 14. Due to being anorexic at the time I didn’t develop properly and always hated my breasts and nipples. The internet wasn’t readily available then and I didn’t know anything about mammary glands, that I would be able to feel them under the skin or that they would be hard. I spent the longest time thinking I had cancer or that there was something very very wrong with me. This alongside body dysmorphia and depersonalisation left me with a very estranged relationship with my physical form.

As I grew older and started to understand more about my gender I realised I was non-binary. It started to feel increasingly unfair that my ‘female’ nipples were sexualised along side being demonised. I have never felt sexually or emotionally connected to that part of my body and I did not ever plan on becoming a mother. I didn’t like the way they looked or felt, I couldn’t find a reason for having them. This led me to search out someone who would surgically remove them for me. After researching and talking to both plastic surgeons and body modifiers I chose a body modifier who agreed to do it for me. Plastic surgeons had refused me and I felt that the body modification expert I went to was the absolute right person.

I spent a lot of time before hand making sure this was the absolute right thing. I mentally counted the reasons for and against and all the reason against were to do with what other people would think. You will never reach self acceptance if you live your life appeasing other people, you will never truly become your self. You have to do what is right by you and only you can decide what that is.

I thought a lot after having my nipples removed about what I wanted to do with them. I considered preserving them in some way, be that through tanning, wet preserve like formaldehyde or setting them in resin. Now of these really made sense to me. One of my issues with them was always that I didn't like the way they looked so I didn't want to them have them preserved like that forever. I also found the idea that they may essentially outlive me and become the property of another person really unsettling. I wanted to own them completely but in a transformative way where we both moved on together as one but changed. This is why I decided to eat them.

I am a vegan and haven't eaten meat in years. This I found interesting when people displayed disgust at the idea of me eating them. it wasn't harvested off an unwilling party, there was no pain or suffering, I knew exactly where they had been and what they had been through. We had been together my whole life. Ethically you cant do better then eating your own meat.

I never disliked the taste of meat, in fact I loved the taste of it but not the morality. I didn't feel any disgust about the idea of eating them except when considering cooing them which is why I decided to keep them raw. I just had a slight fear that I would become instinctively repulsed when I tried and maybe my body would reject it. In fact they tasted amazing, the closest thing I could use as an example of the taste would be rare steak. It just felt very natural and normal, it wasn't weird at all.

I feel honestly very proud of myself for doing this and happy with my choices and how I went about it. Body autonomy to this extreme has been so liberating and just a fuck you in the face of societal standards. I feel like I am my own self made animal and I love that animal. I am the beast I worship.

Your body is not a temple

At seventeen, I started to starve myself,
I thought that love was a kind of emptiness.
And at least I understood then the hunger I felt,
and I didn’t have to call it loneliness
— Hunger, Florence and the machine

I hit puberty relatively late at the age of 14. Due to being anorexic at the time I didn’t develop properly and always hated my breasts and nipples. The internet wasn’t readily available then and I didn’t know anything about mammary glands, that I would be able to feel them under the skin or that they would be hard. I spent the longest time thinking I had cancer or that there was something very very wrong with me. This alongside body dysmorphia and depersonalisation left me with a very estranged relationship with my physical form.

When i was 18 I had a nervous breakdown. During then I discovered that hell is a place inside your head and little scared me after. I used to have a huge phobia of needles but this completely vanished and I started to modify my body. I found this greatly helped my dysphoria and every modification made served as a reality check point when dissociation was over powering.

Listen to me, your body is not a temple.
Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood.
You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.
— Beau Taplin
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As I grow older and started to understand more about my gender I realised I was non-binary. It started to feel increasingly unfair that my ‘female’ nipples were sexualised along side being demonised. I have never felt sexually or emotionally connected to that part of my body and I did not ever plan on becoming a mother. I didn’t like the way they looked or felt, I couldn’t find a reason for having them. This led me to search out someone who would surgically remove them for me. After researching and talking to both plastic surgeons and body modifiers I contacted Samppa who agreed to do it for me.

I spent a lot of time before hand making sure this was the absolute right thing. I mentally counted the reasons for and against and all the reason against were to do with what other people would think. You will never reach self acceptance if you live your life appeasing other people, you will never truly become your self. You have to do what is right by you and only you can decide what that is.

The surgery was painless and quite simple, taking around two hours in total. At one point I looked down when one nipple had been removed and saw the fat underneath like segments of an orange. All that fear I had growing up, the fear of what was in there under the skin, vanished. The severed nipple looked instantly dead and even more alien. It loses all form when removed and is just a lump of cold flesh. It was a wonder something so simple could make the world of difference.

life since my nullification has been so much more full of body positivity, like I shed two parasites. My breasts are not sexual objects and they are also not there to feed children. I feel that by nullifying them this has taken both those things away. I enjoy them now aesthetically, I finally like the way they look. My body is now for me and not for other people.

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When I am completely healed I will have a cover up done on both tattoos. I have kept the nipples and at some point in the the future will use them in an artwork (i have as of yet to decide how and they are currently residing in my freezer). later in life I want to have full top surgery but for now I am enjoying living life this way. Your body can be a journey of experiences, you don’t need to have a finite form. What matters is you live in as full a way as possible away from fear and shame.

and I said to my body softly-
I want to be your friend.
It took a long breath and replied -
I have been waiting my whole life for this.
— Nayyirah Waheed

Ruby Wolfe

Beautiful artwork by Ruby Wolfe based on my self portrait 'Man is the most Insane species'

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My inspiration for this was was from the Hubert Reeves quote-

Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping

I wanted to portray nature and man as a God that is both nurturing and destroying itself in unison whilst remaining unaware of what it is doing. The floral nasal cannula is nature growing and feeding life to itself, the nose bleed and the blood on the claws is the destruction from within coming outside of itself while the eyes remain blind to what it does.

Torture Garden March Ball

I had the great honor of being asked to put on a performance/show at Torture Gardens March Ball at Electorwerkz. Torture Garden has always been something I've held in high regard in terms of boundary pushing fetish nights combined with art performance. When I was thinking of what i wanted to do I knew I wanted to make it special and something to be remembered. 

I decided to base the look of the models bodies and movements on Butoh whilst all wearing my work on their heads and faces. This gave them a look of unison whilst each Bakeneko Designs piece worn was completely unique. Each model took to the stage individually then came back on together and stood at each side. Virgin X then came on and 'blessed' what was about to happen in the second act.
I come on stage leading Mike by a ribbon wrapped around two embellished cheeks spears. I throw him onto the stage, kick his legs out from under him them aggressively pull out the spears. He then drops to the stage as if dead. For the finale I have 'blood' pumped through tubes in my outfit causing it to 'bleed'. the show ends with me in a crucifixion pose before the music ends, lights drop and everyone exits the stage leaving Mikes body on until last.

I wanted each model to act in a way that was both sexual and un-nerving. The idea was not to turn on the audience but to disturb them, make them feel uncomfortable. From a personal point of view the idea of being on stage was terrifying so I wanted to channel that fear and turn it against the audience. I wanted to be feared rather then I be the one that fears them. At the same time I wanted the show to be visually enticing and exciting to watch. Like nothing that has been seen before.

I want to give a huge thank you to David for inviting me to make this show, to all my amazing models and my partner Sam for being my rock whilst I was preparing for this. The whole experience was like a dream come true and I have still yet to come down from the thrill of it.
 

Models (in order of apperance)-

Sam Costello
Benedict Douglas Stewardson/Rodent DeCay
Ruby Wole
Kris Canavan and Talli Lyndsey
Anton Jones
Drew Beckett
Aiden Moore
Virgin Xtravaganzah
Mike Shanti
Bonnie Bakeneko

Little bird

Before 'Bakeneko Designs' I had an art project/business called 'Amore de Mori' in which I made wearable taxidermy and osteological art. The inspiration behind it was a 3D moving 'Vanitas' with deaths part being played by the taxidermy/bones while lifes part portrayed in the model wearing it.

I think I was born like a clock a few seconds behind most people. I haven’t ever found my place or way and feel like I am never quite comfortable or ‘right’.
Once I used to look into the sublime and feel great horror. Nature truly terrifies me but in that same breath it pulls me back with fascination. It’s difficult as a conscious being to believe that we are organic and not immortal. When I think of my life I imagine the nothing before my existence and then try to imagine the nothing that will come after. Sometimes I find myself profoundly troubled that I will enter the abyss and I cannot comprehend that there will not be part of me that won’t transcend it. Mostly though I am comforted that one day I will go back to the earth and be no more.
I was struggling with insomnia and lying in bed with my eyes burning a void into the back of my head. Out of the darkness an intense mental image exploded into my mind. I could see all dieing animals crawling their way towards an amber beacon of light. In the centre of it stood the Virgin Mary, emanating a heavenly all encompassing glow. At her feet lay all that was dead. She was the eternal light of sleep and in it was salvation
There is in life a tentative moment where something has reached fruition and hangs in the balance before descending into rot. i want to capture that moment forever so I can better understand it.
I am exploring Vanitas through art and death in fashion to emphasize the frivolity and transient nature of beauty.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.”
Robert Frost
— amoredemori.com

After working on this for a few years i started to feel my morality and aesthetic shifting from its original course. I began thinking of the ethical ramifications of using another animal to highlight human beauty and felt uncomfortable in what I was doing. I still had a huge passion for taxidermy and nature but the pull to do this was coming from a place I did not quite understand yet.
I started to consider the difference an 'ugly' beauty would make where the wearer was more at odds with the animal. More so to have the animal wear them then the other way around. This is how I came to the idea for my 'little bird' mouthpiece. The birds and attacking the mouth of the wearer rather than being a complicit adornment.