xplore Berlin 2015: A new experience - Review by Marianne

Xplore Berlin: A new experience

by Marianne


After experiencing my first Xplore festival in Rome in 2015, I attended Xplore Berlin as an observer, participant and hedonist, the following are my impressions of this wonderful festival of pleasure.

The kingdom began with a king, and his court, foreigners and servants, whores and fools. Usurpers of the throne emerged in time, and other kings and queens came to reign throughout three days. Masks were worn, golden adornments displayed and marks on bodies honoured. A role was given to those who entered: a new name, personality and intention. Their feet were washed and they were led to cages and dungeons hospitals, schools, into heavens and hells, and all of which sprung from the king’s imagination - look the king in the eye was forbidden.
Moans of joy were to be heard and screams of pleasure. And laughter. And the smell of wet skin and cum and tears and gazes exchanged in excitement. And the bodies were naked and playthings, living tools, crouching on carpets, kneeling in front of those who dominated, parading, dancing, impacting each other. Surrendering their self… and all they could fathom, they became… at the king’s will.

The Kingdom Project – “Instruction/Intuition” – a performance project by Felix Ruckert. Imagined as a participatory improvisation theatre, it worked with dominance and submission in role-play as well as elements of constellation work, inviting participants into a world of fantasy: A vision come to life, a noble playground of pleasure, pain and lust, accommodated by a group of inspired actors and actresses, creating a powerful scenery of role play. A room with a stage, props, costumes and make-up, shoes, whips and toys, beds and floors, windows to foreign worlds, to be discovered.

Xplore itself is a three-day event on creativity, sexuality, BDSM, dance, body work, performance and ritual, offering techniques, rituals, workshops and diverse approaches for unconventional, open and loving people - to explore themselves and their sexuality.

This year’s 12th Xplore Berlin happened from July 24th to 26th at Alte Börse Marzahn, a venue on the outskirts of Berlin, with many spaces for workshops and talks.

The old market/bourse was the perfect spot to host the 300 to 500 daily participants: An open space with lots of air, surrounded by cottonwood trees, calm outdoor spaces to chill in the sun, chat with old and new friends and acquaintances, and have a coffee or snack. A canteen and a café provided nourishment, the venue a simple and well-equipped infrastructure for the attendants: The workshop spaces held between 50 and 200 participants, the chill-out areas provided enough space, silence and/or stimulant to relax, recharge and play.

Diving into the workshops or: Being spoilt for choice

More than 50 workshops were offered this year, almost too big of a choice. Along with these, three different play areas were available all the time.
The workshops were divided into “Pioneers” (heroes and heroines of different areas of the sex-positive evolution) and “Fresh meat” (new concepts and names), amongst other concepts. The workshop leaders shared their knowledge and practices alongside: From female ejaculation and loving whips, play fights, cock training and orgies to bondage and music, tantra and pain, fire rituals and breath in kink.

Breath as the initiation to entering altered states of mind and body: Maranta Rubiera guided the workshop “Breath and Kink” – on how to intensify your kink experience, and that of your partner, by controlling and modifying your breath.
We observe our breath, breathe consciously, altering speed and depth, noticing the moment between inhale and exhale. We apply this to our partner: Observing him or her, seeing and feeling how they breathe, how their breath changes when we approach them, touch them. We inhale and exhale while we are being spanked, bitten, flogged, and notice the difference: That exhaling fundamentally changes the impact of pain, makes us endure it longer – and enjoy it more deeply.

How to combine – your favorite kind of – music and bondage, that was the essence of “Ropes and Music” by The Joker. Consciously choosing musical pieces as a part of our bondage experience: For one and a half hours we played with different kinds of music, from metal to rock, ambient to pop, chilled and slow to hardcore. By implementing rhythm and sound, we changed the session and feeling for our model and ourselves as a rigger: Going from technique, domination and submission, contact to flow. Flowing ropes, gazes, movements, stopping. Touching again, becoming louder, implementing noise, pressure, tying more tightly, or less, changing the impact again, bodies moving to the music, heads swaying, hands gliding up and down limbs, a beautiful dance with ropes.

Fire burns away the old. Fire destroys what doesn’t serve any more. Fire is a powerful means of transformation – under that prerequisite and the vision of “setting off for new shores” – as was also the topic of the festival – London Faerie guided an intense ritual called the “Geometry of fire”.
A group of about 50 people established a move together, while dancing and walking, so we could feel our “group energy” and rhythm. We were also invited to think of a vision we wanted to manifest in our lives, a new intention we planned to implement.
We split up into two precise circles, took a place, in the middle a massage table.
Faerie and his “priestesses” invited the first person in. Meanwhile, the circle concentrated on their intentions, but also focused on the person lying in front of them as a vessel. Fire magic happened, with sticks that were set on fire and hovered above each persons body. A small bell rang, and the ritual was done. We shook off the old and a new person was chosen to come in. One and a half hours we focused our energy, in a smell of burn and fire and past memories. A beautiful and powerful ritual – for me definitely one of the elements that make Xplore Festivals such wonderful and versatile events, as they offer such diversity in experience.

White silk, floating in waves from the ceiling. Long, white streams of fabric, softly guided by the air. Soft carpets of light colours, spread on a wooden floor. Tall windows letting in sunlight and the softly veiled colours of the day. Candles burning on silver plates, flickering in the wind. On the other side of the room, an installation of musical instruments: Gongs, cello, drums, a flute. Music reverberating from this side of the room from time to time, three musicians filling the room with soft rhythms and vibrations. People silently entering and leaving: Resting, playing, kissing, having sex or sleeping, caressing each other, at their own speed. Guides who walk around in silence, sharing messages only on paper, making sure the calm atmosphere remains.
This was the “Ocean of Other”: The silent space of Xplore, a play-space inspired by the new moon play parties at Schwelle7.

Amazonia: A utopia? Not really. Imagine a room full of men and women… well, prey and amazons, to be more precise. Soft jungle sounds in the back, waterfalls, birds are chirping. Prey is lying around, not moving, not needed, weak. The amazons connected with the earth, the wisdom of their bodies. They remind their prey of their weakness, and start building their power, individually, as a group.
Nehra Stella, artist and film maker, guided this meaningful workshop, a means for women to reconnect with their inherent female power, a means for men to connect to their inherent weakness.
Step by step she guided the female participants to connect with their authority, their power, their strength, their dominance. She offered a new perspective on relations, on control, dominance, questioned our conditioned behaviour, especially in sexual and emotional relating. By using the forces of the elements, she enabled a physical (and emotional) understanding of where this power comes from and how we can use it – with pride and a natural display. At the end of the workshop, in a powerful performance she demonstrated, how amazons hunt– and her tribe followed.

And then there was pain. Tool to feel, experience the physical, the body, means to experience lust and pleasure more deeply, a common tool in BDSM.
The workshop “A tantric approach to pain”, however, showed a more aware approach, and the different stages in which it can be experienced. Jana Goetzova, a Czech pro in experimental personality development, invited us to see how we encounter pain – and that it is really always relative and subject to outer conditions…
In her workshop, she explained different stages of physical experience: being “mute”, as in feeling nothing, contraction, and expansion. Stage by stage we could experience how different pain, given by hands and floggers, could feel. A piece of leather hitting your skin, leaving a mark, a feeling of pain shooting through your body. When we contract, when we fear the pain, maybe through old emotions that are connected to it – the experience is much more intense than when we welcome it: Open and eager we can bear much more than we thought… by using breath, movement and sounds we modulated our handling of pain.

Long was the waiting line in front of the building for the workshop “The loving Whip” by Delta, and not everybody could partake– for capacity reasons. After the workshop, everybody understood why.
Enjoying a workshop with Delta is quite an experience – a wonderful one. Humorous, wise and intense, he guided through this workshop on how to use your flogger or whip properly – not just simply to give pain, but to always come from a loving space to – what I like to call – pleasure-torture your partner.
By showing different flogging techniques, explaining the principles (e.g., where the whip creates what effect, and what body parts are to be left out, like the kidneys) and making us feel the whip, he gave a pleasurable introduction. In trios we were guided, one flogging, one supporting, one enjoying. The only thing left to say is that afterwards, I felt quite high.

Massage beds, soft fabrics, dimmed lights. Whispers, the sounds of hands touching naked, oily bodies, massaging or slapping, soft electronic music, voices and life being heard from outside, a tranquil, relaxed atmosphere. A labyrinth of small rooms, hidden in a wooden construction, sunlit outdoors spaces and a café – an open space for bondage, massages and all sorts of body work, this was the “Construction / De-Construction” space. A place to hang out, to enjoy a professional massage or give one to your partner, a place to tie someone or watch suspensions, or attend one of a few special workshops, like the Cacao Ceremony.

How (non-) sensitive certain body-parts can be, especially the cock, and how to work it best, was the topic of Moira’s and Tua’s workshop “Cock Training”: How to keep a man’s erection for hours, to make him last for (nearly) ever, was the goal of this hands-on seminar. After handing out basic tools – clams, little wooden sticks, lube, gloves, etc – and explaining basic techniques on how to work a cock – the pair guided a room of about a hundred participants through this wonderful workshop of lust. Especially the notion, that a cock (and the man) can often take much more pain than women imagine, was focused on. We created a sexy and sensual space of connection, the atmosphere in the room was astounding: Focused, calm and full of relish.

Xplore’s concept for this year was “Off to new shores”.
It was bigger and offered much more to its participants, since the place that it comes from, Schwelle7, is transferring (in)to a new space at the end of the year.
Schwelle7 might be seen as a place between an opera house and a SM club, where sex, arts, dance, bodywork, kink, and so on, can be combined and explored.

What astonishes me personally, is the diversity of the Xplore festivals.
So much variety is offered, it really is a festival about (sexual) freedom, where you can chose to experience whatever you wish: Having your vulva or balls tortured, being whipped into ecstasy, finding your bad girl-side, dancing tango, doing a prostate massage, joining an orgy or getting a massage, listening to a flute player, making out with a stranger, drinking a coffee in the sunshine, giving or receiving a cunnilingus or blow job at the play party. You choose, and you grow. You transform, you experiment, you learn, and you grow. You dance, you stumble, you scream, and you grow. You dissolve in lust, and you grow, you dance, you enjoy.

Xplore is a special, a miraculous event, a safe space to connect with something as natural, archaic and beautiful as our sexuality, in the various forms it appears, without the pressure and limitations we often experience in society and our daily life.
The same applies, of course, to Schwelle7, this wonderful playground that Felix Ruckert established, where we can all come home to our pleasure, and the art our bodies, and the movements, displays and impacts they are meant to be, have and make. A big thank you to all the people behind Xplore, for making this event such an enrichment, for making it a journey into a magical world, amongst like-minded souls.