Xplore Copenhagen 2017 - Review

by Johanne Mygind

Translation by Kathrin Gramsch of the article written by Johanne Mygind in Weekendavisen week 33/2017


Lust in the Flashlight

„Decide now! Do you want to be penetrated or do you want to penetrate?“ shouted a tall thin mand with ponytale. Energy was intimidating high as I showed up that evening at the XPlore Festival. I didn´t know what to expect of the event (with the undertitel “ festival on the art of lust) which took place at the outermost tip of Refshaleøens in Copenhagen. I only knew that XPlore was started by the german choreographer Felix Ruckert 14 years ago in Berlin, and since than the festival is running in whole Europe. Workshop speakers are a mixed bland of therapists, koreographers, sex workers and participants were asked to bring yoga mats, towels, whips and strap-ons.

“Our festival is very much about giving permission! We tell participants that they have the right to experiment. That they have the right to try something new. It is fascinating that most of them eagerly take the chance. Thousands years of taboos and conventions can smelt away in a weekend. This is also the reason why our festivals take place during the day and at places where there is a lot of light. We do not want to hide away lust into the night and the darkness” (interview with Felix Ruckert, festival curator) Festival is running since 11 am and I have misted workshops about the art of submission, how to mummify ones lover with cling film. Now there is time for “Boys get fucked in the ass” which in the programme is described as exploration of penetration in the patriarchate. I imagine that it is most theoretical.

“All of you who want to penetrate shall this way” shouts a woman in unlikely high heels and a dark-red wig. She sends me a sharp look before I go with her through the door. We start to mediate in a circle after that the room is divided into two. In one end of the room passive men are lying on the floor. In the other end strap-ons were handed out to women and were helped to put it on. Most of them look like me: perplex, confused and embarrassed with this impetous potency between our crotch. As we were walking towards to the group of men to let our dick be admired by them it got too much for me. I gave the dildo back to the woman with the high heels and hurried out of the room. I can only guess what is going on for the rest of the workshop.

“My workshop addresses one of the outmost taboos in our society: that men can be penetrated. I wish to set a question mark to the two genders and the things one associates with them That men are active and penetrates and that woman are passive and receive. This is wrong. We all can take on different roles and try different sides and physical experiences. After my workshop a lot of men understand for the first time the vulnerability their lover felt after having been penetrated. Women, however, were amazed about their own indifference/carelessness after penetration. That most of all want to sleep or go out and penetrate somebody else.” (interview with Nehra Stella, workshop holder)


In daylight Xplore looks more like a yoga-retreat than a sex exhibition. German health sandals, worn stilettos, black ankle boots and some sneakers lying around at the entrance. All have to be barefoot indoors. Some participants are artists, some are into bondage and dominance, others do tantra and yoga, a lot are dancers and use the breaks to whirl around in the halls and lift their legs in unbelievable angles. It is difficult to see who are friends and who are couples and even harder it is to determine which sex they prefer. One can see the cranes form Nordhavns harbour from most of the rooms. The water glitters in the sun.

The next workshop is called “Anchor” and shall examine what happens if one follows his/her lust and be supported by his/her partner. All couples must go together two and two. One of them shall sit on the floor and folds his/her arms around the partner. The other shall go out and meet other “fishes in the sea” while the “anchor” with full power holds onto the partner. The mood gets fast intense. Participants hug, crush and tongue kiss each other while the “anchor” despairingly hold onto their partner. A dark haired guy tears in his female lover as she suddenly takes another fish by the breasts.

“Now you shall let go of holding your partner back! Instruct the workshop holder. “Try to be the anchor, which supports his partner so he/she can feel save and loved when she/he explores her/his lust.”

The fishes swim out into the sea again. This time the anchors look calm around while the fishes explore each other’s arms, lips and crotch and at the end develops into a pouring sea of more or less undresses bodies.

“Monogamy is a construct, which has been used to support production and ownership rights. At the same time we know that the ideal of monogamy seldom was respected and therefor been the reason for incredible amount of human dramas. Jealousy is the reason for a lot of violence and murder. At the Xplore we encourage participants to be honest towards their partners and to fidelity towards themselves and their own lust and desires. It is not about being “authentic” and to find your inner truth or your inner love. It is about being true to yourself and what you feel in that very moment.”(Nehra Stella)


The mood at the festival reminds most of the last days of a successful high school stay. Participants kiss and hold each other. Some have bid marks on the arms or tags from rope on the legs together with a transfigured expression. It doesn´t seem like they have broken their boundaries rather like they have just moved away and are in a whole new country.

The next workshop is about shamanic kink which can be readily translated into shamanistic sadomasocism and is one of the few presentations which is more theoretical than practical. Wearing only a loincloth the speaker talks about how bondage and sadomasochisme was practised in a lot of cultures as spiritual practice. He shows pictures of his friend who is native north american and has used rituals from the plains indians sun dance. Picture after picture of men who dance with pierced chest boxes or lips were shown. It looked like something from an S/M party.

In den north american native indian tradition this is not called for sadist and masochist but a guide and a traveler because the pain effect induces a trance.” the presenter reports and everybody is looking around as he calls for his assistant who only has underwear on.

He beats her on the shoulders and the chest and red marks begin to spread.

“In Europe are we happy to hit on the bum” he says and continues: “ But in reality it is here on the chest, the heart chakra sits It is that what we want to open up.”

Afterwards he asks us to stand in a circle. We should groan as one does while bear pain or have sex. People breath heavier and heavier. It sounds like a collective orgasm or a birth.

“Ritual ceremonies are very powerful because they let us do things we did not know about we were able to do. If one cultivates bondage or masochisme you are allowed to test those feelings you otherwise never would have known about. You can go into pain, fear, submission and then transcendence arises. One uses pain and aggression for something useful which is much more positive than to use it for war and other kind of violence.”(Felix Ruckert)

22pm, the party is finally given free. Felix Ruckert comes to the party in a flowered grandmother dress and a white straw-hat. Others are in lacquer or silk kimonos. One dark-haired woman in her fifties whips the beat of the surrounding German sounds a man in leather trousers to, at the same time a group of young ballet dancers move around naked as if they sprang out of a Matisse painting. A beautiful nymph hangs tied up in red rope in the lounge. She groans while she slowly is being raised form the floor. In the café six people are eating a huge chocolate cake.

I suddenly remember an old quote of Suzanne Brøgger that you can not rely on people who have not killed or been in an orgy. So I start to giggle. I still laugh cycling home under the full moon.