Calm anticipation hovers in the dimly lit, vaulted cellar of a well-known alternative bar in Paris’ hip 11th arrondissement. Perched atop metal stools, the crowd ponders a large bamboo pole that is attached to the ceiling in front of us and, more importantly, whom will shortly be attached to it. The silence is broken by Jess, swankily dressed in a pilot’s uniform, who introduces the program for that night’s Kibaku Café—just one of the regular events within the expanding world of Japanese bondage in France.
“There are three distinct schools of Shibari, Japan, the US and Europe, which is in between the others,” Jess Grinneiser explains to me after the show. A photographer and journalist specializing in all things Japanese, Grinneiser's interest in the art was sparked a few years ago when a friend asked him to take some photos of his Shibari practice. His fascination with it eventually led him to co-found the association French Bonds—the organizers of the monthly Kibaku Café performance event—among other activities.