In addition to their magnetic cultural legacy, Genesis was also an influential figure in the development of the Pioneer Works music programming. As a member of our Music Advisory Board, Genesis contributed in a variety of impactful ways through education, curation, and performance; most notably through their written contributions to Intercourse #4, an unforgettable performance with Psychic TV, a mind-bending workshop called “Dream Machine in Functional & Intuitive Art,” and the legendary, multifaceted Dream Machine performance/experience in 2018. In their legacy, Genesis remains a complicated figure, and we acknowledge this personal history as well as the personal truths put forward by victims of assault. The Pioneer Works community will always be grateful for Genesis’ contributions and to have been a part of their prolific and inspiring creative journey.
In 2016, Catherine Despont interviewed Genesis P-Orridge for the fourth issue of Pioneer Works Journal/Intercourse. The following interview and artwork offers greater insight into P-Orridge’s work, life, and the radical lack of separation between the two.
“Since the mid-60s, my teenage years, I have been profoundly obsessed with human behavior; whether there can be a system, technique, chemical, belief-system, discipline that is able to reprogram entrenched, inherited patterns of behavior. Is there any way to short-circuit control, erase compulsive and reactive responses? Can we re-invent a SELF consciously in order to maximize its potential and, hopefully, our satisfaction in life? My lifelong search is for focused mutability, and to change the means of perception; to challenge every status quo as a matter of principle and never rest, never assume or imagine that the task of reinvention has a finite ending. Permanent change towards a radical, positive and liberating evolutionary mutation of the human species is the core essence and motivation of every single aspect of my creativity.”
—Genesis Breyer P-Orridge from “The Process is the Product”
Few people live in devotion to such high ideals who are not called monks. The work of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is dense and varied and resists any succinct description, but it is characterized by a conception of practice that is so lofty it rarely finds serious expression in the narrative of contemporary art. It’s art as ritual meant to change things, to transform the self and the direction of the world.
P-Orridge is known for the bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV and the invention of “industrial music;” for COUM Transmissions, a radical group devoted to experiments with communal living and performance; for TOPY, or Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, an organization that experimented with releasing occult practices into popular culture; and for the discovery of “pandrogeny,” with h/er partner Lady Jaye, a process wherein two minds, two bodies, two people, come together in love (and occasional plastic surgery) to generate a creation known as “The Third Being” or “pandrogyne.” P-Orridge, who identifies as s/he, is not trans, and pandrogeny is not specifically about gender, so much as a “process designed to assist in the creation of your own chosen SELF.”
And this is perhaps the idea that inspires such devotion among people interested in P-Orridge’s work—a sense that there is no separation between art and life. There is very little that Genesis hasn’t tried in the name of expanding self/self-awareness; changing names, living in squats, experiments with psychedelics, with surgical modification, with ancient devotional practices and sex magick, with gender, with sound, with bodily fluids. When it comes to the idea of testing the limits of possibility, P-Orridge approaches these experiments with almost scientific focus, boldly venturing way beyond what most people might see as the outer limits.
P-Orridge has kept journals h/er entire life, and the selections from these two volumes, one from the early 70s and one the early 90s, are only the tiniest sliver of what the books contain. H/er willingness to give us access to such personal documents comes from a habit of not hiding. If anything, P-Orridge’s natural inclination is to expose things as soon as s/he discovers they’ve been lurking in the shade. S/he only worried once, and that was at the possibility of having written something angry about a person s/he was living with more than 40 years ago. All the rest though, the truly intimate pictures of body and family, the concerns about parenting, about the afterlife, the interest in transformation, the pain of being with people, the pain of being without them, frustrations with self, with health, with friends, with money, all the highly personal, highly raw, complex, grappling that goes into the process of self-actualization, or whatever it is a journal does—all of that, P-Orridge is fine with sharing.
—Catherine Despont, Intercourse Editor
There S/HE is trying to man-ifest the uncomfortable roll S/HE received. How blessed I am my Bunny supported me becoming who I Feel…I LOVE YOU BUNNY
HELL is living with our own hypocrisy for all eternity.
HELL is thee sum total of our own hypocrisy.
HELL IS OUR OWN HYPOCRISY… forever and ever he’ll know.
HELL=HE WILL HE’LL know HE WILL
HELL is something I seem about determined to create for my self despite my fear!
Photo by Miss Jackie Jane 2002
31st July 99 Saturday. Up early to take an eager Genesse to the aiport. Whilst she loves to see me I know she wants to see her friends. My back has so severely limited what we could do I feel bad for her. I also get so scared of getting too used to her being here with us. I enjoy having all my family together too much. Miss Bunny drove us to the airport and away she went with hardly a glance back. I fought back a lot of tears so as not to embarrass my SELF or affect Bunny. To keep being separated is to keep dying over and over. She is growing up so quickly. Someone I know from the past but who is so private about her present time.
1st August 99 Sunday. John Marchant came over. I asked him about what happens when we die. He said we leave our bodies. We hang around for a short time. Then we go to the Bardot [sic] Hotel. For 3 pretty miserable weeks, if we are average fucked ups we are forced to see all the consequences of our actions. Oh my. I am dreading that already. Then we go to the spirit realm. We’ll see people we know.
Then we see our next parents fucking and are sucked in. Then we forget dying and being dead. But the reason humans are usually so scared of dying is it is a HORRIBLE experience for most of us unless we have burned off karma and led truly good and spiritual lives. I am so ambivalent about my SELF and all my compulsions. Find my SELF so weakly human. Oh dear! Why am I obsessing so much on dying lately? Is my time nearly here? Anyway we began our cataloguing of my part and he feels it could all be really a great show and a book. He’s leaving TCG. to work for Nan Holdin [sic] and pursue his own spiritual path in Tibetan Buddhism. What a KIND person.
2 August 99 Chiropractor. Helping. Baba came over at 8pm as he promised. Seems much better now. Took us to Jesse’s studio where I recorded a word loop for Eshe to include on the Godson new C.D.
3 August 99 Tuesday. All my L-if-E I have wanted to co-found and live in, a community of spiritually seeking artists. I felt my only 2 choices were to be a monk or an artist. But, in a way, there seemed no difference. The Surrealists and dadaists were groups...