Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Bizarre gifts and mementos from the life of a pandrogynous art/noise legend

IMG_8959_web

Taken from the November issue of Dazed & Confused:

The life and work of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (who refers to h/erself as “we” since amalgamating with late wife Lady Jaye in their Pandrogyny project) is marked by an unending devotion to exploration. Through Early Worm, the Exploding Galaxy, COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Thee Majesty, PTV3 and beyond, the artist, composer, thinker and performer has made it h/er business to cut apart reality and splice it back together again while expanding boundaries of sound, physicality, belief and consciousness. 

In P-Orridge’s high-rise apartment in downtown New York, artefacts from various explorations across the globe are strewn about the premises. Given h/er belief that bodies are merely vessels that house our greater, more spiritual selves, what sort of power can we find in these inanimate objects? 

“There’s no way of knowing whether we’re here or if someone is dreaming us,” P-Orridge says. “My dreams are as real as this. Therefore, what’s real? You have out-of-body experiences from meditation, extreme pain or using psychedelic chemicals and you’re like, wait a minute, these walls can just dissolve. It seems solid, but is it really? So these objects are inculcated with some form of energy that can be absorbed and retained. They help me function. The talismans hold power by being believed in, just like people with their crucifixes. All we can say is that we found they have assisted my navigation through this apparent reality.”

Motorcycle Jackets
Photography by Fumi Nagasaka

Motorcycle jackets

“The Illuminati jackets are from Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth’s motorcycle club – that’s what they called them-selves. They were based in Portland. When we were touring in the late 80s, we’d drive up to Portland and then six of them would actually follow us all down the west coast: two in front, two behind and two at the side. It looked fucking fabulous. And there were these people doing merch who had a heavy Volkswagen thing behind that, so it was a real convoy going through. Blew the citizens’ minds, it did! We also used to have Hells Angels colours and Gypsy Jokers too. We gave back the Hells Angels colours as tradition demands, but kept the Gypsy Jokers. Then one day we were walking down the road in Hackney and a whole crowd of Hells Angels surrounded me and said, ‘Why are you wearing those colours?’ And we said, because I’m a member of the Gypsy Jokers, and they went, ‘We want it! Give it to us!’ And we went, ‘No!’ But it so happened we were on a bridge over a canal, and they got out their spanners and chains and said, ‘Here’ the deal. You either give it to us or we beat you half to death and throw you in the canal so you drown.’ So I gave it to them. Because, you know, you can’t argue with that. Really a sad day. I still miss that jacket. 

Breyer P-Orridge clone DNA

This is a clone of me and Lady Jaye. It’s all the DNA necessary to create something that’s made from both of us. It’s a mini version of the alchemical wedding. Both of us integrated. It’s got pubic hair, hair from the head, eyebrows, toenails, fingernails, skin off of heels, blood. 

These talismans hold power by being believed in. They have assisted my navigation through this apparent reality

Derek Jarman’s seaside gift

We met Derek in 1969 when we were in the Exploding Galaxy. That was the period when gay lib street theatre and being a transvestite as a political act began. So on the weekends we would all dress up in drag and run around Portobello Road, doing fake opera and ballet and hugging people and kissing men, and so on. Then there was a gap of time as often happens, and we were walking down Tottenham Court Road and heard this incredibly distinctive, posh voice: ‘Gen, is that you?’ And it was Derek. He lived above a cinema and we went for the traditional British cup of tea and reconnected. He was really excited by the idea of Throbbing Gristle, and was even more excited by Psychic TV because he was into magick. So he started to ask me, could you do soundtracks? So TG did In the Shadow of the Sun and Psychic TV also did one which was originally called Mirrors. Instead of money, he would give me paintings and objects. This one is from Dungeness, where he had his cottage. It says on the back that he carved that piece of clay on a beach in 1961. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? And it has memory. Thank God Scotland Yard didn’t take it. 

Dream Machine
Photography by Fumi Nagasaka

Dreamachine

This one arrived in the mail unexpectedly in a parcel. We opened it and there was this dreamachine (a stroboscopic flicker device created in 1961 by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville, William Burroughs’s ‘systems adviser’ and lover) with a note from this guy called Johnny Smoke,  this very intensely, self-consciously eccentric person. He said, ‘I’ve been making dreamachines and if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know how. So I’ve had the idea of making them available the way that Brion Gysin wanted.’ So we said, that’s great! He’s asked me to do some kind of template of the inside and paint it or write on it for a special Breyer P-Orridge dreamachine. He’s made one with fur on the outside. He’s pimping dreamachines! Next he’ll have a low-rider one with hydraulics. But it’s just great that it’s there because that’s what Brion wanted. He didn’t care if it became public domain. He just said they are a really good tool for activating the internal mechanism. 

Tridents

We once took these through customs. They said, ‘Hey, what are you? Neptune or Satan?’ It was fortunate they were amused. We got them all in Kathmandu, where there are these shops with Tibetan and Nepali stuff, necklaces and stuff. The tourists want all the  shiny bits, but this one shop is run by a guy who has one lightbulb and everything is covered in dust. It’s obvious he doesn’t care if he sells anything, and that’s where we go rooting around. We feel a compulsion to rescue these because to us they feel alive. And they shouldn’t be in the corner turning rusty, they should be respected like animals. They’re spiritual orphans and we’re their foster parent.” 

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, a limited-edition book of unpublished personal photographs, is published by First Third Books on November 4

More Arts+Culture