Your job, Genesis, is to short-circuit control,” once said the preeminent literary gentleman junkie William S. Burroughs to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge who, as much as we obsess about h/er on Filthy Dreams, needs no introduction (or shouldn’t!).
And short-circuit control s/he did. I mean, what socially imposed and regulated norm of living didn’t Genesis shatter, whether through bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, visual art, a stint as a cult leader of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, or h/er ultimate boundary transgression, the pandrogeny, which taken at its simplest, applied the cut-up teachings of Burroughs and Gysin to h/er and Lady Jaye Breyer’s bodies to create a third being: the pandrogyne? Of course, Breyer P-Orridge broke gender through the pandrogeny, but it’s more than that. Breyer P-Orridge managed to erase the division between the self and the other, and the singular and the collective. S/he showed that you are or can be another. In all of Breyer P-Orridge’s life and art (which were, in h/er mind, inseparable), s/he showed us that the human body–a cheap suitcase that carries around consciousness, as Lady Jaye often said–is malleable, transmutable and deliciously unstable, able to be reworked and reconfigured in any way possible.
Sadly, amidst this week’s jittery anxiety and chest burning (ok, my chest burning. No I haven’t taken a test), Genesis dropped h/er body last weekend, as s/he would describe it. How dare s/he leave us when we need h/er most?! All week I’ve sat stunned at my computer, wondering how the hell I’m ever going to write a fitting tribute to Genesis, someone whose work I’ve written about a lot, while suffering from a continual absence of words, scrolling through Twitter, blacking out and losing time.
But, then, it dawned on me. Genesis is the perfect person to turn to, as society crumbled and burned down in a wave of toilet paper-hoarding. Right now, dealing with the spread of COVID-19 and all the quarantining, self-isolating and social distancing that involves, we’re realizing the utter precariousness and porousness of our bodies, as we hide in our tiny apartments, shielding ourselves and others from an invisible virus. We’re currently existing at the whim of the collective–something Americans certainly are not too well-equipped to handle (and from the looks of those booze-breathed, red-faced spring breakers and monstrously selfish acts by garishly wealthy people, we might be fucked).
With h/er experiments in short-circuiting how society operates on our bodies, our consciousness and our selves, Breyer P-Orridge already understood the fallacy of individualism, the uselessness of singularity and the cosmic joke that is social control. As Breyer P-Orridge wrote in “Breaking Sex,” detailing the concepts behind pandrogeny: “’WE ARE BUT ONE…’ becomes less about individual gnosis and more about the unfolding of an entirely new, open-source, 21st century myth of creation.”
Last year, I interviewed Breyer P-Orridge for them. and besides being out of my mind with breathless fanaticism, s/he said something to me that while it didn’t make it to the published article, certainly seems prescient now: “We like to think of the human species as a single-celled organism like an amoeba. If one part gets damaged or inured on some part, it will use all of the resources it has in it to heal that damage. It will shift whatever nutrients it needs because it has a vested interest in the whole organism. If anywhere is damaged and needed healing, we’d heal it from the whole organism.”
S/he got it before the rest of us. Again.
Now, with Genesis’s transfixingly gravelly voice gone, that doesn’t mean we can’t turn to what s/he left behind. At the end of our conversation, we spoke about the need for h/er to focus on preserving “information and evidence” for future generations–written, spoken and recorded material from what s/he accomplished so it can’t be censored, erased or rewritten. And s/he certainly left enough of it.
Rather than continue to blather on about Breyer P-Orridge’s importance myself (you already know, dearest readers) or even worse, write some painfully virtue signaling article about h/er prior problematic abuses (yes, I read and reviewed Cosey Fanni Tutti’s book. I can hold complicated thoughts in my head at once), I want to let Breyer P-Orridge speak for h/erself. I mean, what is anyone doing other than binging on YouTube videos anyway? Might as well honor Gen while you’re at it.
So sit back, order a pitcher of margaritas on Seamless, stop panic-scrolling through Twitter (for now) and watch Breyer P-Orridge over the years: