When Genesis Breyer P-Orridge speaks, it is always from the subjective plural. There never was much room for singularity in the GBP universe: their first collaborations were musical (bands); communistic art experiments; and the development of pandrogeny. But after Breyer P-Orridge’s late wife Lady Jaye “dropped her body”, the preferred pronoun is a relentless ‘we’.
Their gallerist considers Breyer P-Orridge as “one of the most rigorous agents of the post-war Anglo American vanguard…embracing the body as not simply the vessel but the site of the avant-garde impulse.” Before meeting their late wife Lady Jaye, Breyer P-Orridge was an English Fluxus pioneer credited with conflating the key elements of industrial music structure, with Throbbing Gristle.
They have lived life as one continuous experiment, unbound by societal constraints or any notions of normalcy. Overwhelmingly literate and spiritual Breyer P-Orridge easily commands their own reality, their own spectrum but always with compassion. Seriously.
The last time I spoke to Breyer P-Orridge, at a screening for Marie Loisier’s Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, we were discussing Culture Wars II. Somewhere in that conversation, Breyer P-Orridge mentioned that Jean Paul II was more progressive than the current pope because Jean Paul II openly admitted that God was both man and woman. Breyer P-Orridge stressed that such an admission was a clear sign of progress. Anybody else would have been ironic, but they were just too pleased to point out a sign of progress from a place one wouldn’t expect it from.
Currently, Invisible Exports is showing Breyer P-Orridge’s second solo exhibition, I’m Mortality, in New York. I trace the evolution of Breyer P-Orridge’s creative output as a transformation from aggressive performance art practices into a ritual practice of devotion and compassion.
The new works draw on indigenous Nepalese traditions of shapeshifting and reincarnation, as encountered by Breyer P-Orridge on his most recent trips to Kathmandu. This show blurrs the space between mortality and immortality but as experienced through biology and consciousness. What ever separates the material from immaterial—perhaps the alchemical?—is the primal clay of Breyer P-Orridge’s creation concerns.
The works in I’m Mortality are intimately fierce: each romantic talisman is its own vessel, it’s own site of anti-linguistic processing. I found myself questioning the immediacy of symbols in relation to emotional accessibility. Blood Sacrifice is a video work that features two bottles of Chanel No. 5 mixed with the blood of Breyer P-Orridge and their late wife, Lady Jaye. It was a gift from Lady Jaye to P-Orridge, from the beginning of their love affair, as a gesture of trust. Blood Sacrifice Stain 2 is made with Tibetan muslin and water colour paper. These pieces are marked by both a symmetry of sameness and the mark of expansion.
“We view Breyer P-Orridge as a separate person who is both of us. Neither of us take credit for the work, the work is a melding of both of our ideas which we would not have had singly. Both of us are in all of our art. That third being, Breyer P-Orridge, is always present.”—Lady Jaye, 2003.
Two vertical scrolls also have blood stains on handmade Tibetan toilet paper, framed like Eastern narratives of what is present (in the body, in the mind) before the act of experiencing. There is no specific message from each of these works, there is only a symbol charged with a method of transport—it is difficult to not link the experiences of these works to alchemical variations and experiences of what some might call magic. But I don’t know about magic, I just know that force in the body after running for long periods of time, or the very elation of the lungs after a particularly stimulating yoga practice. Such peace is primal, but we’re not used to contextualizing anything primal as peaceful, divine, or loving, are we? In my view, these works bring that question forward.
I highly recommend seeing a video interview with Breyer P-Orridge by Nathan Maxwell Cann, in which Breyer P-Orridge says that when a holographic image is shattered, each bit will have a piece of the entire image as a whole. This scientific fact is a metaphor for the indestructibility of the symbol in the Breyer P-Orridge method of creation. They continue by musing that “…art should shatter the previous fixed concepts of what human behavior is or has become.” Each work on display at the gallery bears no message whatsoever, it is about the symbol as portal, the symbol as a key that “readjusts the nervous system in a way that verbal language does not”.
When Michel Foucault argues that reality is constructed by language itself, Foucault acknowledges a perceptual field that exposes language as limited. When Judith Butler asserts that “gender is an imitation for which there is no original,” Butler acknowledges a similar formlessness of being. If art is the process through which humans can better understand and examine social meaning, it seems fitting to instigate increasing demands of the very fields our perceptions rely on. Emotionally and spatially.
I’m Mortality is on view at Invisible Exports until March 25, 2012.
Portrait of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: film still from Marie Loisier’s Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye.