Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Terrifically Playful Pandrogynous Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

You know you’re at the vernissage of a good English artist when you approach the open bar expecting the usual sawdust wine and instead are offered gin with the instruction “Say when”! I am glad to report that I had the good fortune to view his/her show and finally met Genesis Breyer P-Orridge at “30 Years of Being Cut Up” at the Invisible Exports Gallery on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

It has been a few years since I saw him/her perform with Psychic TV at the Bowery Ballroom. S/he sent me a sly note when my review came to his/her attention. S/he remembered sending that note and dated that performance in terms of the death of his/her beloved Lady Jaye whose image on his/her forearm was revealed upon my following his/her instruction to “Push my sleeve up.”

Those of you who read me regularly know that I am dismissive of approximately 95% of the contents of any given category in this world. Genesis resides in the 5% that I respect. Before attending this event, I had enjoyed only his/her music, but now I am also entirely happy to report that the collaged visual images that comprise this show are intelligent and fascinating.

Those of you who read me regularly also know that I have little patience with trans folk who bristle at the limping of the English language in describing gender assignment, especially those who take up arms whenever they feel that innocently imperfect references disclose a malicious prejudice. Genesis famously plays with gendered words, and has done so for years, and is light years beyond those who harrumph about the indignities of inadequate grammar. On the subject of transgender issues, I’d also call your attention to his/her actions when faced with the prospect of performing at an Arizona venue that badly handled the business of bathrooms. Genesis is so much deeper than some whiney trans folk who seem to be playing in imaginary dollhouses with solipsistic house rules.

At one point in the evening, I whispered to Genesis that the crowd seemed unusually somber. I wondered why. Genesis bristled slightly and began to say that some things are beyond his/her control, but I supplied the answer to my own question. The mostly young crowd who filled the gallery was extremely reverential regarding their Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Eavesdropping while threading through the crowd, I heard many accounts of love for his/her music. I don’t think s/her realizes the extent of his/her following despite the passage of many years of COUM, Throbbing Gristle, TOPI and Psychic TV and all the other fantastic iterations of the mind of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. I don’t think Genesis realizes the durability of what s/he has built. This may be evidenced by the fact that Psychic TV will be touring exclusively overseas on their next outing. I think their American audience is underestimated.

And now for my focused review: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is terrifically playful and is not afraid of using his/her own body as an expression of the playful exploration of identity. Cutting up everything in one’s life and rearranging the pieces can, with luck and intuition, tell you the truth with which you were born. Genesis tells us not to fear the cutting up. Genesis employs no artifice and hides behind no pretense or stylization. Like all prophets, Genesis tells us things that we appreciate but will never fully follow as we return home to the security of our own wigless, unaltered, unpainted, intact and pedestrian bodies.

S/he told me that this was his/her favorite among the images on display. S/he pointed out the tampon string and proclaimed it beautiful.

S/he asked me what I made of an adjacent picture. I told him/her it looked like the photos I received at my last colonoscopy. S/he said that s/he had had a colonoscopy recently and did I know what it disclosed? That s/he was full of shit. Obviously, Genesis had not swallowed the required Fleet products in advance of that scrutiny.

Ultimately, I think Genesis would find me lacking in audaciousness. I who admire him/her and can appreciate his/her voyages into unexplored regions and can only wonder about the strength of one who survives the loss of the beloved, might fail in his/her sight, but that is beyond my control and I am happy to know that somewhere is a creature who is fearless with a silly Psychic TV lyric that we sang together in the course of our encounter.

You’re very nice.
I like you.
You’re very nice.
Your eyes are ice.
I think that I’m in paradise.

Let me stop here. Do your homework, lads. Get to know him/her. I’d have worn the t shirt but it’s in Florida.

PS: I have interviewed and photographed several trans people and I have begun to understand something about them . They seem to fear the lens. Where most people see bravado, I see fright. Their agreement to being photographed feels like an act of surrender. In a single instant, when they look from the lens to me, they are saying “I’m going to trust you. I do not know if you are worthy of that trust or if you will abuse it, but I am giving you the gift of trust.” In their photographed face, they convey a complete summary of their inner journey. Their faces seem to say “Look, I’ve taken my own very private road to where I am today. I’ve had to put up with criticism and disapproval and hatred and discrimination along the way. Now I place my creation in your hands. I am proud of what I have become. I trust you with all that I have become. Please be kind.”

Genesis, you needn’t worry about my camera. It loves you as do I from the safety of my own less cut up collage.

Here you will find a compete set of photos (NSFW) from the show which may be visited through October 18th.


Anonymous said...

Genesis is not technically a "transexual". He is a pandrogyne -- a person attempting to become another person so that the two of them are one -- he and Lady Jaye Breyer. The s/he usage refers not to Genesis' dual gender -- it refers to him being Genesis and Lady Jaye -- a man and a woman together in one body. Like everything he has done in his 40 year career, it seems to be one thing but is actually something quite different.

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Anonymous,
Hence my title for this post, but I do think Genesis is somewhat more fluid in approach to sexuality than the boundaries you note. And given the death of Lady Jaye, Gen's continued "cutting up" will evolve.