Even if you live under a rock, you know about COVID-19. While the pandemic is taking hold of the U.S., news of a different sort was reported. On March 14, 2020, Genesis P-Orridge, best known for S/Her work with Coum Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, T.O.P.Y., and the Pandrogeny Project, passed away. P-Orridge was 70.
Love and/or hate the person, Genesis P-Orridge was many: performance artist, musician, occultist, ‘cult/anti-cult’ leader, archivist, author, poet. To simplify, let’s just say Genesis was a life long agent provocateur. The word boundaries wasn’t in Gen’s vocabulary. With that, P-Orridge not only broke them, but influenced generations of other fringe creators in the process.
Genesis P- Orridge did more in a day than most people achieve in a lifetime. For me personally, through Gen, I learned about mail art, William S Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Alister Crowley, the occult, cult philosophies, tattoos, body modification, and numerous other sub-cultures and ‘alternative lifestyles.’ Mind you, this is only scratching the surface.
It’s going to take more than one blog post to explain the impact of Genesis P-Orridge. To those who only follow mainstream personalities, it doesn’t mean anything. For those who explore a bit deeper, P-Orridge was always in the background. If it wasn’t for S/He’s first band Throbbing Gristle, there would be no bands such as Nine Inch Nails.
Most people aren’t saints. Genesis P-Orridge had more than S/Her share of detractors. There was abuse allegations from former associates. Cosey Fan Tutti, former band mate with Throbbing Gristle, and former girlfriend, details some offenses in her autobiography Art Sex Music. (In S/His defense, Gen was quoted in The New York Times: “Whatever sells a book sells a book.” You can also read more here.) After divorcing S/Her’s first wife, Paula (now known as Alaura O’ Dell), Gen pretty much erased Paula’s history from the Psychic TV back catalog. Paula and Gen reconnected later on, healing some wounds. Finally, Fred Giannelli could spare a few choice words.
Despite this, Gen continued to evolve and shape shift. After being exiled from S/His native U.K., Gen met Jackie Breyer, a.k.a, Lady Jaye. Lady Jaye became his second wife. Together they embarked on the Pandrogeny Project. They each had plastic surgeries to resemble one another, creating a ‘third sex.’ It’s from this point Gen switched the pro-nouns from “he” to “S/He”, “She” and “They.” The union didn’t last. In 2007, Lady Jaye dropped her body. The cause of death was stomach cancer. Gen continued the Pandrogeny project after Lady Jaye’s passing.
As with other chapters within Gen’s life, S/He continued to rise above the ashes. In the later part of Gen’s life, Gen continued with yet another version of Psychic TV, aka, PTV3. S/He received accolades with museum exhibits, spoken word performances, and acknowledgments from younger bands.
Unfortunately Gen contracted leukemia. Due to health issues, Gen mostly retired from creating music, with the occasional gig here and there. Gen fell in love again, this time with a much younger woman. A 28 year old lady from Granada, named Susanna. Gen nicknamed her ‘Susan Atkins/Hamburger Lady.’ (Hamburger Lady was previously a Throbbing Gristle song.) The public view of Gen was documented on S/He’s Instagram account, Pandrogyne. Gen and the ‘Hamburger Lady’ were engaged before Gen’s passing.
This blog entry focused more on the personal aspects of Gen’s personal life. To document all of Gen’s work, the final version would be the size of a encyclopedia. Regardless of one’s involvement, hypothesis, or what have you, Genesis P-Orridge left an undeniable imprint. The sub-cultural influences will continue for years after S/He’s passing; similar to two of Gen’s own influences, William S. Burroughs, and Byron Gysin. Like David Bowie, S/He opened a gateway for many. It is this, that I personally thank Gen for all of the Occulture sensibilities I still sustain. Even recently, thanks to Gen’s Instagram, I discovered artist Hermann Nitsch. In a way, Gen never stopped giving. May Gen find peace after dropping the body, going on to S/He’s Greater Feast. Here’s to Ov Power.
*Mostly likely, additional blog posts about Genesis P-Orridge.