“We have nothing to say and we’re saying it.” An introduction to underground artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

 Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

BY SARAH CHAIT ’21

The artist’s quotes were written in accordance with P-Orridge’s own idiosyncratic usage of spelling and grammar, replacing “the” with “thee”, and “of” with “ov”. This is intended to, in h/er words, “challenge the thought of established reading laws.”

68-year-old Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is an English musician, performance and video artist, author, occultist, philosopher and influencer. Identifying as a third gender (using s/he, h/er, and h/ers pronouns and recently referring to h/ erself in the plural), P-Orridge is also an important name within the LGBTQ+ community. S/he may be one of the most significant people you’ve never heard of. S/he is best known for h/er musical work, especially with the groups “Throbbing Gristle” and “Psychic TV.”

Before these musical endeavors, P-Orridge belonged to the artistic collective COUM Transmissions, which staged a series of ‘happenings’ — public art performances popular in the 1960s and ’70s — and avant-garde musical and sound explorations. With the help of h/er friend William S. Burroughs (“Naked Lunch”), P-Orridge received government funding for these projects until s/he was nationally denounced as a degenerate for h/er public performances. P-Orridge still insists these performances were not meant to inflame the general public, but that they were in fact motivated by h/er being, “terribly bored, really.”

When s/he was seventeen, P-Orridge was in a band called “Worm,” that released one album titled “Early Worm.” On the back of the record, the inscription “We have nothing to say and we’re saying it,” is a mantra the artist uses to this day. The best description of h/er band “Throbbing Gristle,” which s/he is best known for, comes from POrridge h/erself in the documentary “Thee Ballad ov Genesis and Lady Jaye.” P-Orridge said, “One ov thee reasons TG was so successful is because it took thee magical formula ov William S. Burrough’s cut-ups and inserted it into rock and roll.” “Throbbing Gristles”’s unique composition style involved homemade synthesizers and reordering of original tracks. Because of this, the group’s music ranges from complex synthetic beats overlaid with P-Orridge’s mumbling to absolute sensory chaos. While both “Throbbing Gristle” and “Psychic TV” are relatively accessible, s/he has produced so many albums that it may be intimidating deciding where to start. I recommend the album “A Taste of TG (A Beginner’s Guide to Throbbing Gristle),” available on Spotify.

What I personally find most intriguing about P-Orridge is h/er Pandrogeny Project, an experiment taken on by the artist and h/er late wife, Lady Jaye. Pandrogeny is, according to P-Orridge h/erself, “a means of evolution and survival, the future of the human race,” or an exploration of a future without gender or gender-based identities. The project involved both Genesis and Lady Jaye undergoing multiple plastic surgery sessions and hormone therapy to, in a sense, become one another, and form one individual unit of a person. Described as a declaration of universal, undying love, P-Orridge continued this project after the death of h/er wife in 2007. This is why s/he now exclusively refers to h/erself as ‘we.’ According to P-Orridge, s/he has become one with Lady Jaye and by still living, continues her legacy and memory.

Shortly after the death of Lady Jaye, P-Orridge retired from formal music making. H/er current work takes the form of performance art and film media, focusing on h/er rejection and disdain for the after-effects of the industrial revolution. In an interview with Annie Armstrong of ARTnews earlier this year, P-Orridge said, in response to a question about Donald Trump, that, “If everyone were to smash their phones, then maybe something might really happen.” If you want more information on P-Orridge or h/er work, feel free to do your own digging — watch “Thee Ballad ov Genesis and Lady Jaye,” available on Amazon, or dive headfirst into h/er music for yourself on Spotify and most streaming services. Who knows, you might just even like it.

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