Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (First Third Books)
Photography by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Various
Available now for Pre Order
Standard Edition £99, Deluxe Edition £233
Authors note: Out of respect for Genesis and the theory of Pandrogyne, I shall be referring to the subject of the book as ‘they’ and ‘their’ throughout this review.
For over forty years now, Genesis P-Orridge has been an influential, and often controversial, artist whether it was via the medium performance art, music, or film. Loved and loathed in equal measures, Gen has never shied away from pushing boundaries and being confrontational whilst also creating moments of great beauty and warmth. Whilst there are numerous books dedicated to Gen and their work (mostly focused on their work with seminal band Throbbing Gristle), this is the first official book by Gen and comes in the form of a photographic history with added text.
Dedicated to the spirit of Lady Jaye BREYER P-ORRIDGE (more of whom later) and opening with a brief interview of Gen by Mark Paytress, Intimate is not presented chronologically but separated in chapters focusing on the many aspects of the author’s personality and life.
Opening section ‘Ritual Sex Fetish’ instantly throws the reader into a world few would admit to being familiar with. The graphic imagery of genital piercings and nudity may at first seem shocking, however, with the accompanying text, they explain everything in such a concise manner that you immediately understand where the author is coming from and their intentions. None of this is done out of a desire to court controversy or ‘shock’ people. The piercings and fetish acts are portrayed as a way of reaching a higher plain of consciousness and, to use some Psychic TV ideology, “reclaim the body”. This is not for shits and giggles, this has not been done casually, this is serious. There is also deep passion underlying proceedings which is evidenced on the photos including Lady Jaye. Again, with the aid of accompanying text by the author, the imagery involving Jaye and Gen does not seem sordid but of a couple deeply enthralled with each other and every fiber of their beings. A couple exploring each others minds and bodies through the medium of sex. That rush of lust and want that resonates with anyone who has had the thrill of a blossoming relationship. The outside world does not matter. It is just the two of you and NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.
The next section is dedicated to Lady Jaye themselves. Jaye ‘left her body’ in 2007 due to a heart murmur which they had from birth (exacerbated by a battle with stomach cancer which was slowly in remission) and it is natural that this section that Gen is at their most open and heartfelt. Describing the emergence of the Pandrogyne theory (two people living as one. The body just being a shell but the spirits combining etc) and their pure love for each other, the section details everything from their first meeting, their marriage and subsequent honeymoon, up to the passing of Jaye (There is also a second section dedicated to Jaye and Gen as a ‘couple’)
Obviously, there are things here that many of the public would deem ‘conventional’ (if that term should exist anymore, I’m not to sure), however, what IS apparent that underneath the art and philosophy lays a couple with nothing but a pure love for each other. A love that, unfortunately, not many people seem to have and sustain these days. Like John and Yoko (who get a mention in the opening interview) Gen and Jaye did morph into one regardless of any doubters they may have faced upon the way.
The image of Gen with his hand on Jaye’s coffin is one that will stick in your mind long after reading.
The Coum Transmissions chapter details the growth of Gen as an artist and his growing influence and stature in the early seventies art world with many of the performances being mimicked today. Again, they created art that shocked and repulsed, however, none of it was done for pure titillation. Their events held a mirror up to the British people in a time of financial struggle and corrupt politicians (sound familiar?), of a Britain that for all the ‘Shang A-Lang’ and ‘Tiger Feet’ that was ubiquitous at the time, also had deep social unrest, murders, and, in some cases, abject poverty (I repeat, sound familiar?). It was from Coum that we get the birth of Throbbing Gristle and, later, Psychic TV.
Ah yes, Throbbing Gristle. This is the chapter that many people will be excited to see and read. TG were not so much a ‘band’ as a force of nature. Comprising of Genesis, Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, Cosey Fanni Tutti, and Chris Carter, Throbbing Gristle’s influence and legacy is now secured, however unlikely that may have seemed at the time. Music made up of homemade instrumentation and cassette samples, TG were a musical being unlike any other.
In Intimate Gen explains their recollections of the forming of this band and many of the ideas of the imagery that was used. We get a photo of Gen at Auschwitz and their reasoning of using the gates as the Industrial Records logo. Again, this an extremely sensitive and controversial issue but the way Gen explains the using of said imagery, the reader does get a good idea of why it was important to use the images and what statement TG were making with their usage. You may not agree, but you have to admit that it is an extremely thought provoking topic and one that needed saying then as it did then.
The concert photographs are extremely exciting and give a sense of the sheer chaos that was a TG gig for us unlucky to have been unable to attend.
TIt is after one of these gigs that Gen admits to collapsing and ending up in hospital. They give this as one of the main reasons for them leaving the band and it is also here that they explain the writing of Weeping and the interesting insight that Ian Curtis sang this song to them down the phone not long before committing suicide.
he rest of this chapter details the birth of Psychic TV (another hugely influential group focusing on multi-media events rather than just music), the creation of the Temple Psychick Youth, its influence on the burgeoning acid-house scene, and the departure of Sleazy to form Coil.
With the recent passing of Sleazy, there is an added sense of melancholy to this section and its photos. Even though there have been stories of fallings out (both with Sleazy, Carter, and Tutti), you do get a sense that Gen hugely respected his bandmate (they describe Coil as “phenomenal”). The photos of them together are serious then playful, of stern but warm. When we also see a photo of John Balance (another one sadly gone) Intimate does really reveal itself to be a book not about settling scores (like many an autobiography) but about the authors yearning and sadness for those that they have lost.
This section also includes details about Gen’s musical output with Godstar, Thee Majesty, and PTV3, and really is quite frightening to realize how much influence they have had on music and its fashions.
The rest of the book covers Gen’s love of Nepal, an entire chapter dedicated to Pandrogyne, various art shows, visits to the grave of Brian Jones, and a return to tattoos and piercings, but the most important and revealing section of the entire book is the section entitled ‘Childhood Family Pets Nepal Friends’.
In this chapter we see the boy born Neil Megson become the artist known as Genesis P-Orridge. From a quite stable matriarchal family upbringing we get a sense of what went into the blossoming of Gen. The family photos are atypical of many a young British person growing up in the era and show a deep warmth and understanding. All of this is, however, dwarfed by the photos of Gen and his daughter, Caresse. The sheer love on display in these photos and the accompanying text truly reveal the person behind the artist. There is an outstanding photo of Gen and Caresse looking at each other, Gen smiling and Caresse wide mouthed. The look of happiness between the two is one only a parent can truly understand. There is a sense of unabashed joy from Gen as he stares into his daughters’ eyes and also of a sense of humor that develops between a parent and child (there’s nothing better than when your child makes you laugh).
A glorious section.
Overall, Intimate is an outstanding and enthralling read. Like its author it will shock and cause debate but, also like its author, it shows some heart. It will invoke debate and will make the reader look at it’s own life and the people that make it shine.
Intimate shows why, loved or loathed, it is vital that people like Gen exist. Everyone needs someone to show them some alternate truths. How it is important we question the status quo. How we should not just take life at face value, and how we should all live every day of our lives as if it’s our last.
The book can be be ordered here.