In Memoriam A Tribute to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
I’ve been wracking my brain for the moment when Genesis was the happiest.
As much as I may wish otherwise, it had nothing to do with he/r various gallery and museum exhibitions, though s/he certainly loved the attention. Showing at the Warhol Museum seemed like a momentous occasion (Andy being one of he/r many obsessions), and the Nepalese tie-in of he/r show at the Rubin was a kinship s/he was so very happy to have made public. It was one of he/r unrealized projects to have an artist residency in Tibet. S/he even bought land there with that intention. Genesis also loved the show we did at INVISIBLE-EXPORTS with Pierre Molinier, but mostly because s/he loved seeing the Moliniers in person. Genesis loved making things, and was usually very pleased with the results, but they often felt more for he/r than the public.
I don’t think he/r happiest was during he/r innumerable concerts, though s/he loved he/r band like a family. Genesis on stage was a glorious thing. That voice and the interplay between the astute, the obscene, and the absurd glued one’s attention like a fly to a trap. He/r renditions were utterly spellbinding. S/he was a master of intonation and timing. S/he controlled the word. S/he knew its power. Still, by the time I had met he/r the stage was old-hat. S/he had been performing to gushing fans for decades. He/r concerts for thousands of Russian devotees seemed to tickle he/r more than most. He/r bare breasts printed in all their glory on the front page of St. Petersburg’s newspaper seemed a proper cultural endorsement. Still, upon he/r return Genesis would regale me with band gossip more than recounting actual gigs. “Sold out everywhere, can you believe it?” Then s/he’d go on about who was poorly behaved in he/r troupe, sometimes with approval, sometimes not.
Genesis did light up when telling tales. There are far too many to relate here. And it never seemed to matter who he/r audience was. S/he was not a snob. I witnessed he/r talk about Brian Jones with a middle-aged English housewife with the same enthusiasm as talking of Gustav Metzger and Hermann Nitsch to Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the latter over copious amounts of vodka cranberries (for Gen) and Diet Coke (for HUO). Even 20 years into our friendship, s/he would come out with some new untold tales. One of my favorite moments was driving in the car with he/r and Nathan Maxwell Cann. Genesis had been telling the tale that the psychic cross on he/r cane was made from the same metal as rockets, as a member of TOPY was a high-level engineer at NASA. Then, in a casual non sequitur, s/he quipped, “Thing is, we don’t really know what proper etiquette is with gnomes. Shaking hands seems a bit of a risk.”
Genesis could talk about anything and have the audience completely mesmerized. I remember one visitor at an art exhibition, a young Jewish professional who I assumed had come to the art through the music. “No, I never heard the music,” he explained. “But Genesis was on a panel at MoMA and gave some of the best parenting advice I’d ever heard. So I wanted to see the art.”
When Thee Psychick Bible was released, Genesis gave a reading to a packed crowd at St. Mark’s Bookstore. “I’m supposed to be reading from the book,” s/he started, then gave an hour-long chat about how Facebook and online dating was gashing the underground apart. Genesis was a vigilant proponent of in-person exchanges. S/he often quoted Brion Gysin, “Wisdom can only be passed on by the touching of hands.”
Still, the exact moment, if I could pinpoint it, when I saw Genesis the most relaxed and simply full of joy was around 2006. S/he and Jackie were living at Thee Gates Institute—early Ridgewood pioneers (though it was actually Jackie’s ancestral home). Both of them had been on a raw food diet, and therefore possessed lean efficient bodies as well as matching bob haircuts. Most of the furniture in the apartment was made of plastic—vintage ’60s red and atomic tangerine pieces bought at Venus in the Lower East Side. A neon psychic cross with a small 23 hung on one wall. Two bright blue and pink Candy Factory canvases adorned another. A lucite encased turntable on a spindly white base spun a Fugs record. Jackie and Gen were well into their pandrogynous voyage and as the song, “Boobs a Lot” jangled from the speaker, the two of them broke into an improvised sing-along, call and response:
Genesis: Do you like boobs a lot?
Lady Jaye: Yes, I like boobs a lot.
Genesis: I like-a my boobs a lot.
Lady Jaye: You gotta like your boobs a lot.
Both peacocked and jiggled their false b-cups playfully with a ’60s swagger. During this time, the two of them were almost always dressed up. Lots of white, stripes, and patterns. Vivienne Westwood had gifted them some key items, and they’d also had a number of vintage outfits “knocked off” in Nepal. They also were VERY into collagen lips, and they would kiss with their over-plumped mouths nearly all the time. I was there, but they were performing for each other. They were happy. They were in love.
There is no way for me to describe my experience of Genesis in its entirety. S/he started as a myth (and a male), became a teacher, then a friend. For the past 20 years I have professionally, with varying levels of success, sold he/r art. There have been few if any weeks over the past 20 years when we have not chatted. And we would commonly have the most banal of conversations—health, money, television, etc. But every now and then, I’d be like, wow, this is Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE.
I still hear he/r cheeky Mancunian commentary in my head regarding almost everything. S/he is still here, as has been so many times stated.