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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

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APRIL 2020 Issue
In Memoriam A Tribute to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Enok Ripley

Alien brains, angelic bodies…

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Paris, 2008. © Carl Abrahamsson.
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Paris, 2008. © Carl Abrahamsson.

I have spent my life in and out of hospital. I am chronically afflicted with a painful swelling throughout the tissues in my body, as well as high fevers that render me unconscious and threaten my life. The swelling would often have an effect on my hearing or sight, or capacity to walk, and would often trigger seizures. When I was in hospital throughout my time with Genesis, S/he often would send me letters and poetry or photos to help me keep focused on positive things, and would wish for me to find some respite between painful moments. 

“Flowering Pain Give Space” is the mantra I have used to graciously ask for relief. To allow pain to be both beautiful and horrible. To treat even painful experiences with respect. Gen gave me these words to focus on, to spill my emotions into, to meditate on… 

When I could, I would visit Gen as much as possible, spending time often in he/r home, making art, reading, and watching films together. Sharing stories of us both growing up as sickly children and medical anomalies…we would laugh and shed tears together, dreaming about strategies for coping, and imagining how to survive in a world that does not wish to see us exist, let alone thrive. We fantasized about communities of queers, of radical love and bizarre sex, of a future that is focused around kinship and art and community. Precious time spent together gave me a sense of family that I had never known, a true sense of kinship wrought from strange circumstances of birth, strange hands of fate, stories of love found and lost and regained.

Pain and suffering, as Gen would say, is a required Shamanic journey for creatures like us. A small death of the bio-body is what we must endure to transcend. If we wish to build a more humane world, we must endure, we must find a way to pull society forward into a bright new “humanE” existence.

When Gen began he/r hospitalizations, s/he would often speak to me about he/r hopes for the future, about why s/he made the art s/he created, about dying and love and pain…about strange medical pokes and prods, laugh about the invasiveness and perversion of it all… The weird body mechanisms of pissing and shitting become so disembodied when you are in hospital, nothing is private and everything is on the table, both figuratively and literally…

When Genesis saw my naked body, with all its scars, its surgical/medical interventions, s/he called it my “angelic body.” In this moment I truly saw myself in a new light. I began to imagine a future where me and others like me could exist openly and visibly in our own power. In Gen’s eyes, I was not just a mutilated, crippled, deviant queer…I was an angelic form with the power of changing the world. S/he saw me, in my truth, and to he/r it was something important and beautiful.

He/r main hope, s/he would say, in all of this strangeness of living, would be for he/r existence to continue as a presence for those who feel alien, who are displaced or are suffering, “people who find nothing in the current social system that feels relevant or familiar…” 

Gen gave me that, a future that allowed for the fullness of myself, an unapologetically strange and compassionate creature capable of anything. Gen allowed me to see my power, and showed me that there is hope. That there is LovE. 

S/he showed me a way to survive this. 

Contributor

Enok Ripley

Enok Ripley is a performance artist, who cultivates ritual spaces both physical and metaphysical, in which grief can exist alongside hope. Enok?s work has been shown in galleries across North America and Europe as well as exhibited at the Venice International Performance Art Week at the Venice Biennale in 2017.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

All Issues