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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

Ron Athey

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is Dead

Courtesy the author.

Persuasion. My 40 years of being imprinted by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge starts with Throbbing Gristle. But, perhaps more informative for my own performance work, breaks the timeline and goes back to documentation of a COUM transmission performance at LAICA 1976. Genesis and Cosey Fanni Tutti post-porn and/with abject actions. To quote the late great LA music scene producer and writer (and fellow Hull resident) Brendan Mullen, “the local avant-garde art community fled the COUM show one by one. Performance-art eminence Chris Burden's reported parting shot: ‘This is not art, this is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen; these people are sick.’ Conceptual-art bigwig John Baldessari was unimpressed.” All of this expanded the possibilities of how I could understand and express myself. I was never interested in being in a band, but manipulating Apocalypse!

Hamburger Lady. I was 18 years old in 1980, in Pomona, a suburb beyond the suburb 45 miles due east of LA and gateway to the Inland Empire, fluctuating between living in a car and living with my boyfriend Rozz Williams at his parents house. Taking impossible amounts of speed and excellent Owsley-brand LSD, hardcore punk wasn’t exactly the right soundtrack to explore in, we had already ventured into No Wave and art damage, slowing down for the Eno ambient albums. The legendary and now razed Atomic Cafe, a late-night Little Tokyo Japanese eatery and punk epicentre in downtown LA, stocked the jukebox with X-ray spex, Teenage Jesus, Germs, Bags, GoGos, and significantly, TG singles. “Hamburger Lady” and “Something Came Over Me.” TG over miso soup from the get go. Or my regular, pink birthday cake with a Coca-Cola.

Heathen Earth. Lived for Twenty Jazz Funk Greats (1979), D.O.A. (1978), everything I could get my hands on, but when the live album Heathen Earth (1980) was released, I found my soundtrack. I think I actually changed the rhythm of brain waves, I listened to it so many times! It was definitely the repeated soundtrack for trips, or while writing, or fucking.

Rozz and I had moved from his parents' house to the central storeroom (i.e. no windows) in the middle of a punk record store, Toxic Shock Records, still in Pomona! We started a noise/performance project called Premature Ejaculation (PE), which was, number one influenced by incredible Johanna Went, who was active on the club circuit in that era, but also the philosophy of TG and general “Industrial Culture”, with some awareness of Viennese Akshunism. The use of audio cassettes, feedback, live vocal screaming, were pure noise geekery. But we also had another connection that we were able to access through the cut-up and randomness isle, sessions of automatic writing in unison.

Esoterrorist. While I was researching my current work “Acéphalous Monster”, definitely a Bataille-premise, my understanding of the secret society of Acéphale (minutes before Nazi occupation of France), there is a clear statement that fascism is a manifestation of the death of God, and the responsibility to fill the vacuum was to create new celebrations. Bataille, Masson, Laure, et al in the 1930s. It was clear that TOPY [Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth] was an updated version of the magyck, with a generous helping of Radical Faeries/Mattachine inspiration. I don’t claim to have been deep into TOPY—as someone with deep religious cult damage and an awareness of my own death-of-god god-hole—the purpose resonated with me (and recent writings about how dangerous it was… bless). Esoterrorist: Selected Essays 1980-1988 (1989) reads even stronger now in tech bro co-option such as microdosing to be a genius at work: “The cloning of radicalism: psychedelic grey.” This is absolutely in line with Bataille’s “Sacred Conspiracy,” by including this material it would make Acéphalous Monster more expansive than a mere look back at WWII France, moving the timeline from the 30’s to the ‘80s, while stewing in a 2019 context. Gen gave me the blessing, and further, the permission to cut, edit, record and project. Used in the finale scene of Acéphalous Monster, it appears projected in a video-mapped word virus format and pre-recorded VoiceOver for Scene 5, “Entering the Forest of Acéphale”:

The closest to a possibility of describing the reality of things as opposed to inherited linear materialist mode has to be a kaleidoscope. An integrated, non-linear method. It has to contain, at least implicitly, every possibility, every impossibility, every conscious and unconscious thought/word/and deed/ simultaneously.

The cut-up is a practical way into this. Life is quite simply a stream of cut-ups on every level. Given the discovery of a means to describe and reveal reality, we can also identify Control.

We are left physically and mentally corrupted, nearer to the mortality we are trained to fear and ignore. To encase in the concrete of acceptance by our peers where it can do us no harm.

In describing society, its behavior, its grandiose stupidity, we can be motivated by compassion and despair colored by not a little sarcasm and cynicism. Yet in every picture there is an enervation and texture that rely upon a resented CARING for its composition.

Framed by our paranoias, framed by conditioning, framed by false witness and the theft of all pieces of silver, we kiss the cheek of the land that bites us.

‘We all die.’ “‘Well spoken,’ said the Sage to the wall, painting it white.”

Just Like Arcadia. The first time I met he/r was in Los Angeles at Vaginal Davis’s weekly Sunday afternoon punk rock beer bust, Sucker, which must have been around the time of the Love and Rockets fire. We sat down on a side bunk and after niceties, s/he had to pipe in “who cares about punk?” Lightly dismissing the queercore moment of the venue! We had a laugh and dug in for about an hour. S/he knew Glen Meadmore (there’s a brilliant PTV remix of “Do Me”), LA legends such as Don Bolles, name-dropped The Goddess Bunny, Dr. Timothy Leary. And someone we always talked about, Brion Gysin.

This was an aspect of Gen that I treasured, they honored the lineage, the doorway, the elders, gateways, was one of my favorite parts of their process. I dove into David Medalla after reading Gen’s interview in the Dead Flowers catalog, there was always Burroughs love but a steering to Gysin.

After Cease to Exist. California Dreaming happened in the aftermath of the 1992 “Operation Spanner” in the UK, wherein leather fags, beds, and body mod practitioners were targeted. Simple take is one of the rulings, that in a BDSM relationship, consent does not allow the bottom to release the law (grievous bodily harm) on their own body. From a Spanner forum posted by Bugs Fucking Bunny:

in 1992, things went really weird. Mr. Sebastian had mixed with noted members of the more ‘adventurous’ arts and music scenes—such as Genesis P-Orridge, Peter Christopherson and John Balance (of Coil), David Tibet (of Current 93) and the film director Derek Jarman. Police raided the home of P-Orridge, accompanied by a Channel 4 film crew from the documentary series ‘Dispatches.’ Their raid formed part of a film on Satanic abuse, in which footage was shown that purported to cover murder, ritualistic torture and rape, forced abortions and infanticide. It was made very clear to him that on his return his children would be seized by Social Services. The others—Christopherson, Balance, Tibet and Jarman—were interviewed by police and hounded by the press. Their mail was opened and they were followed at all times—the toll was severe on Derek Jarman who was dying of AIDS at the time.

Message from thee Temple: PTV3 at Teregram Ballroom, August 2016. Edley O’Dowd suggested to Gen to bring me in to perform “Message From The Temple” It was a good gig to shake me out of a performance break. I’m a sucker for honoring the lineage, I knew it came from the legendary Mr. Sebastian, but my YouTube research gave me Derek Jarman reading for him. OK, I was intimidated but I love giving a droll reading so one rehearsal at Hully Gully studios and we were ready. Margaret Cho was also on the guest lineup. This scene was a scream backstage. Thank you Temple, for the prompt.

Always is Always [Forever]. These last three years, leukemia. Mostly housebound, but having to Hustle. Also decomposing in public. Also honest and exhibitionistic, every treatment, every fall offered up on social media. I think of the account in the Sylvester bio, when he was wasting away with complications of AIDS, he went to his last Pride in a wheelchair. Or Mohammed Ali with advanced Parkinson’s struggling to talk. No Greta Garbos here. At death, the timeline falls over and every moment is represented on equal footing, it’s clearer what it adds up to. Attacked but not quite banished. Brilliant, inspiring, divisive and yes, problematic. A Wrecker of Civilization, a proper love child out of the darkest ’60s, this is he/r Legend. But such a deep cosmic esoteric explorer, I would not have landed here without he/r. I feel these words of Jean Genet, sappy Francophile that I am, from Our Lady of the Flowers:


Since Divine is dead
The poet may sing her,
May tell her legend. The saga,
The Story of Divine.

Contributor

Ron Athey

Ron Athey is a performance artist living in Los Angeles. Queer Communion, a retrospective highlighting his 40 years of art-making opens at Participant Inc. in September 2020.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

All Issues