Fittingly for the name s/he* chose, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge was a protean figure who incalculably influenced the worlds of music, art, performance, literature, and the occult for over half a century, most notably through he/r performance collectives COUM Transmissions (1968–1976), Throbbing Gristle (1975–1981; 2004–2010), and Psychic TV (1981–1999; 2003–2020) and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth or T.O.P.Y. (1981–1989). “I’ve been saying: change, change, change, change, change—for all my life. And yet people don’t want me to change,” s/he said, in Marie Losier’s documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (2011). As such, it’s nearly impossible to create a singular picture of he/r or he/r various works. Instead, we’ve gathered 23 contributions from he/r friends in different contexts and timeframes to reflect on the person they knew, the collaborations they made, and the influences they experienced (23 being P-Orridge’s “special” number). We’ve included the transcript of a lecture P-Orridge gave on he/r work to a group of young artists in Stockholm in 2002, only now made available in the new book of interviews with he/r long time friend Carl Abrahamsson, Sacred Intent, which gives an overview of he/r ideas in he/r own terms.
*A note on language: Upon meeting Jackie “Lady Jaye” Breyer in 1993, the two embarked on a love affair that would become an artwork merging them into a joint being called a “pandrogyne.” At that time P-Orridge assumed plural singular pronouns, and took on the self-made pronouns “s/he” and “he/r.” P-Orridge’s facility with language is as playful as it is profound, being first and always a poet. Thus with the precise insertion of a simple backslash, s/he illustrates the whole concept of pandrogeny—containing both “she” and “he” not as “either/or,” but “both/and,” simultaneously. Because Genesis believed policing of a so-called “identity” to be beside the point, while these latter pronouns predominate in the following accounts, some occasionally retain masculine forms, and others use “they,” for reasons specific to each writer that will largely be obvious in reading.
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge developed the “psychic cross”—a vertical line crossed by three parallel bars, a shorter one in the center— to represent for Temple of Psychic Youth, Psychic TV, and as a personal symbol. The glyph appears across the contributions, conjured typographically through the similar character “丰”. Translated approximately as “bountiful”, “lush”, or “abundant” in Japanese and Chinese— this additional layer of cross-cultural meaning would please P-Orridge.