GENESIS P-ORRIDGE: COULD YOU JUST EXPLAIN THE MEANING OF THE UNIVERSE FOR ME?
After being kicked out, shut down, and shot at, Show Cave recently relocated to a fancy old crack house turned beautiful gallery venue in Highland Park. Tonight Show Cave’s Hazel Hill presents Permanent Vacation: a cleverly curated selection of videos by the likes of Eric Wareheim, Douglas J McCarthy and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Co-founder of thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and self-proclaimed pandrogyne Genesis P-Orridge discusses her ‘Weird Women’ videos as well as Skype stalkers, world hunger and the benefits of male breast-feeding. This interview by Drew Denny.
Genesis P-Orridge: So, you wouldn’t believe this. But it’s a real nightmare these days going on Skype. There must be people who just stalk you on Skype.
You have Skype stalkers?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yeah. They wait until you’re online. We just opened Skype to be ready for you, and in the next five minutes we have five people try to contact me. We have to block them. Literally one every minute.
Wow. Well, you’re very popular.
Genesis P-Orridge: I dunno. Would you do that? I certainly wouldn’t just get in touch with people. What kind of life do they have that they sit around waiting to try and sneak into my Skype and pretend they know me so they might get me to answer something? Imagine that! Skype stalkers.
I wanted to ask you about your video.
Genesis P-Orridge: Which Weird Woman is it, then?
‘State One’ and ‘State Two,’ it says.
Genesis P-Orridge: Ah, Pinky? Poor Pinky! That story is sick. It has to be one of the sickest stories we’ve ever done.
When did that story come to you?
Genesis P-Orridge: Well, you can probably tell from the outfit we’re wearing that Lady Jay designed the outift. She styled it. So Weird Woman was Lady Jay’s creation. Gosh, in 1969 we wrote this book called Missus Asquith and it was about a paranoid schizophrenic landlady who ran a bed and breakfast and who also had one person staying in her house whose name was Ivan Bitovovich. But Ivan and Bitovovich didn’t realize that they were the same person. So Bitovovich was having an affair with Missus Asquith, but Ivan was jealous and also a vouyeur of pete and thumb. And so Ivan would watch Bitovovich and Missus Asquith have sex, not realizing it was him. Are you with me so far? And so in this strange, twisted, warped world, we started to do it like it was a radio play—me and Lady Jay. So we would sorta go, ‘It’s peas, Missus Asquith, it’s peas!’ And then Bitovovich had this paranoid idea that when he saw peas on a plate they were really pea crabs and if you didn’t look carefully they would suddenly grow legs and attack you. So Weird Woman grew out of Missus Asquith—sort of an amalgam of paranoia and sort of warped perceptions. And then Jay decided that she would wear these really horrible clothes and this black wig.
The tie pin is really good.
Genesis P-Orridge: Oh, yes, yes.
Is that a swastika?
Genesis P-Orridge: It’s a swastika with um–what’s those plants in Switzerland? Alpine Lillies. So Weird Woman grew out of that. We used to just improvise at night, making up stories to each other. And so at some point we began making videos but when that one was done we don’t remember. It was completely made up on the spot. We were doing something else and then Jay just said, ‘Why don’t you do one of those weird women?’ ‘Okay.’ And made the story up out of nowhere.
State Two feels more like a manifesto.
Genesis P-Orridge: Right. Well, we got the camera set up beause we were going to record some of the Pandrogeny Manifesto. And so we had that in mind and some of the words for that were written on a big cuecard on the ground. So while we were standing there we started sort of dropping bits of the piece on the cuecard.
Could you explain what that manifesto is for those who might not know?
Genesis P-Orridge: ‘Could you just explain the meaning of the Universe for me?’ Yes, of course we can!
No, just gender—that’s all!
Genesis P-Orridge: The basic idea of the manifesto was to create a rant, a sort of pseudo-political rant about our ideas that eventually the world would be a better place if instead of it being binary—male and female, black and white, Muslim and Christian and so on—if everything became inclusive instead of exclusive. And our own personal dream was to become each other. Instead of being two separate people in love we wanted to become one being in love. Her and myself. So we were each other’s other half and only together we were whole. That’s how pandrogeny began. The more that we looked into it … First of all, we started to want to look like each other, to sort of extend the idea of becoming each other and being absolved in love. But as we started to do that we recognized the relationship with what we were doing and borrowed those ideas of the cutups. And they would think that when they did cutups with writing or art that it was the resulting work wasn’t by either of them, it was the result of what they called the Third Mind. So, we thought, maybe if we cut each other up—both psychologically and literally with cosmetic surgery—then we’ll create the third being. And that third being is the Pandrogyne. So the more sort of social-cultural aspect of the second state—that’s about wanting to change the world into a world, ultimately, of hermaphrodites–of chemical hermaphrodites. We’d like all the men in the world to have breasts and breastfeed so they realize all their responsibilities and stop being so stupid!
I always say I’m looking for a good pair of tits with a penis. Those are my favorite body parts so I’d like to see them all together.
Genesis P-Orridge: Well, that’s my job! You see, we’re just waiting here for women to roll up here ringing the bell.
Well, they might be calling you on Skype right now!
Genesis P-Orridge: They’re all stalking me! That’s why they’re stalking me. Well, you know what’s interesting, Drew, is how many women we’ve met, obviously amongst our own particular community, but–a lot of them said they prefer men with breasts or women with a penis. It seems like a popular option for biological women. If only men understood how popular breasts are with biological women, they would be so surprised!
I read in Harper’s that over 50% of women in Sweden are attracted to other women.
Genesis P-Orridge: It’s the time, it’s the time!
It makes me want to go to Sweden.
Genesis P-Orridge: Those people are everywhere in my experience, actually.
Where are you?
Genesis P-Orridge: Where are we? We’re in Brooklyn right now. But we’re in the process of moving to the Lower East Side. So we’ve been going back and forth. Last night we spent the first night ever in our new place. It was good because it was air conditioned! The summer is muggy and disgusting. You must have been here when it’s muggy and hot.
I was just there last weekend.
Genesis P-Orridge: Absolutely vile. You’re going to Bolivia soon, is that right?
I am. Hazel and I are going together. How long have you known Hazel?
Genesis P-Orridge: Probably only two years. Through the book, doing the Psychick Bible. She came to stay here for about ten days and was just the most easygoing roommate. She just had this incredible intuition to be quiet or helpful or involved or whatever. Completely not demanding–just really supportive in every way. And then we went over to Seattle area to do the final version of the Bible and again we stayed together there and she was just so easy to be around.
Could you talk about the Psychick Bible a little bit? What’s that project?
Genesis P-Orridge: Haha, well! It’s a book! [Drew and Genesis play with their hair.] Um, from 1981 to 1991 we had this massive project called thee Temple ov Psychicl Youth¬–which was another one of these ideas gone out of control, you know what I mean? It started out as an experiment in some sort of de-mystified de-conditioned idea of rituals–not exactly Shamanic ritual but using sex magick and certain techniques that supposedly reprogram the unconscious and the nervous system. Using those without any need to join a group and have a pyramid power structure, or any of that. But, literally just give away these secrets–free! And say if this is useful, by all means, use it and tell us what happens. So people would do these rituals every 23rd of the month at 23:00 hours that involved having an orgasm, of course. Well, that’s both a pleasurable and effective way to contact your unconscious really quickly. And reprogram it. And so, we started doing that and it just grew from a few people to more and more until we started having to designing a structure. So, we had thee Temple ov Psychick Youth station, which was the original people, and then access points which meant groups of people who would access more of the network. And eventually, there were more than 10,000 people, more or less, worldwide, in many countries, actively involved in this network of … basically people having orgasms at the same time. Something that’s never been done before in the history of the world.
That’s my kind of ritual!
Genesis P-Orridge: And people of course freaked out and thought we were trying to destroy civilization and that we must be satanic—despite the fact that we avoided all deities of every kind. And they raided my house in England and everything. Overnight I had nothing. Just–gone. But the Psychick Bible is 544 pages of what we felt after a lot of editing and consideration we thought were the most important and useful essays, texts and reports on what happened when people did these different ideas and techniques. It’s the definitive story of the Temple ov Psychick Youth. Done as a useful manual for other people to take and anything that they find helpful they can have and anything they don’t find helpful they can ignore. And Hazel did the design and the design of the Psychick Bible is easily 50% of its success. She just made it look so authoratative. It looks really important. When you just see it you just think, my God! You’ve seen it, obviously?
Yes, I saw it.
Genesis P-Orridge: It really just looks like it’s an important book. Whatever’s in here is really important. ‘I must take this seriously.’ So, she’s really made it work, you know. You could have had all the same information in a boring paperback and it wouldn’t have worked. The way that she designed it gets the maximum impact out of everything in there. And it sold out really quickly.
Genesis P-Orridge: Well, yes and no. Cause it was $69, originally, for the limited edition of 1999 with a DVD. But not long ago somebody said go look at Amazon at the Psychick Bible and we did and there were 2 copies for sale–$550 each! Now how often does a book that’s only been sold out 3 months go to $550 a copy? Without the DVD. Isn’t that incredible?
That’s totally insane. You should make some more!
Genesis P-Orridge: It’s dropped back to around $340. But that’s still incredible.They’re going to do a paperback version because we don’t want it to become–well, we don’t want that to become less valuable, but we also still want people to have the information. So by doing a paperback, people who just want to know what’s in it can get it. And it’s being translated into French already, and it’s coming out in France—in French—in July. With exactly the same design that Hazel did for the English version. So, it’s fascinating. For me it was really a big deal because we always wanted that to get done. We hadn’t lost hope, but we’d just forgotten about it. And then all of a sudden a friend of ours, Adam Parfrey, at Feral House, said, ‘Let’s do the Psychic Bible.’ And we said, ‘Well, only if it’s done exactly how we want.’ And he just went, ‘Whatever you want, just do it.’ So we did. We got really lucky.
That’s how you met Hazel and fell into the Show Cave?
Genesis P-Orridge: We were looking for someone to design the book—basically for not a lot of money. There’s not really a budget, sadly. And we got in touch with Kelly from Swoon? And we said, ‘Do you know anyone who can design a book?’ And she said, ‘Well I have this friend Hazel.’ And that’s how we met Hazel, through Kelly. And gosh, it’s been one of the best things that ever happened. She’s been just fantastic.
And will you be at the show at Permanent Vacation?
Genesis P-Orridge: No, we won’t be able to be there I’m afraid. We’re going to be in Chicago, we have an art opening in Chicago. It’s the show that we put on in New York recently. Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is–A Love Story. [Genesis gets really close to the camera to show her gold teeth.] It’s the whole story of my gold teeth. It’s a collaboration based on the teeth. And the other half is paintings by Daniel Albrigo who is the tattoo artist who did all this stuff. [Shows her tat sleeve.] Can you see it? Lady Jay. There she is. And those lips are where she kissed the first love letter she ever sent me. That’s a phrasing of those lips.
Genesis P-Orridge: And he also does these beautiful oil paintings and got in touch with me through my friend Ryan, my manager, and said he’d like to do paintings of my teeth–cause he loves teeth. So, we said, ‘Sure!’ So he showed up one day and took lots of pictures. Went away and decided to do 23 oil paintings of the teeth. So the exhibition is a mixture of his paintings, my teeth in transition and our artworks of the teeth in transition, too. And then we have a book of poetry—Volume One of the Collective Poems and Lyrics—to do. And then we just got the proposal to do a book—Breaking Sex in Pandrogeny—for Atlantic Books. And there’s a book about conversations coming out in this conversation series. The last one was Yoko Ono, I think. And we’re doing an installation for Robert Wilson, the guy who did Einstein on the Beach. At his foundation in Long Island. It’s crazy!
You’re going to be everywhere!
Genesis P-Orridge: Busy, busy, busy! And my dog, he died. Biggy! Big Boy. She must have mentioned him to you. He just died two weeks ago.
Genesis P-Orridge: And Bolivia, what’s the documentary about? I don’t think you told me.
There’s a settlement of displaced miners living in rural Bolivia, and they’re trying to construct this cooperative society that combines micro-finance with foreign investment and charity donations, which is an interesting and quite experimental model of development to witness.
Genesis P-Orridge: That is exciting. It kind of sounds like when we first went to Katmandu, the first time. And we got all the people who were fans of Psychic TV to send it really good quality, warm, children’s and baby’s clothes. Because for the winter it’s really hard out in the Himalayas, as you can imagine. Um, and then we flew out and through out contacts in one of the monastaries, the Tibetan Buddhist monastaries, we financed a soup kitchen right through the winter. And there’s a stupa… And every day in the morning and in the mid-day, two times a day, anybody could come and sit around the stupa and we’d feed them all. With rice and daal and give them good drinking water. Sometimes 300 or 400 people at a time. And also the children and the babies of the refugees in Nepal–we’d give them clothes to keep them warm in the winter. There were lepers and beggars and Tibetan refugees and basically people we were taking care of. What’s really ironic is that’s when Scotland Yard raided our house in England, saying we were satanic. And not once did the papers say, ‘Actually they’re in Nepal using their own money to feed refugees.’ It was a very weird moment, but a very wonderful moment. It was just so fantastic to be involved with something that is proactive and helping people survive. Just survive. People just forget that that’s what other countries are doing–is trying to eat that day. To eat and stay even warm and sheltered enough to survive. There are no more ambitions than that. You know?
It definitely puts an art practice or intellectual practice into a different perspective.
Genesis P-Orridge: And we had our children with us–Caresse and Genesse. They were at that time eight and six, maybe nine and seven. And they remember it, but they remember it very fondly. Even though they were helping and when you first see a leper do that– [Genesis puts her fists together] — and there’s no fingers. Just stubs. And then you look at their face and they’re blind because of this really horrible illness. At first you feel patronizing, but then they smile and you realize that it doesn’t matter. They don’t care, they’re just really happy that you’re there. And you really bond with people and forget the disabilities really quickly. And so, the kids remember it as being a really positive time. They really enjoyed it–they got through it just fine. It’s important it because they always have known what it’s like to have nothing. They see what it’s like to have nothing. And they’ve even lost everything they had overnight, too, so, they really have a clear understanding of the privileges we have in the West.
How old are your kids now?
Genesis P-Orridge: Caresse is—God, she’s 28 in August. And the other one is 26.
That’s how old I am now.
Genesis P-Orridge: Is it? Oh, my goodness! You’re the same age as my youngest daughter! That’s such a weird thing. I’m 60. Weird. But the thing is strange is that we feel comfortable with all different age groups. You know? We don’t feel really one or the other age group, we’re just friendly with a lot of people who seem to be good people. That’s it. The age is not really important. So you’re 26. That’s good. And how come you got so involved in something like this? Because it’s unusual. You know Americans, in particular, but people in the West generally tend to be very selfish and greedy because they don’t know about everything else. They don’t get the information, as you know. So, what got you get involved—just chance or what?
I started working in documentary photography when I was like 18. My dad lived in India when I was in high school, and I worked in Central America and became interested in the relationship between sweatshop labor and the sex trade—
Genesis P-Orridge: Amazing. Whereabouts in India were you?
Well, he lived in Mumbai. I did my research in the Red Light District.
Genesis P-Orridge: We saw a documentary about the Red Light District. Heavy, heavy. So depressing. So hypocritical, the combination of the pure woman and the slut thing. And then men have such a twisted view.
Yeah, it’s really bizarre.
Genesis P-Orridge: Yeah, wow. What a woman you are! Congratulations, we’re impressed, really!
PERMANENT VACATION: NEW VIDEOS CURATED BY HAZEL HILL McCARTHY III AT SHOW CAVE, 3501 EAGLE ROCK BLVD., HIGHLAND PARK. 9 PM / FREE / ALL AGES. SHOWCAVE.ORG. VIDEOS BY GENESIS P-ORRIDGE, ERIC WAREHEIM, DOUGLAS J. MCCARTHY, ERIC NORDHAUSER, HAZEL HILL MCCARTHY III, DARWIN SERWINK, ABDI TASLIMI, RICHARD BOTT, IAN ALEXANDER SCOTT, BOBBI WOODS, LEWIS WRIGHT AND MORE.