Where to start with the living art project that is Genesis Breyer P-Orridge? That’s a bit of a tricky question when discussing someone with a few different incarnations all happening in one lifetime…
The first version came into the world in Manchester in 1950 as Neil Megson. There followed a happy early childhood, a miserable public school experience from the age of 14, and a burgeoning interest in art, literature, music and the occult. Next came a phase as a post-hippie performance artist under the name Breyer P-Orridge, before music became the focus. The artist was frontman of the hugely-influential Throbbing Gristle, giving rise to the Industrial Music genre in the late 1970s and influencing bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Ministry.
The ’80s arts collective Psychic TV was the next venture. The group set great store in fetishism and body art, and that was an interest P-Orridge would take to extreme, shocking lengths in the following decade. Adopting the forename Genesis, he married Lady Jaye and together they set out to become a single entity pandrogyne. The two underwent numerous cosmetic procedures to look like one another, although Genesis emphasises the importance of the conscious over the physical aspect of the project. Lady Jaye died in 2007, but Genesis continues to push the boundaries with the pandrogyne experiment, and remains an active artist – s/he was recently the subject of a retrospective at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
You can read more about all of that, and see some at-times uncomfortably intimate images, in a fascinating monograph from First Third Books written with the help of music journalist Mark Peytress and artist Leigha Mason. The book is being released as a deluxe boxed edition with a poster, a 96-page artwork catalogue, and three 7” singles included. Not easy to swallow at times, but an insightful, beautifully presented work on an undeniably important artist.