Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE at AICAD: Art Should be Done From Your Death Bed Looking Back

by Paddy Johnson on November 18, 2016 You Got This


“Creation is divine work,” proclaimed Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE this past Wednesday. God’s first acts were to create the world, and Genesis, an adopted name gestures to this history. H/er words served to introduce a lecture prepared for the seminar class at AICAD and represented the event programming for AFC’s curated exhibition “Strange Genitals“. The talk was something of a divine experience.

By way of background, the point of the exhibition and auxiliary programming was less about showcasing a bunch of weird dicks and vag’s than it was offering the broadest possible look at gender—and by extension art.  BREYER P-ORRIDGE, who identifies as pandrogynous, a separate entity made through the union of two bodies, is a perfect fit in this regard. (S/he and h/er now deceased wife, Lady Jaye have had extensive surgery to look like one another and create a separate entity that is both of them.) Moreover, BREYER P-ORRIDGE has made h/er entire life a work of art, thus offering up the most expansive definition of art we’ve seen. “As far as we’re concerned” s/he said of art, “it’s a spiritual path.”

Our walk along this spiritual path took no less than two hours so rather than offering up a blow by blow account of the talk I’m offering a few highlights below. The quotes alone are incredible, but my take home from all of it was simply this: living a life of art requires curiosity and demands generosity of spirit. Generosity is a gift that will always be returned to you ten fold.

Art is a Spiritual Path

  • It’s hard not to compare the philosophies of BREYER P-ORRIDGE and Carolee Schneeman. Schneeman has made shrines for her dead cat, which she believes has been reincarnated several times. BREYER P-ORRIDGE carries a wooden doll with h/er that has been consecrated by a high priest and gives a direct connection to Lady Jaye’s conscious. “Lady Jaye goes everywhere with me,” he told the class.
  • Early on in the lecture s/he describes the unusual beginning of COUM Transmissions, a musical and performance art group. One day, while riding in the car with his parents, s/he experienced a feeling of lights exploding in h/er head. S/he started hearing voices and getting messages. “It was like someone was printing text inside my head.” When s/he returned home s/he wrote it all down in h/er journal. COUM = Cosmic Organism of the Universe Molecular. Coum ran from 1969-1976.
  • Later, art would become an important vehicle for transcendental experiences. Live self mutilation experiments and even consuming poison on stage, did not seem to harm BREYER P-ORRIDGE as the performances took h/er into a trance like state. The point of this work, said BREYER P-ORRIDGE, was not to shock but simply to understand the relationship with ones behavior, one’s sexual identity and the human body, and the world outside.
    By 1981, the artist moved these experiments into a private space and named the project Psychick Youth. One example: taking a “heroic” dose of ecstasy, being wrapped in wool skins and in tight bondage, then put inside a coffin that was hoisted into the air and left for 8 plus hours. “They took me out afterwards and my first words were, ‘Now I understand time.'”
  • You can buy Psychick Bible here.

The Transmedia Commune 1968-69

An extreme lifestyle choice and formative experience in which members attempt to eliminate routine in an effort to focus on choice. Members weren’t allowed to sleep in the same place twice. There was no walls or privacy (basically you shit in public). All cloths are communal. No one was allowed to wear black because it symbolized the death of imagination.

“How much of you is awake and conscious and where’s the real you. You strip away the inherited ways. 1969 he decided to become a living art work. You do it all the time. You don’t turn it off. What could happen? You could get beaten up. You could get killed. You could die anyway. Or you could starve to death. Once you’ve decided you’re going to go anyway, there’s nothing to be afraid of any more. All the rest is chosen for except gender.”


“You have to have a long term vision. In our opinion art should be done from your death bed looking back. If this is the last day of your life, live it as if that’s the day you’ll be judged upon. Will we respect ourselves today? Will we make something because it needs to made or just to make it?”

“When you don’t know what’s going on, look at the vested interest.”

“Art is the distilled perfection of a new perception.”

“Creation is a state of hyperawareness.”

“We truly believe every single human being has genius in them of some kind.”


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