Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Face(s) of Genesis

I attended last night's Queer/Art/Film screening of If... presented by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Gen, who now lives in New York, has been getting around a lot lately. She is, of course, part of some seminal noise institutions (Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, the latter of which will be hosting a Xmas-timed show this year in Bklnd) and exhibiting a great deal as a fine artist (with a recent show that opened at Invisible Exports last year on my birthday). I saw her stint on Vaginal Davis' live talk show "Speaking from the Diaphragm," a performance in which Gen held her own since Vag couldn't hold her liquor. That night was a beautiful collision of styles. Vag swaying on the floor, literally so drunk she could not stand up, and Genesis taking the reigns of this self-imploding variety show.

Last night was a tad different. The event was very much a place of worship (and catharsis) for and of Genesis, whose major project in the wake of her Industrial acts, is a physical fusion of Gen with his recently passed wife, The Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. In life, the two used plastic surgery and affected behavioral tactics to become, physically, the singular soul they felt they embodied in two parts. Now that their bodies are separated, indefinitely, Gen takes it upon herself to house the souls, referring to herself as "we" and answering for the Lady Jaye as quickly as for Gen (or so I understand it; there was a charming disclaimer at the evening's start that Gen had just begun referring to herself as we and, should she slip up, it is only on account of the tyranny of habituation). The film seemed a slice of life with which I was none-too impressed. But no one was there for If..., really, and that was for sure. Instead the event focused on Genesis' recountings of bullying and conflict in British Public (which, there, is our private) school systems. It seemed something of an exoneration or cathartic scene for Gen who stuck little to the accounts in the film, intermixing her lived experience with the narrative strife that the picture depicts.

The accounts wore on and, from where I was sitting, I could only make out Gen's face in profile as she answered questions, expounded on her bullied experiences and explained her self-designated gender formation with the Lady Jaye, pandrogeny: "Pandrogeny is not about defining differences, but about creating similarities. Not about separation but about unification and resolution." I've seen Gen a few times since moving to New York and I don't hold the same Holy opinions of her that some of my dearest friends (and some fiercely in-vogue art gays) do, and have been mildly skeptical about the devotion she inspires, but once she turned to address some questions on my side of the room, I found myself lost in the contours of her face. It might seem shallow or silly, that after very poignantly worded manifestos of the project on her pretty great website, it takes a face for me get drawn into the project. Perhaps it was a contact high from the devotional energy that clouded through the room. Genesis is very good at commanding a room and ensuring that the logic that she spins around her endeavors is not only sound, but gospel.

And perhaps I'm still slightly skeptical, but in that moment I was overtaken by a particular beauty, an evident and remarkable success in the fusion of these faces. Perhaps I got totally ruined by my obsessive use of Walter Benjamin's chapter "Allegory and Trauerschpiel" from The Original of German Tragic Drama in a Grad school essay on Maria Montez, but to facades and faces, I can't help but read the passage of time there written as allegorical, a kind of index to the tragic and momentous events there witnessed. Benjamin finds the apotheosis of this evocative quality in the ruin or, better yet, the facies hippocratica (the face of death) whose wizened dessicated countenance exists as an associative link to the entire narrative that has contributed to this present mask. These surfaces are narrative, not merely surfaces but physiognomic, moral spaces. This was the wave that I became swept up in, marveling at Gen's work last night. It's all written there and, as her manifesto on Pandrogeny attests, this life is a work, a very successful work, if I am to take her body, her beautiful and telling face as the primary medium of this life as art.

(Photos by my friend, the fabulous Celebrity photographer Greg Garry)

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