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The documentary, The ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, directed by Marie Losier, recounts the love story between Genesis P. Orridge, musician and performer in bands, such as Throbbing Gristle, and Lady Jaye, a New York dominatrix. It is a love ballad that talks of art, desire and death, the body and surgery with no celebration of the flesh or individuation, more the erasure of all trace of the “id”, a merging into an embrace with the other, with everything. Disappearing during the process, the process of pandrogyny: the fusing of opposites, creating a third gender; being operated on, silicone implants and the filing away of cartilage so as to look more like the one you love, who in turn slowly looks more like you.
It’s not so much about transforming the body in an artistic action in the style of Orlan, nor of changing gender through surgery. Genesis declared that: ’’Some men feel like they are women trapped in the body of a man, there are women who feel like man trapped in the body of a woman. I feel trapped in a body.’’ It could be seen as a somewhat grim Freudian exercise, depending on how one looks at it or if one takes it out of context. But within the life of Genesis, when telling his story, the encounter with Lady Jaye and the project of pandrogyny make sense.
To communicate, to shake up reality and subjectivity are things that Genesis has had in mind since he first started as a performer and musician. He was founder of the active collective COUM Transmissions –a mixture of theatre of cruelty and action -, from there, the ambient music ended up evolving into the band Throbbing Gristle. Industrial music, that employed the cut-up technique that was amassed by William Burroughs, mixtures and distortions, noise, that in general was characterised for raising the problems of society and the human being, in the most uncomfortable form possible: images of violence, allusions to totalitarian systems or serial killers such as Charles Manson populated the iconography of the band.
Throbbing Gristle was a punch in the face right in the middle of the Thatcher era, pointing out what didn´t function in the system, no messing with indulgent utopias or avoiding uncomfortable subjects. The lyrics of the songs and the images used, both on the record covers and when playing live, talked of cruelty, control, post-nuclear landscapes and violence. And also of love, a mutant love, monstrous, made out of desirous, more than desired, bodies.
The musical project of Genesis later moved on to Psychic TV, with clear allusions to the media and the control they exercise on subjectivity. Psychic TV declared themselves as shamans, sorcerers of words and meanings. Their concerts were like Bacchic rituals in which the principle of individualisation was lost in the collective. And yes, also lots of chemical drugs and the odd moment when it looked like Genesis had lost his way with his new age vibe and esotericism, in the style of Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn.
However Genesis says interesting things, he sings and talks about them in numerous interviews (and here the internet is a mine of moments of insolence, cutting replies, fine put downs and verbal attacks on the system, from totalitarianism to hypocrisy). To find out more about Genesis a look at some of those interviews is highly recommended: the one from the programme La Edad de oro –with the annoying presenter and one from Berlin in 89 –key date for the wall and all its means -, are not to be missed.
Over the years Genesis had enough of England and went to the United States, where he met a dominatrix, Lady Jaye, and they fell in love. Instead of having children they decided they would have cosmetic surgery to look more like each other and thus create a third being, also a mixture of the two.
The body like hardware, with multiple possibilities for formatting, for hacking the software, once again the William Burroughs’ technique of “cut-up” but now applied to identity: so the body produces other meanings, breaking the control, interrupting what is expected of it. The body in its ambivalence: as a true plane, the body IS; and at the same time in its transitory condition, the -cheap suit- said Lady Jaye.
One can talk about the project of pandrogyny, make a documentary, reproduce and disseminate it, it can produce discourse but it can´t be possessed as a work of art. It can´t even be possessed as a physical body, as one of the two parts of the project, Lady Jaye, died. Though this doesn´t mean the end, just a transformation, part of the process of being, making and disappearing.
And at the end of the story it all fits: love, music, pain, pleasure, flesh and the ineffable. And the story slowly configures so that the ballad was real, so that it narrated a real love, a brutal and tender love. Just as Genesis P. Orridge sang in “United”, a song from 1978 (made long before he met Lady Jaye.):
You become me
And I become you
She is she
And she is you too
A corresponding game to play
A special way for us to stay
It’s a lie
It’s the same
It’s a sigh
It’s a game
It’s the why
It’s the where and the when we’re United
You and I, You and I
United United (…)
Love is the law
United United United, You and I, You and I United
Time will see us
We are everywhere
There is no why
There is no sky anymore
There is just us United
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)