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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Positive Surrender: An Interview with BREYER PORRIDGE (Genesis and Lady Jaye)

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Contemporary Theatre Review

Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information
Positive Surrender: An Interview with BREYER PORRIDGE

Dominic Johnson

Available online: 14 Mar 2012
To cite this article:

Dominic Johnson (2012): Positive Surrender: An Interview with BREYER P-ORRIDGE, Contemporary
Theatre Review, 22:1, 134-145

To link to this article:

Positive Surrender: An Interview with BREYER

Dominic Johnson

In their pronouncements on performance, art,
history and humanity, BREYER P-ORRIDGE like
to paint in broad brushstrokes. They create grand
narratives about human evolution, creative potential,
the politics of the body and self-determination
through art. Crucially, they do so in order to urge
us to attempt to replace old systems with new
possibilities for change. ‘Viva la Evolution!’ is a key
rallying cry of BREYER P-ORRIDGE, in interviews,
statements and performances. Formerly
Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer, in recent
years the artists have forgone their earlier names
and public identities towards a new collective
subjectivity. In tandem, the two formerly discreet
individuals used cosmetic surgery, performance and
other tools to produce a ‘Third Being’, a pandrogyne
– or positive androgyne – that goes by
the name BREYER P-ORRIDGE. This composite
identity has obliterated the two prior individualities,
towards a political exploration of the possibilities
that emerge from experiments with art,
science and culture. BREYER P-ORRIDGE’s
project epitomises and perhaps exceeds the use of
performance in everyday life to blur the distinctions
between art/life, even rendering such distinctions
obsolete. As Laure Leber’s portrait shows (see
Image 1), the efforts of the surgical and other
interventions have enabled the artists to achieve a
striking similarity, troubling the common divisions
attributable to gender, age, experience and other
factors that become seemingly inconsequential
under pressure from their unique ‘living art’ rituals.
Over a series of operations, beginning 1999,
BREYER P-ORRIDGE used cosmetic surgery and
body modification techniques towards a corporeal
translation of the cut-up technique of William S.
Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

1 In Breaking Sex the two artists underwent a series of surgical procedures,
including breast implants, chin, cheek and eye
augmentation, dental operations and facial tattooing.

Breaking Sex

was an attempt to manifest
physically ‘the third mind’, a concept that Burroughs

and Gysin invented in the 1960s to invoke the
possibilities that arise from a blurring of subjective
limits through a technical approximation of collage
through writing. As Ge´rard Georges-Lemaire writes,

The Third Mind

is not the history of a literary
collaboration, but rather the complete fusion in a

praxis of two subjectivities [. . .] that metamorphose
into a third; it is from this collusion that a
new author emerges, an absent third person
invisibly and beyond grasp, decoding the silence.

BREYER P-ORRIDGE followed, to the letter,
this merging of subjectivities at the expense of a
single authorial voice, producing the ‘pandrogyne’
(or ‘p-androgyne’), a fleshy incarnation of the
‘third mind’. They provocatively enacted Burroughs
and Gysin’s abandonment of inviolate
works and artistic ownership, ‘a magical or divine
creativity that could only result from the unconditional
integration of two sources’ – in this
case, the mirroring of bodies through surgical

3One of the problems with writing about
BREYER P-ORRIDGE is the way in which they
thread fertile fictions into their myths of self invention.

‘My original name was Neil Andrew Megson’, Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE states.
‘A couple of years ago I started to wonder what

happened to Neil. I have become an artwork with
no author. In a sense, Neil destroyed himself by
creating me.’

4 The threat the artists pose to
 traditional unities of biography and subjectivity were
consolidated in disturbing ways when Lady Jaye
BREYER P-ORRIDGE died, suddenly, of heart
failure in October 2007. Since Lady Jaye’s death,
Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE identifies in the first
person as ‘we’. As such, their work inspires semantic
trouble on several levels, from the capitalisation of
their name, to the merging of singular histories into
a confusingly conglomerate identity, to the surviving
artist’s decision to identify in the plural. According

Since Lady Jaye dropped her body on 9 October
2007, we dropped using ‘I’ in favour of ‘we’ to
signify Lady Jaye’s continued presence in our body
and personality, as well as her ongoing presence in
the Pandrogeny project – not just a nostalgic

presence but a dynamic one as we continue to

create works we co-created and proposed using

photographic and other biological materials to

realise new works.

Despite the tragedy of Lady Jaye’s death, the

project has persisted in a wide-ranging series of art/

life endeavours. The decision to carry on the

‘collaboration’ functions as another way in which

the artist(s) find new ways of complicating the

convention methods of scholarly, curatorial and

other practices of accounting for and narrating

artistic achievements. Traditional modes of biography,

historical summary and critical writing fail

when one tries to discuss the multiple identities,

harassed bodies and destitute subjectivities that pandrogyny

has produced. It has proven difficult to

negotiate how to refer to the artists, owing to the

different ways they identify across various moments,

in terms of gendered and singular or plural

personal pronouns (the artists refer to themselves

with traditional first pronouns in the dialogue

below, but have asked that I refer to them in the

plural in this introduction; Genesis BREYER PORRIDGE

also refer to themselves in the plural in

the prologue added since we conducted the interview).

They have invented a string of neologisms to

describe themselves and their practices. As a ‘Third

Being’, they are both multiple and a composite,

unified persona. However, language fails me in my

attempts to address them clearly and concisely. I

struggle in my abilities to write about them, and to

describe efficiently how they constitute themselves

as subjects and as artists. This is not simply a

methodological burden, but a sign of their insistent

refusal to allow others to assimilate them and their

artistic practices into convenient systems of production,

consumption and reception.

The following interview with Genesis and Lady

Jaye BREYER P-ORRIDGE was conducted live at

New York University in April 2007. The dialogue

was presented as part of the keynote address to a

symposium that explored the possibilities for

subcultural practice in an age of quickening and

intensifying processes of gentrification, containment

and commodification.

5 In their innovations



My Sacred Wound is

Your Material Glamour


Courtesy of the artist and Invisible Exports,

New York.

4. Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE, interview with the author,

New York, April 2007.


After CBGB: Gender, Sexuality and the Future of Subculture

took place at New York University on 13 April 2007, and was

organised by the Centre for the Study of Gender and

Sexuality. I am grateful to Tavia Nyong’o and Robert D.

Campbell for permission to publish an edited transcript of

the dialogue. The transcript has been amended and extended

in correspondence since 2007, including a prologue added

by Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE in 2011.


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across the art/life divide, BREYER P-ORRIDGE

have resisted the tendency towards institutional

assimilation, by exploring a form of positive cultural

terrorism in and beyond performance. Here, they

explain how their current project

Breaking Sex

(1999–2007) complements and extends their earlier

solo and collaborative practices towards new

and challenging realisations in the cultural politics

of Live Art and performance. They discuss their

own perceived relations to ‘Live Art’, and a

preference for using the terminology of ‘Living

Art’, tying

Breaking Sex and earlier works into the

historical avant-garde project. Since the midtwentieth

century, the avant-garde has attempted

the ‘sublation’ of art into the praxis of life, in order

to demolish the bourgeois institution of art as a set

of practices, values and bodies of knowledge that sit

apart from lived experiences.

6 Live Art and

performance art practitioners in the UK have long

explored the avant-garde project of bringing art

into the praxis of life, for example the Living Art

projects of Gilbert & George or Leigh Bowery.

Genesis and Lady Jaye BREYER P-ORRIDGE

are key to histories of cultural experimentation – in
the UK since the 1960s, on the one hand, and in
downtown New York’s club and performance scene
on the other – and these histories have merged in an
unprecedented experiment. The American-born
artist Lady Jaye BREYER P-ORRIDGE was a
formative influence on downtown performance, as
a member of Blacklips Performance Cult (with
Antony Hegarty), a club performance troupe
inspired by Jimmy Camicia’s legendary Hot Peaches.
Lady Jaye was also influential as a co-founder of the

House of Domination at the legendary New York
club Jackie 60. Born inManchester in 1950, Genesis
BREYER P-ORRIDGE relentlessly inserted new
strategies into the horizon of art and popular culture
from an early age, and these included historical

cultural innovations such as industrial music and

body modification in the 1970s, acid house in the

1980s and, most recently, the figure of the pandrogyne.


I should add that the provision of

seemingly straightforward information, including

the artists’ personal histories, feels surprisingly

awkward in the wake of the unique collaborative

principles that BREYER P-ORRIDGE uphold. It is

this spirit of persistent interruption, I would argue,

that makes their work an apposite example of Live

Art (despite their protestations about the limitations

of this term), bearing in mind its frequent definition

as a strategic disturbance of institutional conventions.

This should hardly be surprising: a founder of

the British performance group COUM Transmissions,

the art/music groups Throbbing Gristle and

Psychic TV, and the spoken word project Thee

Majesty, Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE have been

at the forefront of British cross-disciplinary arts for

four decades. Nevertheless, many of these accomplishments

have been written out of dominant

histories of performance and Live Art in the UK,

along with the work of a range of prolific artists who

were similarly crucial to the cultural landscape of

British art in the 1970s and 1980s especially. These
include Shirley Cameron and Roland Miller, Pip
Simmons, John Bull Puncture Repair Kit and Bruce

Lacey. BREYER P-ORRIDGE discuss some of these

artists as influences on their early work, primarily
during the years in which COUM Transmissions
were active.
‘One of my main quests in life has been to take

control of my own identity in a very real way’,

 In their practice,

this quest has involved performance art, collage,

mail art, sound and music, the occult practice of

Sigil drawing (inspired by the art of Austin Osman

Spare) and other seemingly uncategorisable artistic

pursuits. Since the public inauguration of the

Pandrogeny (or Pandrogyny) project their works

have focused upon video works, sculptures,

installations and photography. These diverse and

personally invested practices have led to the

development of new modes of performance and,
most strikingly perhaps, the obliteration of any
feasible distinction between art and life. As

BREYER P-ORRIDGE state, ‘Pandrogeny is not

about defining differences but about creating
similarities. Not about separation but about
unification, about inclusion and resolution.’

 clearly define the project of breaking sex as an

evolutionary endeavour, to urge the body into
more responsive and responsible arrangements.


This politics is clearly influenced by Burroughs,

who wrote of ‘the feeling that the whole human

organism and its way of propagating is repellent

and inefficient. A living being is an artifact, like

the flintlock. Well, what’s wrong with the flintlock?

Just about everything.’

10 Describing the

problems with early firearm technologies, and

their replacement by more sophisticated machines,

Burroughs continues that ‘the human artifact is

back there with the flintlock [. . .] There are

possibilities of more efficient organisms. If you

don’t use it you lose it.’

11 The relentless

deconditioning of limits has been a persistent

impulse for BREYER P-ORRIDGE across forty

years of creative experimentation. It constitutes a

subversive bleeding across contested boundaries,

and a highly political attempt to muddle preconceived

categories of experience. In the words

of their mentor, Burroughs, after the ‘Master of

the Assassins’, Hassan I Sabbah: ‘NOTHING IS



Prologue byGenesis BREYERP-ORRIDGE

We suppose we have exaggerated a few things in

terms of this project, but that’s what you do – can

do – in a work of fiction (thinking of Lady Jaye’s

life seen as a resume). One of the first strategies

Jaye proposed to me was after I complained about

the tedium of doing countless repetitious interviews

for different media, because of the imposed

separation of literature, music, performance, art

and life. S/he suggested that, instead of retelling

the same story and anecdotes ad nauseam, that we

make up different conflicting answers each time

we were interviewed. Through SELF-editing,

cultural, social and economic pressures and

intimidations alone all lives become fictional and

that is before neuroses, ambitions, paranoia and

mental idiosyncrasies become part of the mix. So,

as all identities are fictional, active co-authorship

of our Pandrogenic narrative is an essential




Dominic Johnson:

How did Breaking Sex come



At the beginning


Breaking Sex and Pandrogeny, Lady Jaye and

I saw it primarily as an incredibly romantic thing to

do – to want to become each other, to look like each

other. So the very first thing that we did that was

more or less permanent was I got two tattoos on my

cheek – beauty spots where Lady Jaye has some, and

then she had one removed on the other cheek, so

that we were beginning to make our faces more

superficially the same. Then she got the shape of her

eyes changed so that they were more like mine, and

got her nose worked on to make it like mine. Lady


Image 3 COUM Transmissions,

Scenes of Victory #3

(1976). Solo COUM Transmissions action by Genesis

BREYER P-ORRIDGE at Death Factory, London 1976.

BREYER P-ORRIDGE. Courtesy of the artist and

Invisible Exports, New York.

10. Cited in Ted Morgan,

Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of

William S. Burroughs

(London: Pimlico, 1991), p. 352.

11. Ibid.

12. William S. Burroughs,

Cities of the Red Night (London:

Penguin, 1981), p. xviii.

13. Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE added this paragraph as a

prologue in 2011 during the collaborative editing of the

interview from the transcript into a publishable form.


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Jaye and I both got breast implants three years ago

on Valentine’s Day 2003 and we woke up together

in the room where you come back from being

under the anaesthetic, and we held hands, and as I

looked down I found myself saying, ‘Oh, these are

our angelic bodies.’ I found it really interesting

that I would go to sleep and when I woke up I

would not recognise the person in the mirror in

the same way.

I’m just a basic heterosexual, which confuses

people because it’s much less common for heterosexuals

to be transgender. And I’m not fully

accepted by the transgender community because
they don’t understand why it would be an art
project. We really are investigating the idea of
evolution. We’re challenging DNA and refusing to
accept it as the programming that controls our
biological life. I am a p-androgyne – a positive
androgyne. A hermaphrodite by choice. Pandrogeny
is a suggestion or strategy for the survival of
the species. In some ways all the different projects –
even the music – are about challenging the status
quo in order to change. I think change should be
inclusive of other people, not exclusive.


I’d like to ask you about the idea of allegiance,

in the sense of connecting to forgotten or less

privileged parts of cultural history. You’ve often
discussed your relation to William S. Burroughs,
Brion Gysin and Derek Jarman, for example. How
important is it to you to connect yourself to histories of
cultural experimentation?


People feel a kinship with what BREYER

P-ORRIDGE have been doing in our various

incarnations. It was the same for me when I was

young in the 1960s, and I’m sure for Lady Jaye in

her time. There are certain people, certain movements,

usually suppressed ways of seeing the world,

different ways of perceiving reality that shine like

beacons because they contradict everything that’s

being pushed into you by the so-called normal

world. I went to a very authoritarian British school

that actually had a statement in their manifesto that

said that art was not a real subject – parents were

expected to be glad that teachers didn’t waste their



Keeping Up With the Brian Joneses (2008). C-print on Plexiglas. BREYER

P-ORRIDGE. Courtesy of the artist and Invisible Exports, New York.


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time teaching us anything to do with literature or

art. For whatever reasons I’m perverse and that

made me want to look at literature and art as much

as I could. So there was an attraction for previous

manifestations of rebellion I think. If you feel

rebellious against the status quo you look for

commonality with other rebels. You seek them

out. You ask them what it is that they’re trying to say

and find out if you can say something similar but in a

more contemporary way. So that’s how I very luckily

got to know William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and

Derek Jarman very early, in the period between 1969

and 1971.


Burroughs and Gysin have been highly influential

to us, particularly in relation to the practice of

the ‘cut-up’. To liberate the word from linearity,

they began to cut-up texts and, incorporating

random chance, re-assembled both their own and

co-opted literature ‘to see what it really says’. They

referred to the phenomena of profound and poetic

new collisions and meanings that resulted from

their intimate collaborations as the ‘Third Mind’.

This was produced with a willingness to sacrifice

their separate, previously inviolate works and

artistic ‘ownership’. In many ways they saw the

Third Mind as an entity in and of itself. Something

‘other’, closer to a purity or essence, and the origin

and source of a magical or divine creativity that

could only result from the unconditional integration

of two sources.


Literary experimentation was very important

to you. How has your work been influenced by

the history of performance in the UK?


We began working with performance in

1965 in Solihull, Warwickshire, with dadaist street

happenings like

Beautiful Litter.15 We scattered

small cards with evocative words written on them all

over town, inside cafes, bookshops, etc. and in the

street. As any curious person picked up the words

they were creating a haiku-like poem. All the cards

picked up also ‘wrote’ a long poem, but one that



Untitled (2006): photo by Laure Leber. BREYER P-ORRIDGE. Courtesy of the

artist and Invisible Exports, New York.

14. For a detailed history of this period, see Simon Ford,

Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of COUM Transmissions

and Throbbing Gristle

(London: Black Dog, 1999), pp.


15. This section was also added in 2011, hence the shift from ‘I’

to ‘we’ in the use of personal pronoun.


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nobody would ever see or hear complete. In 1969

we joined David Medalla’s Exploding Galaxy in

Islington and it was there that we were mutated by

the rigorous aesthetics into entirely new ways of

seeing what art could become. We founded COUM

Transmissions in 1969 as well. Initially alone, later

with John Shapeero and, as time went by, more and

more people became involved to varying degrees of

engagement. COUM Transmissions began to flourish

in Hull in 1970–71 creating unsolicited street

theatre happenings. These actions got noticed and

we began to receive Arts Council bursaries and

grants. We added pages to

Groupvine [magazine]

and as a direct result COUM began to be invited to

participate in a lot of the Arts Festivals that

flourished then. We met Roland Miller and Shirley

Cameron who were very supportive of our early,

somewhat shambolic events and actions.Wemet the

John Bull Puncture Repair Kit, The Welfare State

and Jeff Nuttall and The People Show during the

early 1970s. We were generally surprised how many

of these people were art school lecturers with very

academic approaches to performance art – as it had

only just been dubbed. Almost all of these groups

seemed to have a pretty theatrical bent to their works

with, it also seemed, a diminishing ratio of improvisation

or happening. Because we were heavily

involved in mail art – and through that, Fluxus – our

influences were more conceptual and ironic.

As time progressed we dug deeper and deeper

into taboo, transgressive actions, sexuality and

gender roles, primarily with Sleazy Christopherson

and Cosey Fanni Tutti. We had all had the good

fortune to avoid art college, so our evolution was

based almost entirely upon our own communal

explorations together sexually and our lengthy

internal discussions about boundaries of all kinds.

Who delineates them? Who benefits from social

norms? Is there a valid reason for government

intrusion into the privacy of our individual physical

bodies? An artist’s right to choose how they use and

abuse their flesh was an important issue. Towards

the end of COUM Transmissions the work was

almost entirely about gender roles as we tried to

destabilise them.


Performance is clearly an important methodology

in your practice. Do you find the term ‘Live

Art’ relevant or useful as a description of your work?

If not how would you describe your practice?


If you said ‘Living Art’ we might be

comfortable with that as a term. By changing ‘Live

Art’ to ‘Living Art’, more levels and flexibilities of

meaning are aroused. Living Art implies some form

of being alive as opposed to dead. The art is active

and filled with potential and still evolving. From the

artists’ perspective it clarifies an important distinction

for BREYER P-ORRIDGE, namely the

insistence that we are living art constantly without

any separation between creation of art objects,

installations, films and any other useful medium

available, and what are normally seen as ‘domestic’

activities in daily living. Art, we believe, must be allinclusive

and 24/7, with its prime motivation

embedded, no matter how obliquely, in every

action or product. That motivation is a positive

evolution of the human species: a transcendence of

current economic, social, sexual and religious

mores. When you consider transsexuality, crossdressing,

cosmetic surgery, piercing and tattooing,

they are all calculated impulses – a symptomatic

groping towards the next phase. One of the great

things about human beings is that we impulsively

and intuitively express what is inevitably next in the

evolution of culture and our species. It is the Other

that we are destined to become.

It is important to point out that whilst we

continue to develop and document performances

(primarily through Sigils [

magickal drawings],

Polaroids and video), these are almost exclusively

enacted in private. We use self-created rituals to see

how deeply we can explore the neurosphere (the

consciousness and the chemical brain), the endurance

levels of our bodies and minds, and their

threshold for restriction and physical limitations of

our bodies. The goal is not to produce aesthetically

satisfying artworks but to try and retrieve the

diaphanous waves of potentially new information to

explain questions such as why are we here? What

other states of being are there? What is the true

nature of time? What other dimensions and

locations beyond our small consensus reality might

exist? Pandrogeny includes every means of perception,

so ‘Live Art’ would be inaccurate, misleading

and far too constricting a term for BREYER PORRIDGE.


You both bring very different histories and

experiences to the project of

Breaking Sex. Can you

each say something about the preparations that

enabled you to tackle such complex and provocative




our backgrounds are very different, Gen and I share

common early childhood experiences. When we

discussed our early life quite soon after we met we

realised that sharing these similar experiences

caused us to perceive the world in a certain way.

As an extension of that some of the same artists

resonated strongly with us – Marcel Duchamp,

Pierre Molinier, Hans Bellmer, Stelarc and ORLAN

spring to mind. Like getting hit over the head, you



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find something obscure or suppressed and it seems

like a truth, and you ask how it could have escaped

you for so long. Not all of our life experiences have

been the same, naturally – we’re from different

generations, and from different countries, but that

in many ways helps our work. It would not be a

work of the Third Mind/Third Being if we saw

everything identically. Sometimes our views will

contradict each other, like an exception that proves

the rule. Our work isn’t parallel sometimes, but

rather perpendicular, and forms a greater whole

that covers a lot more territory.


Jaye became very active in the downtown

New York scene and alternative theatre. Do

you want to mention that?


A lot of the work that I did when I was

younger drew certain parallels to Gen’s work. Had

I known about Gen’s work – had I been a little

more worldly and sophisticated – I might not have

done some of these things, knowing that they had

already been done in the 1970s! But I felt a need in

myself to explore certain things, and when I started

reviewing Gen’s early work I realised it expressed

similar ideas to what I was feeling at the same age.


To turn specifically to the Pandrogeny project,

one of the most striking tensions in the work is that

although it may seem at least superficially to be

monstrous or horrific, on a much deeper level it

demonstrates an investment in romance. Can you say

something about the collision between monstrosity and



At the very beginning before we were

committed to being with each other for a long

time, one of the very first times we actually met in

New York I stayed at Jaye’s apartment – we were

still just good friends – one of the first things she

did was dress me up like a little doll, in a very

androgynous way.


It was a green crushed-velvet Betsey

Johnson cat-suit.


And a little leather skirt, with Fluevog

shoes that you bought me especially.


Only the best.


Only the best. So there was an immediate

resonance between us that was never discussed at the

beginning where we began to blend. From then on

we playfully started to cross-dress with each other,

and play with the idea of looking similar and not

taking on traditional roles. When we got married on

Friday 13 June 1995, we intuitively – without a great

deal of discussion – swapped roles. I wore a white

lace dress and nice white and black shoes, and Jaye

wore skin-tight leather trousers, motorcycle boots, a

leather vest over her naked torso revealing her

breasts, and a moustache. That was the first step – a

deeply romantic urge to blend. The mutual orgasm

can be a transcendent experience where two people

seem to become one. Another way you can have that

experience is to create a baby, which is again two

people becoming one. We didn’t want to have a

baby, but we did want to create a new being that

represented the two of us, so we took each other and

started to analyse how we could play with that sense

of Positive Surrender, and create a new dynamic

being. That’s where the more considered artistic side



Would you say that Breaking Sex is a utopian



When we began Breaking Sex and as it

developed into Pandrogeny both of us saw it as

primarily a process of and for our own liberation

from any gender or identity expectations or social

conditioning. The central energy was our deeply

romantic love for one another. Inevitably, as

performance artists and creators who see no separation

whatsoever between our daily life and the

concept of ‘art’ we channelled our responses and

observations back into our practice, and integrated



Topless Poor-trait

(2008–2010). C-print on Plexiglas: photo by M. Sharkey,

reprocessed by BREYER P-ORRIDGE.


Courtesy of the artist and Invisible Exports,

New York.


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documentation into exhibitions via sculptures,

assemblages and photo works overlaid onto collages

of original Polaroids generated by our experiments

and rituals. A core part of our collaboration was

always endless discussion and dialogue back and

forth about the effects we were noting on ourselves,

and the expanding implications we felt we were


In 1971, Burroughs charged me with a task:

‘How do you short circuit control?’ We came to

feel that control was ultimately inseparable from

information and in turn recording devices, from

pre-Astoric cave paintings to the Internet to the

archaeological residue recorded within the earth

itself. Control, we concluded, resides biologically in

and as DNA. The gender, shape, medical flaws and

longevity of individual existence are pre-programmed

to a large extent by DNA. We speculated

that DNA itself might be the primary life form on

earth, with our species as host organisms that

unwittingly enabled the continuity of DNA. We

saw DNA as a limiting mechanism of human

existence. To contradict, interdict and deny the

DNA pre-programme of our physical unfolding

became both a part of our agenda personally and a

symbol of our absolute rejection of any and all

imposed evolution. So we began mutating towards

an hermaphroditic logo of our rejection of DNA.

As we became more comfortable as a third being of,

at least conceptually, obliterating obvious physical

and gender differences, we discovered another layer

of meanings and possibilities released by our

project. When you refute the control of DNA we

felt you can begin to embrace a rejection of any

limitations to the mutability and possibility for

evolution. BREYER P-ORRIDGE have come to

view the physical body as simply raw material. ‘A

cheap suitcase for consciousness’, as Lady Jaye says.

We support all surgical or genetic advances

towards self-designed futures. Why not hibernate

in order to colonise space for example? Grow gills

to swim underwater? Fur or feathers as fashion

accessories? Central to all these various speculations

was the collapse of binary systems into redundancy.

We believe that as one becomes the author of one’s

own physical and social narrative by inclusivity

instead of exclusivity, as you excise oneself from

either/or, black/white, Muslim/Christian, male/

female and so on you can become aware of

similarities, commonality, and eventually perceive

oneself as part of a ‘HumanE Species’. A world

embracing mutation and radical evolution will

more naturally assign resources to the most

advantageous aspect for the well-being of the entire

species. This is a very brief explanation of our

thought process. From union through and as love,

to union as a demonstration of change socially, and

eventually to union of an entire species perceived as

one fully integrated organism with no limitation on

any level of biological mutability. Self designed

personally and socially in preparation for the next

phase of humane evolution. The colonisation of

space. The human body is not sacred, it is a tool

with a consciousness. There is no reason to believe

or assume that this is our finished state. This is, to

BREYER P-ORRIDGE, a ‘larval’, initial state of

being at a crossroads. We believe, with Pandrogeny,

that the means of perception can be seized and

become limitless, leading our species into being an

inclusive, integrated organism on a threshold of

unimaginable and miraculous achievements. Hence

we say, ‘Viva La Evolution!’ Utopian? Absolutely.


How does the political emerge from this

particular sense of the utopian? I’m reminded of

Burroughs’ statement that ‘paranoia is having all

the facts’, where a political statement emerges from

blurring the boundaries between two opposites: the

positive and the negative, loaded and neutral,

romance and monstrosity.


Burroughs also said that if there’s a

situation that makes you uncomfortable, or feels

threatening, look for the vested interest. Well, we

felt very uncomfortable in the stereotypical roles we

were assigned, in terms of gender and being

biologically present. We wanted to expose the

deliberate conditioning and the push towards

emotional, economic and creative inertia, which

serves the purposes of globalised culture. The last

thing that the great corporations would like is to

have a new species erupt that’s based on the

absolute rejection of everything inherited at birth –

identity, body, social position, gender, race,

humanity – a new species that has the right and

the way to erase everything we were given and

rebuild itself. That’s where the political emerges.


Today I was talking to Gen about the

story of Marduk and Tiamat. It’s the first recorded

story of how mankind was created – a Sumerian

narrative about a pre-Biblical god who conquers the

dragon Tiamat who represents femininity, chaos,

nature and wilderness. The other gods made

Marduk in the figure of a man, and gave him the

power to create the world – including the first city

and the first civilisation – and the power to rule its


16 So the very first creation story is based on

control. There’s an extension of the story that says


16. See Stephanie Dalley,

Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the

Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others

(Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks,



Downloaded by [Queen Mary, University of London] at 06:39 19 March 2012

humans were put here to serve gods and to serve

kings, and fill their storehouses with grain to give

them wealth. I would find some kind of change

refreshing at this point.


Gender infuses every cultural system and

is a very important aspect of reassessing what it is to

be present, to feel that you’re alive in any particular

consensus reality. Yet people often confuse gender

and identity too easily. Identity is something that

begins from the moment you’re conceived, while

you’re still inside your mother’s womb. Before you

even come out there is the influence of relatives

you’ve never met that you may hate when you do

meet, all these things that your parents want to
have happen, and their friends have investments in
what you’re going to be, and it just gets worse from
then – school, peer groups, you’re a boy so you
have to hang out with the boys and do boy things,
and so on. The key point about this structure is that
it’s fictional. If it wasn’t you making all those
choices up to the point you become fully self-aware,
perhaps around puberty, then you’ve had the story
of your identity written for you – a narrative written
by someone else. That’s just not acceptable.
Everyone should have the absolute right to be the
person who writes their own story and creates their
own narrative. To give it away or to let it go
through laziness is a tragedy. That’s how we’re
controlled, because we let those stories become the
warp and the weft of the fabric of society, and then
we’re stuck. So a process of deconditioning is
incredibly important if you want to rebuild your
own identity and write your own story.


It’s difficult of course, because our culture doesn’t accept change, and if you were to reject everything – all your family’s wishes and alltheir dreams for you they would be hurt. We’re controlled by guilt.We don’t want to make changes
that will make other people love us less or not acceptus.


I’m sure everyone knows about that.
Everyone has to go through it over and over again.

Well, there are very simple ways to change your
identity. Change your name. The name is the firstway that other people exert power over you. If you change your name you take on a huge challenge.
Neil Megson thought he could make an artwork
that was an extension of Andy Warhol’s idea of the
superstar, and create consciously a character as an
art piece, which was Genesis P-Orridge. But Neil
hasn’t been seen since 1969. Gone. Subsumed.


And the character wasn’t just Genesis.

If I look at what’s left of the archive, all the photographs, there are hundreds of different characters that all have very distinctive personalitiesand represent different ideas. Sometimes theylasted for ten minutes and sometimes they lasted for a few years. It was so wonderful to see an artist who had so much to express.


Finally, I think it’s clear from the amount of
exhibitions and performances that you are working
on right now that there seems to be a moment for your
work. I’m interested in the conditions that make thereception of work possible, but I’m also intrigued as to whether you think there’s a future for subculture. Whyis this the moment right for
Breaking Sex and the emergence of the pandrogyne?


In one of your earlier questions you
used the word ‘monstrosity’. In the past twenty
years, broadcast media and advertising have become
so sophisticated that ever since punk all these
manifestations of subversive culture that young
people especially are attracted to have been taken
from the streets and repackaged, and sold back to
them. Everything is a potential product, and I think
that for some people we are just a little too raw and
a little too hard to look at. It’s going to be very
hard to put our work in a box, place a little ribbon
on it, and sell it. I think that’s exciting because
what we are working on isn’t a commodity. How
can you sell individuality? It’s not the kind of
ndividuality like ‘I want to be different like
everybody else’, where a subversive style is defined
for you, along with where you should go, the typeof people you should hang out with, the shops you
should purchase your clothing at or the kind of
music you can listen too. What we’re doing is much
more abstract than that – you can’t pin it down as
easily because it covers so many bases.


There are two lines of thinking that I’m
 pondering. One of them is quite simple, which is

that Pandrogeny, as a word, is uncluttered by any
specific connections to gender, sexual orientation
or sexual preference. It’s a very gender-neutral
word. But it’s also a very clear declaration at the
same time. At the very least it gives a lot of different
people a chance to discuss issues to do with the
survival of the species, the way that culture is
working and the changes that are happening to the
way people view their bodies. If Pandrogeny does
nothing else but open up debate by becoming a
word that can be rebuilt from the beginning to
represent a much more non-aligned view of things,
then that would be important.

The second way I can respond to your question
is that we’re in an age where people are still driven
by prehistoric genetic codes. To put it simply, when
we were all running around naked trying to catch
slow-moving animals in prehistoric times it probably
came in very useful for the male of the species

to have the fight or flight reflex in his genetic code,

in order to hunt and survive. Without that primitive
drive we wouldn’t all still be here. We then
discovered weapons and tools that helped us to kill
some of those slow-moving animals, including each
other. We got very excited when we learnt we could
make tools, and slowly but surely over thousands of
years we built this incredible, miraculous, technological
environment. People can pick up little boxes
and talk to somebody at the other end of the earth,
they can fly, they can be in space looking down. But
nobody’s been bothered to check on our behaviour
and move it along at the same rate. We’re still
genetically prehistoric. So we’re in this horrible
situation of a futuristic technological environment
and a prehistoric band of clever apes ready to destroy
each other because their behavioural responses are so
polarised from the world they live in. It’s an
incredibly dangerous time. Dualistic societies have
become so fundamentally inert, uncontrollably consuming
decreasing resources and self-perpetuating,
threatening the continued existence of our species
and the pragmatic beauty of infinite diversity of
expression. In this context the journey represented by

Pandrogeny – and the experimental creation of a

third form of gender-neutral living being – is
concerned with nothing less than strategies dedicated
to the survival of the species.
Pandrogeny went from that deep romance that

you mentioned into a discussion about identity and
how it’s made. That led us to realise that really the
ultimate question is: evolution or not. That makes
it a very volatile and exciting concept for us, which
contains the seed of a discussion about survival.
That’s why it’s resonating – people instinctively are

seeing Pandrogeny as a door they can pass through
in order to talk about their fears:
And then you want two

See if you could
Go right through
A thick brick wall.