For anyone interested in transgressive art, the name Genesis P-Orridge needs no introduction. An artist interested in pushing societal boundaries of gender, sex, religion and politics, their art always provoked. In the seventies, as part of the noise/visual collective COUM Transmissions, and industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, they were met with resistance from establishment figures, censored, heckled, and shut down. Wonderfully, reactionary Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn described them as “the wreckers of civilisation”.
So much of this book comes across as a chance to settle scores. Of course, it’s provocative and a little narcissistic at times. But what’s surprising is the tenderness and vulnerability, particularly in reference to the early years. P-Orridge, who grew up as Neil Megson, had an unconventional life, always moving house and existing within the long shadow of the second World War in Britain.
It’s this uncertain way of living, as well as childhood illness, that seemed to fuel the young Megson’s imagination. Many artists who grew up around this time were striking out against the dreary, greyness of industrial towns and cities, creating something that transcended the bleakness, something radical.
ThIs contrasts sharply with later years, when P-Orridge relocated to America and formed the Pandrogyne Project with new love Lady Jaye Breyer and became involved in visual art and spoken word projects, as well as performance art. They describe meeting her as almost epiphany like. It’s here that things burst into 3D technicolour. Yet still P-Orridge resisted mainstream culture, in spite of finally getting acknowledged within the arts community in the mid-nineties.
Whether befriending Dr Timothy Leary, William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin, to collaborating with bands like Skinny Puppy; or simply recalling blissful days of family holidays, Non Binary is a vivid, lucid and touching memoir which speaks directly to Burroughs’ mission statement and question to P-Orridge: “How do we short circuit control?”
Released on October 22nd via Abrams Press.
Price U.S. $28.00