Watch the Throbbing Gristle cofounder’s innovative visual work of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“Evolution requires mutation,” wrote the late British musician, visual artist and “pandrogyny” advocate Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. “Creators and innovators are the mutation triggers for humanity. When control suppresses art, creation, new ideas, experiments, it is blocking evolution. Viva la Evolution!”
Best known as the cofounder of Throbbing Gristle in the mid-1970s and, after its dissolution, the founder of Psychic TV, P-Orridge (they/them) has been commonly referred to as an industrial artist – Throbbing Gristle coined the term, after all. But that genre tag’s not at all accurate, as P-Orridge’s work starting in the early 1980s with Psychic TV included explorations of synth-pop, seemingly innocuous lounge music, acid house, and psychedelia.
Like their Throbbing Gristle colleagues Cosey Fanni Tutti, Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson, P-Orridge was trained as a visual artist, and exercised and harnessed the full power of their muse and a host of collaborators to create conceptually bound multimedia experiences. Like Chris & Cosey’s videos, P-Orridge and company’s work with moving images, cut-and-paste editing juxtapositions, early computer graphics and MDMA-powered light shows aimed to simultaneously attack sight, sound and psyche.
A fierce advocate of body manipulation, they believed that humanity should be actively striving to transcend gender and become a pandrogynous species. Their 2021 memoir, Nonbinary, emphasizes that philosophy, as does the 2011 documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which focuses on P-Orridge and their longtime partner Lady Jaye’s relationship.
At the beginning of Psychic TV’s life, P-Orridge described the project as “a video group, integrated with music. We’re not a music group using video.”
Below, a few brilliant Psychic TV videos from the 1980s and early 1990s, integrated with music.
An ode to the late Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, “Godstar” was laid to tape in a recording studio where, the story goes, P-Orridge and his collaborators the Angels of Light held a seance in which they appealed to the ghost of Jones to return to the temporal plain and lay down a tasty back-from-the-dead guitar riff. Apparently (wink, wink) he did.
The 1990 song I.C. Water was released on Wax Trax and is dedicated to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, and black-and-white footage of him performing offers evidence of his charismatic onstage wildness. Released as the British rave moment was peaking, it found P-Orridge harnessing sophisticated circuitry and creating videos that used early computer graphics software to make frantic visual collages.
The clip for Wicked was created for a VHS called Joy, which included live performances and music videos. Issued during the early days of the late 1980s acid house movement, Wicked and the rest of the Joy tape exude ecstasy. Keep an eye out for the DVD Black Joy in used bins, which pairs Wicked and another collection/collage called Black.
Like Wicked, the title track for the Joy tape was designed to be projected onto big screens. Its frantic nature suggests it was geared toward viewers in various altered states – P-Orridge was friends with LSD guru Timothy Leary.
For a while, P-Orridge was a resident of Los Angeles. Famously, in the mid-1990s they were nearly killed in a Hollywood Hills fire at Rick Rubin’s house. Above, watch P-Orridge roll around L.A. in a convertible for their cover of “Good Vibrations.”
This fascinating 1982 interview between P-Orridge and British fashion designer, band manager and magazine editor Perry Hanes offers an overview of the artist’s early approach.
A short film and music collaboration among filmmaker Derek Jarman, P-Orridge, and Jordi Valls, this Catalan clip was commissioned by a Spanish TV station. A grim post-punk dirge, the surrealist film features murder, mayhem and grim visual cues.
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