Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (s/her and h/er) was the sort of underground luminary that embraced subcultures in such a dynamic way that s/he became one in h/er own right. H/er charisma shone through decades and wide-ranging creative endeavors—from h/er start as the front of the groundbreaking industrial band Throbbing Gristle in the late 1970s; to transitioning genders in an art-life project in which the artist endeavored to become the twin of life partner Lady Jane in the late 1990s; to the gives-no-fucks interviews of h/er later years.
“The first thing people experience when discovering Genesis for the first time is shock,” says Benjamin Tischer, the artist’s longtime gallerist. The owner of Invisible-Exports first met P-Orridge in 1999 when he was hired to co-produce one of h/er concerts. In the aftermath of the artist’s passing three years ago, Tischer has helped produce major curatorial endeavors to cement h/er enduring legacy. The most recent, and one of the more sprawling exhibitions to date, is “It Is a Painful Thing to Be Alone: We Are But One,” which just opened this week at Prague’s DOX Center for Contemporary Art.
For much of h/er life, Manchester, England-born P-Orridge had a particular magnetism in rejecting binary genders. Case in point is P-Orridge’s “pandrogeny” project, which was enacted in collaboration with Lady Jane, and is prominently featured in DOX’s new show. Beginning in the 1990s and extending until Lady Jane’s death in 2007, the pair went through numerous cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures so as to resemble each other as closely as possible. (Infamously, both artists received breast implants on Valentine’s Day in 2013.) Their ultimate goal was to become something like a gender-less single entity, unified in love above all.
“Genesis was always one to use the body as a material. It was easily understood and universal. And sex is a useful strategy.” says Tischer. “But once people get beyond that, I hope they will realize that this was an artist who was consistently 20 years ahead of the curve, be it body modification, musical, or gender issues.”
No doubt the contemporary relevance of the principles P-Orridge both preached and physically embodied during h/er life has fueled the ever-growing fascination with the artist in the years following h/er death. As the latest palpable iteration of this, the exhibition at DOX also features a shrine to P-Orridge from h/er daughter, Genesse, alongside a variety of ephemera tied to h/er music career. Also on view are works by dozens of other creatives, some of whom had influenced P-Orridge, including Hans Bellmer and William S. Burroughs, and others of whom exchanged ideas as h/er approximate contemporaries, like Cerith Wyn Evans and H. R. Giger.
“It Is a Painful Thing to Be Alone: We Are But One” is on view at DOX Center for Contemporary Art at Poupětova 1, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice through March 3, 2024.
Rachel Summer Small is Family Style’s Culture Editor and a writer and critic based in New York.