Nina Johnson is proud to present a selection of polaroids by Genesis and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, opening with a public reception on October 3rd (7-9pm) in the upstairs gallery and remaining on view until November 23rd. Breyer P-Orridge are lovers who fused art with daily life, eventually pursing a series of plastic surgeries to become identical twins—a plural self they’ve termed a “pandrogyne.” This is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on their unaltered polaroids, drawn from the artists’ personal archives. Selected by Jarrett Earnest, each focuses on a extreme close-up of their touching, twinning and intertwining bodies. Distinctions are playfully and intentionally obscured, so that the images verge on abstractions of intimacy itself. Explicitly and intensely erotic, the images are the product of the most extreme experiments in art as life, illustrating one of the most beautiful love stories in art history.
Genesis P-Orridge’s work exploring rituals of the body and sexuality began in England of the late 1960s with the collaborative artist group COUM Transmissions (1969-1976), and extended through the seminal Industrial bands Throbbing Gristle (1975-1981) and then Psychic TV (1981-1991). In Thee Grey Book (1981) one of the foundational texts for the experimental spiritual network Temple of Psychic Youth P-Orridge described the importance of undoing social constructions around sex and gender: “Of all the things people do, at home and in private, usually with close friends, sex alone is subject to extraordinary interference and control from outside forces. This is no accident. They recognize its power. Even if only for a few moments, individuals can release a power and energy from within that renders any system of society, or regime, meaningless. It is a liberator.”
In 1993 P-Orridge fell madly in love with Lady Jaye Breyer, a nurse and dominatrix who had systematically explored the strengths and weakness of the body, as well as a performance artist in the downtown club scene. They started collaborating under the banner of “pandrogeny”, for which they used sex rituals to explore altered and higher states of connection and other ways of being. These polaroids partially record this process, which also link to a web of other collages, music, videos, performances and writing. They began taking their own bodies as material, using plastic surgeries as a cut-up process to attempt “breaking” inherited ideas of gender and sex, as well as upending conceptions of the body as individual and singular. Ever since they’ve been referred to collectively as “Breyer P-Orridge”, using the plural pronouns s/he and he/r, important predecessors for younger generations of gender non-conforming and trans artists.
In 2007, Lady Jaye described their project in spiritual terms, seeking to transcend the limitations of physical bodies, which s/he sees as “a very insufficient outward reflection of an inner condition. You can’t look at the body and know what’s inside. It’s one of the reasons I think surgery is so useful. People look in the mirror and they really feel like what they’re seeing is not a representation of their true self. They feel like their spirit is this beautiful, ethereal thing. They want to look in the mirror and they want to see an angel and they see some saggy old carcass looking back at them. And they have conflict. I feel like that’s what life is about; It’s one of our jobs, to try to resolve this conflict.” In this sense, their project aims at collapsing self and other, male and female, art and life, in an ongoing exploration of another possible future. Later that year, Lady Jaye suddenly died of an undiagnosed heart condition. Genesis has continued the pandrogyne project, with the two halves continuing to complete each other on the material and immaterial planes.