Genesis P-Orridge, wreckers of civilizations, dream machines and cut ups

gysin, william s. burroughs

Genesis P-Orridge is an artist, musician, singer-songwriter with the groups Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle. Throbbing Gristle especially is considered one of the innovators of industrial music and other electronic genres. The group had evolved from a performance art collective known as COUM Transmissions who had gained much notoriety in Britain. Their art was received with interest by some and with hostility by others in the British establishment, with P-Orridge and the group being labeled as “wreckers of civilizations” in British parliament.

coum-transmissions-prostitution-cosey-1976 (1)

Poster for COUM Transmissions final art exhibit. The multi media art show featured the  band members posing for pornographic magazines. Needless to say the show caused a large controversy in Britain.

This would not be the last time that P-Orridge would receive accusations as part of art projects that s/he had involved with.  Quite famously in 1992 the TV station Channel 4 had accused O-Orridge of partaking in Satanic rituals that involved the abuse of others. As it later turned out that was part of an experimental movie that Channel 4 had partly sponsored. The station later apologized, but the harm had been done with mass hysteria about “evil rituals” being reported throughout Britain. P-Orridge opted to leave the country for the U.S.A.  Even more ironically at the time of the news report being broadcast “the wrecker of civilization” was doing famine relief work in Thailand.

 

Genesis P-Orridge is a fascinating character and shines especially in interviews and recorded conversation. The topics of discussion drift from 60’s psychedelic music,to human morality and laws in modern society, occult philosophy or the Master Musicians of Joujouka. Below is an interview from 1997 taken from the show Infinity Factory.

P-Orridge is known for using many artistic techniques as part of their works. One of the techniques used most is the “cut up” technique used by the surrealists and later by artist Brion Gysin and famous beat-generation writer William S. Burroughs. P-Orridge befriended Gysin and Burroughs and collaborated with both. Burroughs is especially known for using the technique involving cutting up pieces of texts and rearranging them to find different meanings, in seminal works like Naked Lunch and The soft machine. The group Throbbing Gristle also released on the record label they were managing a spoken word piece by  Burroughs called “Last Words Of Hassan Sabbah”. The text makes use also “cut-ups“.

Speaking of P-Orridge’s friends, Gysin is responsible, together with Ian Sommerville for inventing the “Dream machine” a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli” (according to Wikipedia). The way the machine works is that the subject stands in front of the it with their eyes closed. The machine flickers rhythmically, with the frequency corresponding to alpha waves. Alpha brain waves are said to help with relaxation of body and mind and to help induce a state that will relax the mind and induce creativity.

William Burroughs facing a Dream Machine

William Burroughs facing a Dream machine

There are even designs online to allow you to manufacture a working dream machine or you can even try and purchase an already built one. But the internet also offers an alternative in the form of  web sites that experiment with the basic principles of the flickers of a dream machine. ( see http://no-labs.com/demos/dreamachines/index.html ). Be warned though that caution should be used as it has been reported that it may induce seizures to a small fraction of people using one. For others binaural beat tracks to be listened to over headphones are also readily available on line.

Then of course, Genesis P-Orridge is also perhaps most known for the involvement in Throbbing Gristle. For some TG was the definitive industrial band, coining the term and practically practically rewriting the rule book (ironically by throwing out all re-existing rules).  Nine Inch Nails’ leader Trent Reznor, while never entirely comfortable with the label of “industrial” has made references to Throbbing Gristle and may or may not have taken some inspiration on their song “Discipline“, a song sharing the name with a TG song.

In many ways Genesis P-Orridge has carried in the tradition of experimentation of 60’s psychedelia.  The Beatles and Hendrix experimented with backward recording technique, eastern instruments and meditation. P-Orridge has kept the same level of interest with constantly investigating art and it’s uses.  Not coincidentally the most commercially successful recording P-Orridge has been involved  with is the song Godstar from the band Psychic TV (a group that P-Orridge continues to record and tour with to this day), a song written about Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones.

 

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