Almanac of Contemporary Aesthetics
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words by Francesca Gavin

Released on 12 May 2020, birthday of late artist and provocateur Genesis P-Orridge (1950–2020), the book Sacred Intent explores thirty years of conversations with Carl Abrahamsson.

Does time change how your thoughts? The latest book of interviews with the late Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, conducted by Carl Abrahamsson over four decades, is a good place to start. The Swedish writer originally approached Genesis for a fanzine in 1986 and regularly touched based over the coming decades, taking portraits and speaking to the artist over time. This books documents Breyer P-Orridge’s journey from the early COUM Transmissions work and the experimental music of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV to h/er more recent rethinking of love, gender and the concept of the individual itself, which s/he termed Pandrogeny.

The publication was meant to coincide with the artist’s 70th birthday, but instead coincides with h/er death from cancer. Reading the book, what comes to the fore throughout Breyer P-Orridge’s life is a unique take on life, art, death, the spiritual, emotional and magic. The book’s title, Sacred Intent, refers to the underground, political, occult-inclined, magical, philosophical approach that drove h/er rebellious practice. Transgression is at the heart of everything s/he did; she clearly enjoyed upsetting the norm. Genesis took avant-garde art, poetry and music, mixed it with the darkness of British occultists Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare and cut-up cultural innovators William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. The result was a DIY movement of zines, books, tapes and events that Abrahamsson, a past collaborator of Breyer P-Orridge’s, describes as a “miasmic vortex of philosophy, art, occultism, and the free exchange of information as a way of life.”

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Chronological interviews structure the book, with conversations taking place from London to Stockholm, New York City to Kathmandu. There are conceptual gems throughout, such as Genesis’ definition of “hyperdelic”: “The idea of psychedelia was to expand consciousness and expand one’s idea of what was going on in the world and what was possible. ‘Hyperdelic’ is a way of saying, ‘Let’s go even further and even more totally out there, and let’s use every bit of technology, video tape, Polaroid camera and computer we can find to do it, so that we just get lost in this technological dream explosion.'” This is not the first time Abrahamsson has created projects about Genesis; there was also 2016’sdocumentary film Change Itself and a collection of dialogues between Breyer P-Orridge and Gysin titled His Name Was Master. His own conversations with Genesis have moments of intimacy: they describe h/er being a 15-year-old from Birmingham, crashing on people’s floors in Soho in London and searching porn shops for novels by Jean Genet and Henry Miller. The book also charts Breyer P-Orridge’s creative focus as it moved from music into other media, including writing, collage, photography and clothing.

There is a sense that Genesis had always been looking for meaning: from h/er experiences with voodoo in West Africa and recurring interest in Crowley to h/er research into the Yoruba metaphysical concept of consciousness in the Orisha, behind the music and art was a wider interest in understanding the world and how the human mind can function within it. The artist quotes h/er late partner Lady Jaye in a 2013 conversation: “If the body is a cheap suitcase, what is there of value in the being?” Breyer P-Orridge’s response to this rhetorical question was simple: “Of course... it is consciousness.”

Image courtesy of Carl Abrahamsson and Trapart Books.

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