USA/Germany/UK/Netherlands/Belgium/France | 2011 | Directed by Marie Losier
Logline: A documentary portrait of the career and relationship between experimental musician and performance artist Genesis P-Orridge and his wife and collaborator Lady Jaye.
Like him or loathe him Neil Andrew Megson, who changed his name to Genesis P-Orridge in 1971, has got balls. These days he also has breasts. He’s a widower now, and this scattered, but fascinating and affecting documentary tells part of his story and a little of his partner and soul mate, Jacqueline Mary Breyer a.k.a Lady Jaye’s story and influence and inspiration in his life. The ballad that is their love life is as strange and bizarre as the avant-garde music and theatre that have been instrumental in Genesis’s career.
Genesis P-Orridge experimented with COUM Transmissions during the late 60s pushing the boundaries of performance art with their sexual/intellectual projects. They were deemed “the wreckers of Western civilization” by an English MP, much to their amusement. Throbbing Gristle (local Brit slang for erection) evolved from the debris of COUM and the four-piece went on to pioneer industrial music. In 1981 Genesis formed Psychic TV, a broader, but no less experimental group, which achieved wider success.
In 1993 whilst Genesis was living in America on a self-imposed exile, following a bitter divorce, and indulging heavily in the club and ecstasy scene, he met Ms. Breyer. It was love at first sight. She was a beautiful young woman, working as a fetish performance artist and dominatrix, which appealed to Genesis immensely. He had found his soul mate. They married, Jaye becoming stepmother to Genesis’s young daughter and son, Caresse and Genesse.
What makes this documentary particularly fascinating is the project of pandrogyny that Genesis and Lady Jaye had been so fervently involved in. It was a years-long pursuit, undergoing numerous plastic surgery procedures in order to become gender-neutral humans that looked like each other.
“We started out, because we were so crazy in love, just wanting to eat each other up, to become each other and become one,” explains Genesis, “And as we did that, we started to see that it was affecting us in ways that we didn’t expect. Really, we were just two parts of one whole; the pandrogyne was the whole and we were each other’s other half.”
“We view Breyer P-Orridge as a separate person who is both of us,” Lady Jaye explains, “Neither of us take credit for the work, the work is a melding of both of our ideas which we would not have had singly. Both of us are in all of our art. That third being, Breyer P-Orridge, is always present.”
Transgressive transmogrifications aside, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge shared a genuine love and it is evident. His childish behaviour is irritating and it’s frustrating that the documentary doesn’t examine Jaye’s life and her role in the partnership in more depth. She remains more of an enigma than her husband. She died in 2007 from a heart condition exasperated by a long battle with stomach cancer. One can only imagine the acute grief Genesis would have felt after losing his “other half”.
While it fails as an equal opportunity portrait of its titular couple, as a time capsule (there is lots of archival footage) and as an observation on left-field body modification philosophy and avant-garde artistry The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is essential viewing. There aren’t too many exotic exploits like those of Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye’s.