This article is a condensed extract from my research into the psychological basis
of the work of Genesis P-Orridge. As such the article will only touch upon a few
important areas of his work, and will present a number of theories and ideas which
represent possible interpretations. I take my starting point from the strong sense
of the child"
present in some aspects of the work of Genesis P-Orridge. In this article I will
expand the idea of the child", and will explore its empirical qualities as states
of play, creativity, irrationality, chaos, crisis, and archetypical
The child is a double edged sword. First, it is the 'Irrational Third' which embraces instinct, and maintains a deep connection with a sense of 'otherness'. It is the Games Master, embedded in the psyche, a tool capable of navigating and functioning within the unstable landscape of the unconscious. Secondly, it is a sinister agent capable of unmasking the adult world of politics, economics and shame, as fraud, sham, and illusion. Association with the child is like having tea with a murderer, the possibility of death is present in every transaction. Such a character is attractive because he has ventured into the marginal world of unsanctioned behaviour, and into the universe of primal desires. Such a character has designed it's own autonomous constructions of meaning, and it's own reality which exists outside of the controlled state-run realities offered by society. Such a character offers us an attractive glimpse of freedom, and a feeling of exhilaration aroused by the duel sensations of fear, coupled with the inertia of possibilities. We can call this character by the various names associated with the child archetype as definded by Jung, such as Hero, Christ, Victim, Trickster, or we can simply associate the child with the archetypal experiences of the various levels and states which might equally be termed creative impulses. The child is, in it's most recognisable form, the Artist, Mystic, and Shaman. Such characters used the skills and technologies available to them in their given age as tools for evocation, provocation and seduction. Genesis P-Orridge is no different; he has embraced current trends, philosophies, ideologies, and technologies, procuring them and synthesizing them through systems of assembly and disassembly - creative play - forming them into his own esoteric, devotional language. Genesis plays with words, ideas and objects not with the cool headed intellectualism of the adult, but with the instinctive, emotional and intuitive nature of a child. Thus, the sensual, semi-unconscious language of symbols, sounds, images, and words is by nature often conflicting, accidental, ironic, sinister, and often poignant.
Consumed by the instinctive state of play, the hand of an artist makes automatic random gestures, choices, and manipulations which are nonlinear. Jung has suggested that the active nature of the child 'compensate or correct, in a meaningful manner, the inevitableone-sidednesses and extravagances of the conscious mind' which attempts to dominate the personality with logic and rationalism.
Jung has suggested that the child archetype is a symbol of emerging independence and individuality. The child therefore exists in a state of incompleteness within a realm of chaos and crisis. Baudrillard has suggested that the principle of the child is 'Other' to the adult. He describes the nature if this 'Otherness' as 'total seduction', suggesting that while the adult relies on it's own belief that it is an adult, children do not 'believe' or intellectualise (that they are children), they just are children: They are, as it were, a different species, and their vitality and development announces the eventual destruction of the superior -adult- world that surrounds them. Childhood haunts the adult universe as a subtle and deadly presence.
Such a state described by Genesis P-Orridge can be likened to the episodes of archaic ecstasy which have been well documented by anthropologists such as Eliade. Within a Postmodern setting, such states transpose almost too easily into the emerging ideas concerning the alternative ecstasies possible within the realm of Virtual Reality and Cyberspace.
Genesis P-Orridge uses all the tools to hand, mixing philosophies both ancient and contemporary, arts practice, popular icons and ritual within a game of possibilities. The playing of the game has for Genesis become a devotional activity; as Jung suggests the 'irrational third' the child/ play/ creative impulse/artist, is not only a psychological phenomena pertaining to the chatotic anarchic aspect of the personality, but can also become a philosophy for living which offers an alternative Game Play and a virtual Hypertext body, requiring 'religious repetition and renewal by ritual', since it is the vehicle of emergence. A process through which -one 'becomes'- an idea becomes material, and an ideology becomes concrete.
In interviews with Genesis P-Orridge, one of the recurring themes is concerned with his own childhood practice of creating and retreating into spaces, bunkers, going underground, and descending into the dark. In the proximity of body and earth, Genesis suggests that for him, there was no distinction between life and death. This is the point at which 'Bodies, and manifestations and thoughts arre irrelevant'. The suggestion here is that such circumstances have assumed initiatory, seminal significance. Such experiences are in keeping with those commonly associated with 'marginals', Shamans, medicine-men, mystics, etc. Within the context of myth and ritual practice, such behaviour typifies the joourney of the 'ephebe'/initiate who is stripped of status and identity and thrust into a world of chaos and contrary values. 'Marginal situations' are those which tend to remove the individual temporarly from his or her normal social existence, allowing a person the opportunity to 'indulge in excesses in their own way'. During primitive initiatory rituals the period of marginality is often conjoined with a 'period of licence', when the ephebe is encouraged to indulge in behaviour which is not normally sanctioned by the tribe or the society in which the rite takes place. All such marginal behaviour reflects some opposition to normal social features. Oppositional experiences might include the explorations of the sensations of near death, the exercising of strong desires (of the Will) both practically and through the development of magical practices, the exploration of personal alternative sexuality, and the practice of deep introspection on a par with techniques of archaic 'ecstasy'. The empirical nature(s) of the child/artist and of play and the creative impulses, seem inextricably suited to these marginal regions which also exist within the realms of chaos and crisis. The theme of chaos and crisis created by oppositional principals finds a common resonance within Jung's discourse concerning the collision of the conscious and the unconscious: '...out of the collison of opposites the unconscious psyche always creates a third thing of an irrational nature, which the conscious mind neither expects nor understands. It presents itself in a form that is neither a straight yes" nor a straight no", and is consequently rejected by both. For the conscious mind knows nothing beyond the opposites and, as a result, has no knowledge of the thing that unites them. Since, however, the solution of the conflict through the union of opposites is of vital importance, and is moreover the very thing that the conciuos mind is longing for, some inkling of the creative act, and the significance of it, nevertheless get through'.
Here Jung draws attention to the creative impulse which is stimulated by chaos, crisis and the collision of opposites. Within this kind of creative atmosphere, the concept of death is ever present since the license of possibilities offered to the ephebe is also a sea in which he or she could drown. Baudrillard has termed such a sensation 'Exoticism': 'Exoticism is the acute and immidiate perception of an eternal incomprehensibility'.
This idea is echoed in the work of Genesis P-Orridge who frames his reponse within the altogether more positive view, suggesting that 'play' within such a sea of, what Baudrillard has termed 'incomprehensibility', and what Genesis terms 'possibility' is a purpose in itself: ' Since there is no goal to this experiment other than the goal of perpetually discovering new forms and new ways of perceiving, it is an infinte game. An infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing play, as opposed to a finite game which is played for the purpose of winning or defining winners. It is an act of free will. No one can 'play' who is forced to play. Play is, indeed, implicitly voluntary'.
Genesis uses incidental, as well as self generated crisis, to evoke, stimulate and manipulate creative impulses, and autonomous states of mind. He also allows himself to be used by other people: '...you allow everyone else to come through you, and transmit through you all the anger, and confusion that they have felt since they were born. And that's the job of the artist, whatever medium they use; to be a vessel and a vehicle for the mind, the dreams, the unconcious mind of the people who are confronted with their art'.
The celebration of distress, hurt, anger, through art is likened by Genesis to an 'exorcism and an expression of the neuroses, the fear and the liberation of a tribe' The 'artist' (creative agent) Genesis takes on the role as 'vehicle', and of 'vessel' through which to channel the hurt of the 'tribe' as one fulfilling a responsibility for the well being of that tribe. The creative impulse towards 'being' the artist 'vessel' is perhaps, in itself a vehicle through which to channel some of his own personal distress. In this way, the artist takes on the archetype roles of Martyr, Hero/Warrior, Christ figure, playing out the possibilities inherent in each of these possessions. Consumed by these personified creative state, the field of perceptual possibilities is forced to broaden. The creative gaze of the artist turns from parents, to school, to institution, to government, to humanity. With each transference, he uses actual instances of injustice and hurt in his own life to identify the 'similarities' and type of control used by larger regimes. So the child becomes a victim frustrated by the mechanisms of enforced control which dictate it's existence. Through confrontation, and absorption into such situations, the artist is forced into martyrdom, acts of terrorism and spiritual scrutiny. Genesis forces himself into dangerous physical and psychological areas where the act of survival becomes creative. Such situations are experienced and supported within the complex framework of private rituals, which serve to focus Genesis, both physically and psychologically, on a given purpose, idea or path of exploration.
Experiences within altered state of consciousness can be likened to the childhood practice of creating separate, marginal 'spaces'. Experiences within such 'spaces' or altered states of consciousness, are never fully articulated, but are manipulated by Genesis into images, symbols, fragments of sound, and words. Such images and symbols are only 'responses' which present themselves to the concious mind - they are possibilities, not solutions. Genesis allows fragments of information to break through into the conscious, making a positive decision not to attempt to define, or fully describe their meanings. Such information is manipulated into the everyday situation, and into popular culture, which again can be associated with the preoccupation of creating spaces, in this sense, imaginative/sensual spaces. Genesis P-Orridge is pro-active in the development and exploration of personal disciplines and mechanisms for the purposes of holding back logical rationalism which might block access to creative states of altered perception. The personal battle is then to maintain such altered states on a semi-sensual/ experimental level, almost on a full-time basis. In this way Genesis P-Orridge moves beyond passive, intellectual descriptions of the principals of political, economic, psychological control, and places his physical, emotional, and psychological self in the path of destruction. By doing so, he is able to formulate theories, models and manifestos which not only embody the innate possibilities of practical responses, but also highlight the level of sensual connectedness which ties the politics of the internal self to the strategies of external systems of control. Evidence of this kind of association between personal and social politics, can be seen in 'Giftgas' which moves from 'a children's story' to 'a medical casebook' into a manifesto and 'political theory'. Culture is viewed as the battleground, or playing field, onto which theories, models, amnd manifestos are thrown. The emphasis in writings such as 'Giftgas' shifts from pain to pleasure, as the notions of fear and guilt, desire and freedom, are constantly replayed, generating quantities of variations on a theme, 'possibilities', and posed questions, which remain attractively open ended. These are TRANSMISSIONS -'projected areas of learning', which are intellectually interactive. They contribute to the 'live ammunition' which is littered about the battlefield of culture. The battle for the 'self' is, and should be, NOTHING SHORT OV A TOTAL WAR. The idea is projected not the solution.
'The Basic premise in all my work has always been, if I think about something and it seems to make sense, to project it into the public arena of popular culture. To see wether it survives or not in it's own right, to see what happens and what is confirmed and denied and what creates interesting interactions and confrontations. To use popular culture as the alchemical jar and see what happens. Why I have to do that, I don't know. It's just been a drive for so long'.
Despite their dominant silhouette, these 'spaces' are devotional, they are 'cathedrals' of possibility, the words and the images enacted within these spaces set off cascades of effects which, when viewed on mass, grow into labyrinthian, chaotic constructions not unlike the areas within the psyche from which they came.
'What we need to do now is build, for our own protection and survival, we need to build speculative maps for peaople to make some kind of sense out of what appears to be random'.
A Postmodern view of culture would be that Culture is merely a collecting point for 'information', a battleground of possibilities. The projections of notional, or possible 'selves' are 'breathed' in and out of culture. Culture provides a database of possibilities, and the process of breathing information in and out, is the physical mechanism which assists personal development.