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By Henry Rollins
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By Dan Weiss
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In the early to mid-'80s, following his Throbbing Gristle stint, Gen had persevered at living beyond the extreme. His disastrous attempt to launch a shamanistic magick cult, Thee Temple ov Psychic Youth, explored the "modern primitive" culture of tattooing and body piercing long before those items became de rigueur fashion accouterments; the cult ended when members began demanding "a strictly enforced patriarchal structure." Gen also coined the term "acid house," that being the title of a P-Orridge track heisted by Northern soulboys to identify the Detroit-Ibiza-Manchester connection essential to the evolution of house music.
Painful is an invaluable companion piece to the Industrial Culture Handbook and Simon Ford's well-done Throbbing Gristle bio, Wreckers of Western Civilization (Black Dog, 1999). Various bibliographies provide a bizarre tour of 20th-century proto-pop culture, from the benign to some of the creepier antecedents — Futurism to Dada/Surrealism sliced 'n' diced with Nietzsche, Jung, Crowley, The Black Mountain Review, Burroughs and Gysin, Leary and Warhol. Timelines chronicle P-Orridge's small-press poetry publications and his earliest performances with the London-transplanted Exploding Galaxy collective of anarcho-hippie-activist-provocateurs who invaded Hull University in '68, when Gen was a student.
Gen's writing, co-writing, editing and archiving of a number of books and pamphlets are logged here, as well as the art shows, exhibits, installations and performances he involved himself in over 30 years. He's also noted as a major wheel in the international mail-art revivalism movement of the '70s, and there are testimonials from the likes of Leary and Burroughs (the Auld Mummy himself was an ally who croaked, "Genesis P-Orridge is an artist, not a pornographer . . ."), as well as Charlie Manson, who wrote in a letter from the pokey: "Gen — you must be a retarded person — or maybe you're in another universe!" Gamely putting depth-spin on Gen's spiel are several decent essays by various fringe academics, far-out Webmasters and other social-commentator desktoppers who revere our man as a maestro conversationalist-thinker, like a latter-day Quentin Crisp from Hades.
A "chat artist," according to some, Genesis P-Orridge is the ideal drawing-room guest, a freak with style who regales your guests like some darkly benign trickster-fairy of the occult in lederhosen, or perhaps a Wehrmacht-era evening gown, accessorized with 22-carat pointed fangs. Even if you don't consider what Genesis P-Orridge does to be art, Painful holds as an indispensable road map to essential areas of esoteric music and thought, and with what better a guide-interpreter than Gen, the self-described "cultural engineer" who's slaved, suffered, bled and even risked his life to obtain the info you can pick up on here for a pittance.
PAINFUL BUT FABULOUS | By GENESIS P-ORRIDGE | Soft Skull Shortwave | 200 pages | $20 softcover
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