For years, L.A. artist Hazel Hill McCarthy III and her partner, Eric Nordhauser, curated Show Cave, a haven for experimental art in all forms, and easily one of the most eclectic venues in Los Angeles’ rich history. Now, she's working on a film that examines West African vodun (voodoo) with a seemingly unlikely collaborator: performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, best known as a founding member of the groundbreaking industrial band Throbbing Gristle and the occult and art collective, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY).
The two met backstage at a Throbbing Gristle show in New York. Hill McCarthy recalls, “The lights were blinding, they had the heat on full blast, and this figure steps onto the stage commanding the entire room, and it’s Genesis.”
It was only natural that the pair work together. Their first collaboration was to create Thee Psychick Bible, a collection of texts and images from the TOPY era.
Initial planning on their film, Bight of the Twin, began in 2010 while they were in Kathmandu, on a trip to celebrate the completion of Thee Psychick Bible. There, they happened upon striking images of the Vodun Festival in Ouidha, Benin in West Africa, and their partnership was given new life.
This past January the pair traveled to Benin to document the Vodun Festival. Ouidha, once a large slave port, has been called the birthplace of voodoo. The festival involves elaborate outfits, dancing, chanting, and walking the route des escalates to honor the slaves who were taken.
“Route des escalates is the path slaves were taken to the beach,” Hazel explains. “At the end there’s this monument, ‘Door of No Return.’ You’re standing there, looking at it, knowing this was the last place these people saw before being taken. It’s incredibly powerful.”
They soon discovered that Benin has the highest birthrate of twins in the world, and that in Vodun twins possess a sacred meaning. On their second day in Ouidah, Genesis was initiated into the “Twin Fetish,” a practice that honors twins. Genesis, who identifies as pandrogynous and prefers gender-neutral pronouns, was given a jumeau, a physical representation of a lost twin, representing h/er late wife and pandrogyne partner, Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge.
“A few days later the sunburned media and tourists began to ascend with their telescopic lenses,” Hazel says with a laugh.
Despite the influx of outsiders, the direction of their film had been found. They returned to the U.S. and set up a Kickstarter to fund a second trip, which they returned from earlier this month. The second trip was riddled with complications, but yielded incredible results.
They departed in September with a group originally totaling six that had dropped to four due to Ebola fears. After a series of canceled flights and missed connections, they finally arrived in Benin. Having been initiated into the Twin Fetish, Genesis returned this time as a member. S/he and Hill McCarthy met with locals and explored the eternal connection between Genesis and h/er late wife, Lady Jaye.
Since returning, P-Orridge and Hill McCarthy are sorting out the footage from both trips. Hazel's husband, Douglas J. McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb, is doing the soundtrack, as well as part of the film’s editing. An Indiegogo campaign will assist with some of the final costs, and there will be a fundraising event at Complex in Glendale on Sunday, November 23.
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“It’s a document of an experience rather than a documentary in a typical National Geographic sense,” Hazel explains. An experience only two visionary artists the likes of Hazel Hill McCarthy III and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge could have.