The Groundbreaking Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Suggests “Try to Altar Everything”

Photo: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Photo by Marie Losier (in collaboration w/ Bernard Yenelouis). Outakes 10, 2008. C-print. 20 x 20 inch image on 20 x 24 inch paper. Edition of 5 (1 of 5).

“An exact science is one that admits loss,” observes British artist and performer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Born in Manchester in 1950 as Neil Andrew Megson, Breyer P-Orridge adopted h/er new name and identity after dropping out of the University of Hull and moving into a commune in London. Breyer P-Orridge founded COUM Transmissions with Cosey Fanni Tuttii in 1973 to create explore taboo topics like sex work, pornography, serial killers, and occultism and were vilified as “wreckers of civilization” by the tabloids. By 1976, Throbbing Gristle grew out of COUM Transmissions and went on to become on to become pioneers of industrial music.

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Breyer P-Orridge has long been known as a key figure in the experimental, avant garde art music scene. Now a new exhibition celebrates another side of h/er work, showcasing the spiritual influences on h/er art. Try to Altar Everything, on view at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, through August 1, 2016, presents a selection of paintings, sculptures, and installations that explore the ways that Hindu mythology and Nepal’s Kathmandu valley have impacted the artist. The exhibition features more than 30 works that tie together Nepalese approaches to identity and religion with Breyer P-Orridge’s own mythology and approach.

BREYER P-ORRIDGE. Cruciform (Sigil Working), 2005. Polaroids, gold leaf, C-print on Plexi. 70 x 54 inches. Source: Invisible-Exports.

A sovereign state located between India and China, Nepal is home to Gautama Buddha (563–483 BCE). Like P-Orridge, Nepal is neither “either/or” but rather the fusion of two seemingly opposing dualities. A fusion of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the culture of Nepal resonates deeply with Breyer P-Orridge, who has lived and worked in the Kathmandu Valley at various points over the last thirty years.

Try to Altar Everything presents devotional objects including a Cruciform (Sigil Working), a gold-leaf Polaroid printed on plexi; Reliquary, a found wood box with string ray skin, plastic eggs, a mirror, and photos; and Blood Bunny, a softwood bunny, the blood and ponytail of h/er late wife Lady Jane, and the blood of Genesis, presented in a glass jar. The exhibition is designed as an altar of sorts, providing spaces for visitors to bring small offerings and receive a token from Breyer P-Orridge in return. Another work, “Listen Here,” plays on the idea of a religious confessional, and the artist will personally answer telephone calls in the gallery at spontaneous times.

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Photo by Laure Lebe.

Try to Altar Everything reminds us of the importance of the spiritual aspects of both life and art, of the way in which they fuse together to transcend the materials object. Fused with intention and meaning, the works relate to our essential needs. As Breyer P-Orridge observes, “After the accumulation of too much history we have lost our innocence, we cannot easily believe in any explanations. We describe rather than feel, we touch rather than explore, we lust rather than adore.” Try to Altar Everything is the perfect opportunity to return to our inner, deeper, ineffable core.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.