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Genesis P-Orridge has been one of the most innovative and influential figures in music and fine art for the last 30 years. Celebrated by critics and art historians as a progenitor of "industrial music," his innovations have transformed the character of rock and electronic music, while his prodigious efforts to expand the boundaries of live performance have radically altered the way people experience sound in a concert setting.
Defying artistic boundaries, Genesis has re-defined his art as a challenge to the limits of biology. In 2000, Genesis began a series of surgeries in order to more closely resemble his love, Lady Jaye (née Jacqueline Breyer), who remained his other half and artistic partner for nearly 15 years. It was the ultimate act of devotion, and Genesis's most risky, ambitious, and subversive performance to date: he became a she in a triumphant act of artistic self-expression.
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a love story, and a portrait of two lives that illustrate the transformative powers of both love and art. In warm and intimate images captured handheld, Marie Losier crafts a labyrinthine mise-en-scene of interviews, home movies, and performance footage.
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye had its New York premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, and the documentary will open this week in limited release. We asked director Marie Losier to share her thoughts with us.
By Marie Losier
My story with Genesis P-Orridge began three years ago with a typically miraculous New York City coincidence. I had just seen Genesis perform with her band Thee Majesty at the Knitting Factory, along with Alan Vega, who gave a memorably awful performance: fondling his balls and grunting sex noises to an 80s beat. Genesis, on the other hand, was pure enlightenment to me. Chanting half-sung, half-spoken lyrics of deep poetic meaning in a primal—at times scary—voice, she somehow maintained an aura of delicacy and softness, as her giant breasts floated, half naked above the crowd. I was completely hypnotized by her—I had never seen anything like her—and I knew then that I had to find a way to meet her and film her.
A week later, NYC took care of it. I was at a gallery opening in Soho, one of those sardine-can spaces where you can barely walk and breathe. I got pressed into a corner, and stepped on someone’s toes. I turned to apologize and there she was, talking with Bjork and smiling, her golden teeth glittering in my eyes. We spoke only briefly, but something special passed between us and she gave me her email and asked me about my films. So I guess you can say that fate—or clumsiness—stepped in and opened a very special door of friendship and filmmaking.
We emailed each other for a while, exchanging details of our lives. She’d invite me to her concerts, and one day I found myself in her house, sitting on a giant plastic green garden chair in the shape of a hand. There appeared Lady Jaye, his/her wife, strikingly beautiful with a strong posture and a directness that was so inviting and intimidating. I ended up staying for five hours with them, discussing our work, and it affirmed my resolve to make a film about them, a project which ended up taking seven years.
Two of the most moving experiences of the film’s journey were the Berlin Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. For Tribeca, it was incredibly moving because all of Genesis’s friends and family came, as well as the whole band, and all of my close friends and crew. It turned the event into an incredibly intimate, moving experience. Genesis came on stage after the first screening, standing next to the wonderful [Tribeca programmer] Jon Gartenberg (who chose and accompanied our film), and she suddenly broke down in tears after someone asked her about Jaye. I took her hand and tried to help her, and Jon took her in his arms; the whole audience went quiet, some in tears as well.
After 6 minutes, Genesis got her senses back and decided to continue, and the panel went on for another 20 minutes. I will never forget this. The audience was with us—so warm, so moved, and so close to us and the film. When we all went out, everyone seemed like they had been through a transcendent, life-changing experience, and it was, to me, the most intense and powerful night of screening I ever had with my Ballad. I felt deeply how much a film can affect others, and how much it can give love and inspiration.
Watch the trailer: