DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF and GENESIS P-ORRIDGE conversation (2003)

As originally published in Arthur No. 2 (Jan 2003), with accompanying photography by Shawn Mortensen…

‘The whole planet is the museum!’
Author-theorist Douglas Rushkoff takes tea and talks shop with veteran mindboggler/conceptualist/artist/visionary Genesis P-Orridge, best known for his work as co-founder of seminal industrial outfit Throbbing Gristle and leader of neo-primitive-shamanic ravists Psychic TV

I met Genesis in the early ’90s in the Bay Area. He needed a lift to Timothy Leary’s house in Beverly Hills, and I needed an interview for a book I was writing about viral media. We spent about six hours in the car together, trying to impress one another with our strangest thoughts while Gen’s two daughters fought in the back seat.

We’ve been friends ever since.

I guess it’s about ten years later, now. I’ve gotten married, become an author and university professor, while Gen has been kicked out of the UK forever, gotten divorced and married again, replaced his teeth with gold ones, and done some other stuff to his body that I’d be scared to. Still, in spite of our outward differences, we’re on the same path, and often use one another for guidance along the way.

See, if you’re going to be an artist or writer or magician, you’ve got to navigate through some treacherous zones. If you’re not traversing new territory (or at least forgotten territory) then why write instead of just reading? And many of these regions and be culturally, intellectually, physically, and psychically challenging. Disorientation can’t be avoided—it is the rule. Panic is the thing you have to watch out for.

So, Gen and I have these long talks every month or so. Sometimes they’re data dumps, and sometimes they’re progress reports. This one is probably a little more the latter, coming as it does on the release of Gen’s new book, Painful but Fabulous: The Lives & Art of Genesis P-Orridge (Soft Skull Shortwave). —Douglas Rushkoff

Dougas Rushkoff (DR): Your new book has served for me as an occasion to look back on the history of cut-and-paste, as well as its tremendous influence on art and culture every since. Cut-and-paste can even be understood as a first, rebellious step towards the attainment of genuine co-authorship. From a broad, historical perspective, it seems to me that we move through three stages. We begin by passively absorbing the information that’s fed to us—the datastream. Then, maybe with the Protestant Reformation and the printing press, we gained the ability to interpret this information for ourselves, to some extent. Then, with cut and paste, we achieve the ability to take what’s been presented to us and move it around a little bit. We can create new meanings through transpositions of what’s there, but that’s limited, in a sense, to a kind of satire or self-conscious juxtaposition. And now, finally, with computing and the internet, with the ability to actually author what for lack of a better word would be ‘original’ material, now we move into artistry. But a truly interesting moment was that first cut-and-paste moment, that first moment of, “Okay this is being fed to us, BUT we can do this with it, or to it, and get something else.” I’d be interested in hearing from you what was it like to be part of that moment.

Genesis P-Orridge (G P-O): Well… The preamble would be this: in the early ‘60s, somewhat parallel to my becoming aware of the beatniks, I started to discover Dada and Surrealism. The first time I’d heard of cut n paste, I think was Brion Gysin giving Raoul Hausman and one or two of the Dadaists the credit as one of his inspirations. He said they would cut up words from one of their poems, putting them in a hat, and then they’d draw words out of the hat, and make a new poem. What had happened was that more emotionally based artists, the ones who were actually involved in feeling human as well as just glorifying creativity, had become very disconnected from the concept of linearity, the concept of Reason, all the material concepts of the world. They had just experienced the first world war, which had led to this Armageddon, this hell on earth, and this was their reaction against what they saw as that war’s cause: the misplaced celebration of Reason, the control over information and culture in society, the harmful repression of irrationality, which has backfired.

That’s really where the first step came, that disconnection from, and obsession with, a finished, perfect result that was ‘owned’ by the artist that made it. One of Brion Gysin’s greatest poems, which I didn’t understand until very recently, was ‘Poets don’t own words.” He would do a permutation: “Poets don’t own words, words poets don’t own, own words poets don’t” and it was only recently that I actually experienced it in a visceral way, that that’s been the big change. This is what you’re talking about: that we are blessed, or gifted, or pushed, by various events to deal with the information that’s coming at us, and that society and culture are, if you like, a solidity that’s based on the inertia and linearity. This solidity is oppressive, and in order to even begin to be anything one might label ‘free’ or ‘liberated, you have to, as Burroughs used to put it, ‘First you have to short-circuit control.’ Because control is ultimately an oppressor. Control really does contain all the feedback loops of consumer culture that you’ve talked about so astutely.

I’m know I’m going in a weird loop here, but basically the point is that during the middle of the last century, the idea of having to be an Artist who owned each thing fell apart. Continue reading

My Top Ten Favorite Psychedelic Folk Songs, by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (2004)

Published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov., 2004), available from The Arthur Store

My Top Ten Favorite Psychedelic Folk Songs
by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

I was invited to create a list of my personal FAVORITE music and so I did, for an English newspaper The Independent. I was happy to illustrate how different my taste is to the endless dark mediocrity of current so-called Industrial Music that people seem to assume I would like when I NEVER have!

A note about the number of Incredible String Band songs in the following list: In 1969, I was a member of The Exploding Galaxy kinetic performance troupe in London. Some members left to form Stone Monkey, who danced with the ISB for a while. I had been listening to the Incredible String Band since school. The surrealism and FREEDOM of the lyrics is what continually engages me: the subject matter of absurdity and spirituality combined. I feel the ISB are probably the lyrical geniuses of the ’60s and onwards, far more than the Beatles or Dylan, who become predictable and never really extended the form of the song as an open system in the same way. Once one gets the ISB all the other musics fall into place. These are the true troubadours of the last two centuries. They explore divinity and magick from a lyrical chivalric dimension. Combine this with the interdimensionality and you have works beyond compare. SUBLIME!

Go and explore, there are more stories in the drug mine of British folk than man hath dreamed of and Lewis Carroll hath penned to his own particular blend of paper.

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
New York City, April 2004

=====

1. “Meet Me on the Ledge” by Fairport Convention
(from What We Did On Our Holidays, 1968)
When I was at Hull University this song was on the student-picked juke box. The in-joke amongst we flower children/soon-to-be-drop-outs was that when we wanted to score hash from the University dealer we’d put this record on as a buying signal and meet outside by the “hedge.”

2. “When I Get Home” by Pentangle
(from Light Flight compilation double CD, 1971)
This is amazing! Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson and the crew evoke the most immersive sense of melancholy. I saw all the guitarists individually in the Hall of Residence cafeteria so this always makes me smell gravy and roast potatoes instead of think of alcoholism. A whiskydelic song as Lady Jaye would say.

3. “A Very Cellular Song” by the Incredible String Band
(from The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, 1968)
Probably my equal favorite song of all time. Full of whimsy, weirdness, surreal lyrics that insist they are profound when you know they are more likely just found. When it gets to a sequence which describes the feelings of an amoeba you know that you are, after all, in the presence of genius!

4. “Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal” by Dr. Strangely Strange
(from Kip of the Serenes, 1970)
I can’t imagine life without this band. They always bring joy to my heart. Rumor has it the main singer split to become a full-on Zen priest so they only made two albums. Both are total classics of British pre-Raphaelite fairytales. No other people can pull off this nonsense poetry so authentically. The genius Joe Boyd brought them from Eire to record their masterpiece. You do not love words if you cannot love this song which has the silliest chorus ever written.

5. “Sign On My Mind” by Dr. Strangely Strange
(from Heavy Petting, 1970)
I used to have this on vinyl and the cover unfolded as intricately and dadaistically as the music and lyrics. Gnomic hippies peer from insubstantial cut-out trees as we are led a merry frolic into the surprise of a guitar solo by Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy fame! I have seriously considered doing a cover version of this song with The Master Musicians of Jajouka playing the flute parts.

6. “Time Has Told Me” by Nick Drake
(from Five Leaves Left, 1969)
The myth says that Rizzla rolling papers had one paper that said “Five Leaves Left” to warn stoners of impending doom. Of course, I could have chosen ANY song by Nick Drake. The intensity of melancholia drenching the analog tape, the sheer PRESENCE of his voice is an honor to share, as is the raw intimacy with which he describes turmoil, creating confusion in us by delicately flecking every edge of his words with guilty beauty.

7. “My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper” by the Incredible String Band
(from Earthspan, 1972)
Here I am duty bound to confess I have at least 20 ISB CDs and albums! Never, ever, on any day, in any mood do I feel less than joyous to hear their voices and humor, their grand metaphysics and acid-drenched morality plays. At first I wasn’t sure about this era. L. Ron Hubbard supposedly wanted to guide their parables. But there is something in the violin—as an electric violin player since 1966 myself, I am a sucker for them. Now, I bellow along and feel the sea spray soak my mediaeval hose as I witness a murderous foam.

8. “Translucent Carriages” by Pearls Before Swine
(from Balaklava, 1965)
Tom Rapp is one of the great undiscovered poet songwriters from Eastern USA. Originally on ESP Disc alongside the Fugs and other neo-Beat nutters he occasionally lets slip a seductive lisp. I have never figured out the meaning of this song (which was first played to me by Annie Ryan in Liverpool in a post-acid glow) even though I did record it for the Psychic TV Pagan Day album. Answers on a dog-tag please. He is a lawyer now. Sensible man saw too much of the larval nature of mankind for his own peace of heart.

9. “War in Peace” by Alexander “Skip” Spence
(from Oar, 1969)
Skip was a Canadian bass player who switched to drums for the Jefferson Airplane during the acid madness until he was dropped in 1966 for missing a rehearsal! He turned up like a mad penny in Moby Grape next, still erratic and enigmatic. There’s the touch of Syd Barrett tragedy in the implosion and incompleteness of many of his songs. His deranged inspiration sneaks him in as folksy acid.

10. “Ducks on a Pond” by the Incredible String Band
(from Wee Tam and the Big Huge, 1968)
Yes, I know, there are so many others and where DO you draw the psychedelic line? By its very natyre it meanders and has no beginning, edge or point. I wanted to include the Blossom Toes’ “We Are Ever So Clean”; Nirvana’s “All of Us”; anything quirky by Syd Barrett (which means everything he did). Why I even toyed with Kaleidoscope from the USA and Dantalian’s Chariot (whose guitarist went on to play in The Police!!! Oh Andy Summers, ouch!). But “Ducks” is the 1968 masterpiece. A total artwork. A monster that will not shut up or stop spiralling around and around as dumb as a duck and as crazy as a fox complete with “inky scratches everywhere.”

'THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE' A New Testameant By Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE

From DVD and book designer Hazel Hill:

bible

Thee infamous PSYCHICK BIBLE from Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth receives an updated, expanded, corrected edition, compleat with dozens of new visuals and essays. It’s a sewn-bound hardcover, compleat with ribbon. Thee 544 pages within are printed in two colors on high-quality, acid-free 100% recycled paper stock.

This signed, numbered, limited edition (999 copies only) includes a remarkable DVD of impossible-to-find videos from Genesis P-Orridge archives of early Psychic TV and TOPY creations, which includes the work of Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Derek Jarman.

The artist, BREYER P-ORRIDGE, says about this edition: “It has been a revelation and become very thrilling for me to see 30 years+ of social, ritual and communal creative explorations condensed into what we feel may become the most profound new manual on ‘practical magick’ taking it from its Crowleyan level of liberation and empowermeant of the Individual to a next level of realization that magick must then give back to its environment, its community, become about liberation and empowermeant to change this ‘world’ and evolve our humanE species.”

Hazel Hill, designer and artist from Los Angeles (www.madeofthis.com), met Genesis through Adam Parfrey (owner and director of Feral House Books). The two entered the project as friends and have come out as life-long devotes to each other and most importantly, Lady Jaye.

Thee price is $69 plus shipping, and can be obtained directly from Feral House: www.FeralHouse.com.

Blaster Al Ackerman & the Hellishness of High School and/or Throbbing Gristle

You are the entity.

You are the entity.

This world is full of folks (like me) who are too scared to be dumb or gross or fun, no matter how smart they are. On the other hand, blessings on the head of Blaster Al Ackerman, a writer, painter and correspondence artist who has produced a massive body of work, much of it untrackable due to his pervasive use of pseudonyms (and, for that matter, anonyms) one of which you, Arthur reader, will find in your own home in the form of the song “Hamburger Lady,” the best song by the rock band Throbbing Gristle. I’ll save the long story of Mail Art that brought about this happenstance for another day, though.

What’s important to know for now is that Ackerman has been producing a lot of text and image huzz for the private consumption of a handful of huzz-hufferers, and its taken form of a handful of side-splitting books (The Blaster Omnibus, Let Me Eat Massive Pieces of Clay, I Taught my Dog to Shoot a Gun and, most recently, Corn and Smoke among them), earning him a place in some circles as the contemporary equivalent of Poe. If you have not previously encountered his writing or drawings, we highly recommend that in advance of the short interview that follows you familiarize yourself with his work, at the least, with his recent text at the Lamination Colony site, “Eel Leonard’s Class Prophecy” and/or the free downloads of his spoken-word LP masterpiece I Am Drunk.

Also, in advance of the exchange that follows, it is worth knowing that as a young person in Texas the 50s, Ackerman became absorbed by the world of pulp fiction and attempted to become a writer, although during the pulps’ waning years he only got published in romance magazines. He did, however, strike up a correspondence with science fiction writer Frederic Brown. In the 60s, he worked as a children’s TV show writer and in a carnival before going to Vietnam as a Medivac and then working in burn wards in U.S. hospitals. In the early 70s, he got heavily involved with Mail Art, ultimately centering around David Zack and Istvan Kantor with whom he co-generated the Neoist banner of 80s pranks, plagiarism, art and multiple identity. Through the 80s and 90s, he published frequently in magazines like The Lost and Found Times (edited by frequent collaborator John M. Bennett) and the Shattered Wig Review (edited by Rupert Wondolowski)

Q: I know you were a fan of the rhythm and blues singers of the 50s as a young person in Texas. Could you tell us a little about those concerts and how they might have shaped you?
Ackerman: The first R&B concert I ever attended was probably the greatest. It took place at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown San Antonio, Texas. This was in the very early 50s and admission was only $4 or $5! A true bargain, especially when you consider who all was on the bill. An unbelievable line-up consisting of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Frankie Lyman, Little Richard and “Mr. Please Please Please Himself” James Brown. Big Joe Turner (the Boss of the Blues) was the headliner, which seem strange today, especially considering the talent on hand but back in the early 50s Joe Turner was the most prominent name.
San Antonio was a heavy pachuco town so audience participation ran high with many seat cushions slashed; there was also wholesale bopping and vicious horseplay on the railing of the balcony upstairs and frequent injuries from falls.
Through it all, I might add, speculation ran rife over the burning question: “Is Frankie Lymon a hermaphrodite?!” (In rock circles in the early 50s this was one of two questions which engaged the brains of all true R&B fans; the other being “Is Brenda Lee a midget?”)
Anyway, I would have to say that in my experience the only other R&B shows that ever came close happened a few years later at the “Dars” Miller in Austin, Texas, when Bo Diddley and Bobby Blue Bland appeared, the crowd became so worked up that they locked the security guards in a closet, took their guns away and fired them off into the air while Bo stayed on stage and got down with “I’m a Man.” Too much.

Q: What’s the best job in the carnival, job-gratification-wise?
Ackerman: Running the Duck Pond Ride and sleeping down by the river in your duck mask, if you go in for that sort of thing.

Q: Once a person finds his way into an artform, he or she begins, over time, to recognize the mistakes or foolishness of those who preceeded him or her in that form. I wonder, once you’d gotten into mail art, in which ways did you think that Ray Johnson had slipped, a little or a lot?
Ackerman: This is a hard one, especially when you realize how I idolized Ray. And so while it’s true that Ray fell victim on occassion to a certain loquaciousness, especially in the later years, I prefer to remember when he was right on target such as the time when Art Forum was asking for an important statement and Ray came out with, “Every time I walk down the street, the little birdies go tweet-tweet-tweet.”
Really, though, in Mail Art, the real “slappage” comes when you’re on tour and you stop by somebody’s keen little house in Tulsa or Louisville and you’ve been slugging the vodka in the backseat for 3 or 400 miles so that you find upon getting into their guest room that you’re overflowing the bowl and ruining an expensive carpet and priceless antiques. What then?

Q: In Frederick Brown’s story “Come and Go Mad,” there’s long repetition of the colors, “the red and the black,” and it’s left open to interpretation, to say the least. Any thoughts on that passage?
Ackerman: I would guess that Fred was figuring that the name Stehndhal would pop into your mind, comme pour troutes les simmiennes?

Q: What’s your favorite L. Ron Hubbard story about?
Ackerman: Just about anything–uh, just about anything L. Ron wrote before WWII is worth your attention. My own big favorite is “Fear,” a classic from a classic 1940 issue of Street & Smith’s Unknown magazine. “Fear” is available in paperback today so I would greatly urge every literate person to check it out and if you happen to be illiterate, why get a friend to read it to you. You’ll be glad you did.

Q: (Bonus Question) Fill in the blanks: Answering these questions gives me a feeling of both ____ and _____.
Ackerman: To paraphrase John Berndt when he was shimmying across the plains of India, “Answering these questions gives me a feeling of both Spanish Fly and Salt Peter.”

R.I.P. SHAWN MORTENSEN, 1966-2009

sm_zapatis_018

Above: A Zapatista, photographed in Chiapas by Shawn Mortensen. Courtesy Peter Relic.

Shawn Mortensen was a passionate photographer, activist, storyteller and human being, who expected the best out of everybody. He gave much, much more than this world gave him.

Shawn was a friend, a fellow traveler, a comrade.

It is fair to say that his personal and professional support helped bring Arthur Magazine into being, and without him there would be no Arthur. He helped me see that I could edit and publish a culture magazine—not just that I could, but that I had to—and he rallied support from others, and provided countless instances of support, much of it in private. I still have an email he sent to me and our friend Peter Relic on July 28, 2000 at 1:30am, entitled ‘MORTY”S MANIFESTD,’ [sic] which was a typically typo’d, irreverent, stream-of-Mortensen call to (publishing) arms, written from the green zone (the real one, not the one that they’d build in Baghdad three years later) where we had spent so much time together, turning each other on to stuff, generating ideas and figuring out how to get The Work done.

Shawn realized how it (culture, politics, love) all fit together; his success was in embodying it, to the degree that he could; his frustration was that others couldn’t (yet) see what he did. But of course, who could, really? Who else among us had seen as much as Shawn had—the good, the great, the bad, and the really bad? Shawn was almost over-aware.

Shawn’s photograph of Beck performing at Aron’s Records was used in Arthur’s pre-launch promotional materials. His photograph of Peaches ran in Arthur No. 1. For our ‘real’ first issue, Arthur No. 2, he photographed Devendra Banhart (possibly Devendra’s first-ever “photo shoot”?) and Genesis P-Orridge & Douglas Rushkoff. As the magazine matured, Shawn always offered his services, free of charge, in addition to his contacts, his wealth of knowledge, his archives and his moral support. That we did not collaborate further was (mostly) a matter of bad timing. I profoundly regret that we did not achieve together what we had set out to do, on the scale we had hoped for.

That said: Without Shawn, my life would be significantly different, and not nearly as good.

I am in shock that he is gone at this moment, forever.

For those who never met him, or who want to see (and hear) him today, this video shows a lot of what he was about.

Journalist Drew Tewksbury has posted a long piece from Shawn about the early to mid ’90s, composed in 2007 for Flaunt Magazine, on his website. Shawn’s writing voice was always enthusiastic, manic, exciting to read. This is no different, and I am happy that it’s been shared with us all.

Go here:
http://drewtewksbury.com/2009/04/17/the-final-draft-of-shawn-mortensen/