Friday, February 13, 2009


A few days ago, over at the 33 1/3 blogspot, John Mark posted a link to an article about performance artist Genesis P-Orridge (second from left on the TG album cover), once and present member of the band Throbbing Gristle, and, in the 1980s, the co-founder of Psychic TV. While the article makes rather explicit the masochistic aspects of P-Orridge’s being, his tale is thoroughly Gnostic in its underpinnings (e.g., the conviction of an incomplete and/or inadequate Self that can be overcome by the union with one’s “lost” half or twin; the fundamental distrust of the material world; body hatred; and so on). His quest for identicalness can be understood, in one way, as an attempt to reassure one’s unstable sense of identity through the display of that self-image in the identical image of an Other. But as I read his story, I also found myself thinking of the Frankenstein myth of a body cobbled together with incongruous parts, but also a modern revision of that puissant myth, Pierre Jeunet’s ALIEN: RESURRECTION and the image of the cloned but strangely androgynous body of Ripley, the successfully manufactured eighth clone in a series of failed attempts.

Only one filmmaker could possibly translate the strange story recounted in that article into a film: David Cronenberg. Think of Cronenberg’s films such as DEAD RINGERS (the perverse relationship between the identical twins Beverly and Elliot Mantle, which culminates in their catastrophic re-imagining of themselves as Siamese Twins), THE FLY (the Brundlefly hybrid), CRASH (the masochistically linked couple immersed in the delirium of a Folie à deux), and M. BUTTERFLY (a revision of Balzac’s Sarrasine with its focus on the highly ambiguous gender identity of Song Lilling, as s/he vacillates precariously between female masquerade and femininity). In DEAD RINGERS, the Mantle twins’ desire to merge into one another is similar Seth Brundle’s aspiration at the conclusion of THE FLY, to splice his genetic material with the DNA of Veronica and their unborn child in order to create a male/female/fly/offspring hybrid—“Brundlefly.” This same aspiration for a hybrid form is referred to in the article, and in P-Orridge’ s writings, by the neologism pandrogeny—“There is no reason to accept anymore what was once a God-given form. People can now choose to be even more fictional,” writes Genesis P-Orridge in an article available here. What is fascinating in his remarks is his reconceptualization of what, in Jungian psychology, is called the quest for individuation (psychological differentiation, the development of the individual personality). Normally individuation involves a subject striving for a life that is meaningful, complete, noble, good, and so on. But in the aforementioned essay and elsewhere (a lengthy interview, in parts, with P-Orridge on these topics is available on youtube here), he recasts individuation as the biological transformations enabled by or through technology—as does Seth Brundle, as well as many of the protagonists in Cronenberg's male melodramas.

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