As Marie Losier set out to film the life of performance artists Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye for years, the trio wasn't sure what they would do with the footage. It would be one "life," not two "lives," considering how solidly entwined the duo has been, from the beginning of their pandrogynous love affair to the tragic, sudden death of Jaye in 2007. With a semi-experimental documentary opening in theaters today, Losier and P-Orridge talk with us about their unplanned cinematic endeavor and the shifting attitudes toward not just LGBT sensibilities, but the whole bodily spectrum of sexuality.
Out: What made you want to start working on the film?
Marie Losier: It wasn’t planned. It's really how life just came about, encountering Genesis after a concert I attended. There was no plan at all. It's really by this way of meeting, which was more of an encounter than anything else. Then, I decided to come home with Jaye, and we sat and talked very shortly. But it was a very special time between us. Jaye said that I should be the one filming them. They told me after that they were looking for someone to document their life and their projects. Very quickly, about 10 days later, I was joining them on their tour on a bus across Europe. That was the beginning of jumping into their life.
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: To put it in context, Lady Jaye said, maybe a week or so before we met Marie, "You know, we really need someone to film everything, just like Andy Warhol at the Factory documented all the time." But it wasn’t to make a film. That wasn’t what we were thinking. We just thought it would be great to have all of this documentation of the gradual transformation that we were going through. And we could keep that as sort of an archival project. It was only as the film progressed, and we saw rough edits of the pieces, that we realized there was something more precious there than just documentation—that there was a feeling that Marie caught that was precious. And it was then that Lady Jaye confessed that all she really wanted in life was to be a member of a great love affair. It was pretty much intuition on Marie and Lady Jaye’s part, I was just along for the ride.
How long did this filming process take?
GBP: Eight years.
ML: Eight years of touring.
What was it like going through eight years of footage following Lady Jaye’s death?
ML: At first it was daunting. I had to technically go into the computer and start thinking about how to construct the story. Of course, it was very difficult for me, for everyone. It was upsetting to look at the footage everyday, but at the same time, there was so much joy in the footage—so much love—that it really got me to edit the story the way it was. It kept me totally into the mood every minute of editing the film because there was this love and this joy and Jaye was with me there everyday. When you edit, you get stuck in your own world and nothing else is there—you live another life.
GBP: The first year after Jaye dropped her body, I basically just laid in bed in the dark. Luckily, Psychic TV 3 and Marie and the people around us, we’re very much an extended family, a chosen family. They really kept me sane, kept me alive, basically. Without them, I might have just faded away completely, but, after a year and a half, we started thinking about the movie again and thought, We have to finish it because this is Jaye’s ultimate wish. And now, it's her memorial. We wanted people to know about how special she was, and we promised her that we would complete this project. After a while, we realized that there was just no way that we were going to just stop and throw it away. We had to keep its spirit.
Why did you feel that now is the right time to release this project?
GBP: It wasn’t really a plan [laughs]. We rarely have a plan, aside from constantly trying to evolve and see the world in a clearer way—to share what we see. We had great faith in what Burroughs calls random chance. How random is random? We didn’t know it was the right time until we started to get a response from people. And when we were at the Berlin film festival, we assumed that the film would be seen at about three or four film festivals, and that would be it. But, we suddenly got to be in the prize-winning ceremony. It was just like the Oscars, with all the glamor, dancers, and singers, all of the women in gowns that go up and say, “And the winner is...” Then, all of a sudden, they said, "The winner is The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye," and all of these people in tuxedos and gowns cheered. That’s when we knew that it was working, that we were touching people on a really universal level. That something about the way Marie made this film made me feel that she's quite possibly a genius for making that happen. Something about her way of approaching and presenting it is really communicating, and it's really part of the time. It’s a time of great doubt for many people, a time of great fear for people. They know that the economies everywhere are living on borrowed time. They know that the ecology is disintegrating. We’re on borrowed time there, and, in fact, the future could be very bleak. It's a story of transcendent love and a reminder that it's often the most precious part of somebody’s life, finding your other half—your soul mate, not what your interests are—that is the core of the joy of life itself. That’s what it seems to be communicating.
Can you talk about the modern state of sexuality in our world. For example, why are gay characters and programs, such as RuPaul's Drag Race, becoming more mainstream?
GBP: Well, I’ll try [laughs]. Originally, with pandrogeny, it was purely personal with myself and Lady Jaye. We were obsessed lovers like Hamlet and Ophelia, Romeo and Juliet, etc. That was the beginning of us choosing to take it as far as we could. We would lie in bed all day or night, thinking about what we thought of the project, and in the beginning, we started thinking there is a definite undercurrent in this culture. For example, in the Village Voice, when we came here about 10 years ago—maybe more now—all these sex ads were heterosexual sex ads or gay sex ads, and that was it. Now, about 80% are shemales, trannies. That means that all the straight men that were going to heterosexual women for all their sexual pleasure are now going to hermaphrodites. That’s a huge shift in perception. Which means that the male in our species is drawn to the idea of completeness by having as many options as possible. If you look at various cultures—the Tibetans, the Hindus, the Native Americans—they all have in their mystical belief systems the idea of the hermaphrodite. Even the pope before the one we have now wrote an essay saying God must be male and female. I heard that and went, Yeahhh!
In an interview in Phoenix, Arizona, with ABC news, there was a controversy because they wouldn’t let us play in a club because I was a tranny. We were banned in two clubs before we got to play in a third club. Ironically, it was a biker club that let us play. So we did an interview with the news people and my quote was, “Transsexuals are the storm-troopers of the future.” We fully believe that the human species isn’t finished. That the human body is a work in progress. It’s not sacred in the sense of remaining how it is. It doesn’t have to be male and female. Obviously, to us, the most perfect form of the human body was to be male and female. To have male genitals and breasts, or at least to be able to design the body the way you want. It’s becoming possible with genetic engineering and surgery and other advancements in biology, physics, and so on.
We are reaching a point where people can literally choose what body they want their mind to be residing in. As Lady Jaye said, "The body’s a cheap suitcase and we are actually consciousness." And your body is your trademark, logo, the symbol for what you believe. So if what you believe in is your body, then make your body look like what you believe. As you were implying, with RuPaul and different programs, there was a time 15, 20 years ago when transsexuals and people with piercings and tattoos were seen as freaks. Things have changed, and the fact that RuPaul can be on and that people are casting characters that are gay characters and sexually ambiguous is the first evidence that there's a real shift in consciousness and one that should be exploited. Because obviously every form of sexuality that is not damaging to another person or is consensual has to be healthy and is nobodies business. The idea of legislating my body or somebody telling me what I can and can't do with my body is insane. People are slowly, by exposure, learning tolerance. Jaye used to want to be able to have fur—we wanted gills so we could live underwater. So we don’t think it's just about sexual preference, we wanted to go further. If we could hibernate, if we could go into space, if we were cold-blooded so we don’t need heat, there are a lot of things that could happen. We could colonize the sea if we had gills.
ML: That was quite a response!
GBP: Was that enough of an answer [laughs]? Viva la evolution! Evolving is implied just as much as it is discussed by seeing us walking around both wearing the same outfits. Me cooking in a bra and lacy lingerie wearing high heels. It's all in there, and what's good about the way Marie exposes the film was that it's just commonplace, it's daily life. That makes it less threatening for people who aren’t used to that kind of information. They can’t help but think it's cute. That’s the breaking point. That’s the point where you can create dialogue.
ML: I would have so many people after the screening who would come up and say, "I really have to start dressing up to do the cleaning."
GBP: We’ve had several people come to us and say they’re going to start dressing sexy to do the housework. We recommend it. It really works!
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye opens today, March 8, in selected cities.