by Art Chantry:
this is another of my favorite trashy posters in my meager collection of trashy posters. i found this in a box of street/art posters given to me by a couple of artistic types in seattle. they were cleaning out their garage/storage unit back in the mid 80′s and offered me a box chock-full of tortured trashed stapled stained torn ravaged telephone pole posters they had saved over their years together. most of them were the “one-legged blind dog named Lucky” variety. but among them were some choice punk posters grabbed from all over the world during their travels. this amazingly rare and exotic genesis p-orridge poster for a Throbbing Gristle performance was buried in among them.
it’s for a performance at the Architectural Association in bedford square dated may 3, 1978 – a very early TG performance. it’s peppered with warnings and threats and observances about hi-noise level torture and and mind-control. the backside has a crude image of the band (in uniform) standing in front of a factory/billboard (the significance of which escapes me – but i’m sure it’s horrifying). across the top of this backside is the phrase “industrial music… for industrial people.” TG was officially the first “industrial” band. they didn’t coin the term (they credit it to collaborator monte cazzeza). but, they grabbed it and ran with it.
their main tactitician, genesis p-orridge, had a long history with performance art, mail art and conceptual work. his (then) partner in crime was cosi fanni tutti (a pornography performer) in a adhoc art performance troupe called “coum transmissions”. they shocked and horrified the avant guard world of british art for over a decade before morphing into the band Throbbing Gristle. along the way, they helped to lunch the british punk rock scene with their anti-social messages and industrial noise attacks. their performance/exhibit at the ICA in london called “pornography” was one of the first punk rock culture meetings of the minds and remains one of the most important events in the history of british punk developement.
as time went on, genesis poked his fingers into the wounds of so many different subcultural killing fields that he almost single-handedly directed the course of underground music and art and fashion for several decades. because his work has always been so “out there”, he usually goes unrecognized by the critics who write the psuedo-history books. but, his ideas were always at the forefront and the famous folks were his copycats. it’s just the way it was.
for instance, he was one of the primary people responsible for the promotion of ‘tribal culture’ (originally referred to as ‘modern primitive’) into the mainstream underground world. i wonder if we would all have these tattoos and piercings if genesis hadn’t pointed us all that way? and his contribution of industrial noise as music goes beyond the word ‘important’. it’s actually revolutionary. his work was the supreme counterpart to the punk “anarchy”. TG celebrated the bereft, the nihilistic, the passionless, the dark hidden world as the embodiemnt of all that was controllable and desireable. genesis played the role of ‘darth vader’ to john lydon’s “rotten”. the two represented the embodiment of the punk philosophical schism – “destroy” vs. “dread.”
this little 8 1/2 x 11 offset quickprint flyer is a small example of genesis’s contributions to the world of graphic design thought. his ideas changed the direction of design language forever. his collages and conceptualism pre-dates the work of jamie reid’s work for the sex pistols (but not his work for the situationists) by decades. whereas reid’s design approach was a self-destructing monkeywrench of a style (“who needs a graphic designer – DO IT YOURSELF!”), genesis embraced an elitism and dictatorial stance of expansive self-control. basically, he was the priest, you were the congregation. his vision to to have you follow him. he established the directive and you joined his army. his mechanical minimalism and cold thought combined with his embrace of the dehumanizing and the dispassionate as strength and power worked as the counterpoint to the DIY emotionalism anarchism and primal passion of street punk.
in that process, genesis’s design work was the antithesis of chaos. his industrial vision was dehumanizing by intent and disempowering. you became the machine and you marched forward. the fact that the machine destroyed culture in came upon? well, so much the better. after the old world was gone, genesis was standing ready with his new world vision for everybody to blindly follow. so simple. so tidy. so devouring.
the history of british punk style begins with the conflict between these two visual/conceptual/aesthetic stances represented by the design of reid and genesis. the eventual melding and joining of the two visions merged in manchester with The Factory scene. the ‘new wave’ that was promoted after the punk revolution was actually a blending of the two visions of passion/anarchy/DIY and dispassion/industrial/nightmare. the work of peter saville, malcolm g
tt, neville brody, joy division, new order, ‘new romantics’, even PIL all embraced this new mutation. genesis eventually exploited their mutant version of his work by forming a “band as cult” – Psychic TV. now we all call this stuff “post punk”.
genesis p-orridge was the st. paul of ‘post punk.’ i feel fortunate to own this artfact of his efforts.