Body Modification and Surgical Implants: A Love Story

Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Boy and girl move to Brooklyn. Boy and girl undergo gender-blurring body modification surgeries in order to merge their identities and create a new “pandrogynous” being.

Okay, it may not be as simple as that. But the unusual story of the relationship between experimental performer Genesis P-Orridge, who fronted the pioneering industrial rock band Throbbing Gristle, and her collaborator/lover Lady Jaye Breyer is a love story. And for all of its arch-conceptual, avant-garde swerving—not to mention its sheer, um, bizarreness—the story’s biggest and most compelling “idea” is actually an old chestnut of couples’ therapy: Great loves are built on unyielding trust and intimacy.

Such is the power of the documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which has its local premiere tomorrow night at the Walker. The film, the first feature-length effort by director Marie Losier, tells the story of Genesis’s and Breyer’s inseperable, nearly 15-year bond. The two married in 1998 and shortly thereafter commenced a project dubbed “Creating the Pandrogyne.” The goal—achieved through sometimes surgical means, including breast implants—was to erase as many physical distinctions as possible between the two lovers, creating a single, gender-transcending entity known as Breyer P-Orridge.

The project continued until Breyer died, from complications related to stomach cancer, in 2007.

In a 2008 interview, Genesis described the couple’s motivation (and dig the starry-eyed language):

“We started out, because we were so crazy in love, just wanting to eat each other up, to become each other and become one. And as we did that, we started to see that it was affecting us in ways that we didn’t expect. Really, we were just two parts of one whole; the pandrogyne was the whole and we were each other’s other half.”

Losier followed the couple around for seven years. The film includes private home video footage, interviews, and live performances—a treasure trove that no doubt helped it win the coveted Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival. But as much as its art-doc prowess will satisfy the fanboys (and fangirls and fan-trans-people), it’s the love story that carries the project.

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
Premieres Wednesday, April 4
A discussion with Losier and Genesis P-Orridge follows the screening.
7:30 p.m.
$12 ($10 for students and Walker members)
Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.