Interview with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
by Carol Tessitore
Talking about ideas…
GPO: The phrase red light district popped into my head, I was thinking about shoes, and the gallery owner said to me “we’ll put you in a hotel here right near the station. And I know in Europe when they say that it usually means two things: a) it’s cheap and b) it’s in the red light district. I suddenly had this image in my mind of Christmas lights and it all gelled into taking a lot of old high-heeled shoes, that I’ve worn in performances, rituals and so on, and putting little light fittings inside each one and red light bulbs in them, stringing all of them together and have them hang like Christmas tree lights. That’ll be the red light district in the gallery that can be where I have the images that are more explicit.
TEAR: So you are focusing on your art again…would you like to talk about that? How has art changed for you over time?
GPO: When I first started making art in the mid sixties—and I’m still trying to figure out what the implications are, because the most important thing for me is that my art and my life have truly always been as close to one another as they could ever get—my original name was Neil Megson. In 1965 Neil Megson decided to create an art character Genesis P Orridge, or to at least accept that character, and instead of having it be a contrived idea, it was very much about gallery art. I decided that I would completely immerse myself in Genesis P Orridge, and then place GPO into art and popular culture to see what would happen. In a sense, all of my art has been the diary of GPO.
TEAR: That brings up an interesting question, who is Neil Megson to you now, has he always remained “behind the scenes” of creating GPO or is he separate.
GPO: That’s actually one of the most intriguing questions there is, I’ve been thinking more and more lately for what ever reason, I’ve been asking myself “Where is Neil?” Neil invented this game, this character GPO and sort of set him loose into the world. In the beginning Neil was being Genesis, and Genesis was responsible for what the art was and for the creativity, Neil was the sot of Puppet master of this alter ego. Then as I took it more and more seriously or as Neil did, I changed the name legally, and people would meet me and I was only Genesis to them, there was no Neil. There was a point when Neil was forgotten by Genesis. It’s a question that puzzles me—does Neil still exist? Or was he erased by Genesis almost like a monster or parasite in one of those movies where the creation takes over the creator. I honestly am not sure whether Neil exists anymore. What I feel is that this is Genesis, I’m Genesis, and I think I killed Neil. I wonder, if I went back could I ask him to look at what he became as Genesis, would he still make the same decision, or would he not want to be erased in that way by the art. On the other hand, I think it was my absolute determination and dedication to truly living art and life as one that made the whole phenomenon work. I think the reason that my art, writing and music succeeded in the way they have, at whatever level is precisely because I was prepared to sacrifice everything including my identity. I don’t know where Neil is, and I wonder if Neil created Genesis and Genesis has now completely absorbed everything that was Neil, perhaps the only way to resolve that question is to not be Genesis anymore, and change my name again. Maybe become Neil again or someone else. It’s one of the things that I’m actually considering right now. How do I find out who I am? Because the idea of becoming someone else has been so successful.
TEAR: I like the idea of maybe being able to step back and “visit Neil” and then get to see what Genesis has done from a different perspective, getting a chance to soak it all in.
GPO: I think that’s partly what I’m trying to do right now, I think that’s one reason I’ve gone back to making art. I’ve chosen to be more self-conscious. To look at everything I do as a piece has helped me a lot to realize that GPO was actually the artwork, and Throbbing Gristle, the painting and the books and so on are all bits of one big artwork, which is the person. I think I am creating a retrospective by revisiting all of the threads and going back to the sources of everything, and seeing where I lie in there. I think one thing that happens to a lot of people is that they start to believe that their art is either innately important or that they are innately interesting or important because of some measure of success or attention from the outside world. That’s of course where people usually lose the integrity that they had in the beginning. If you start to believe in the things you make, instead of the reasons that you make them, then you start to produce art for other people instead of yourself. That’s something that I’ve always tried really hard to avoid, I’ve always tried to be my own therapist or analyst checking. Am I doing this because I can, because I can get away with it? Am I doing this because that’s what I do, I make music so I’ll make some more. Am I doing this because I will find out something or discover something that I didn’t know yesterday? All art to me is looking for something new, some new way of seeing the world or your place in the world that changes you or changes the way that you perceive things.
TEAR: I see you as a sort of Jack of all trades, but your current focus is on visual art, does visual art or any other art form carry more importance to you, or is it just a time for visual things right now?
GPO: When I began I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to write books, but I also wanted to be a fine artist. I began doing performance art and mail art and so on in the 70’s. The performance art with Coum became really quite well respected; we were doing big shows in Milan and in Museums and so on. Basically in the background was the music, I started creating audio sound-scapes. When what we were doing became acceptable to the art world, it seemed we had proved our point. One of the points was that you didn’t need traditional training to produce something that was valid and valuable in the art world. And so we took on something else, which was music. I never stopped making art all the way through, I always carried on doing drawings and collages. It became the one thing I had that was mine. It was secret, no one else knew about it, and no matter what else was going on, I always had the collaging and the secret visual material to come back to that was mine. In the 60’s I really believed that every individual had what I used to call the genius factor. I believed that without exception everyone had some skill, some ability to do something completely unique that was only theirs that would add something to the world. But the education system, the way that society conditions people, fundamentalism whether it be religious, political, economic or tribal, the environment that you are born into conspires deliberately to suppress that genius factor. You are not encouraged to find your marvelous skill, the thing that you see that no one else sees, that you have and absolute right to see and to express to others, and that the world was supposed to evolve by the sharing and discovery of everybody’s highest potential. I was an idealist and a utopian, and I still am. All the projects that I worked on were very much about beginning without the expected skills. Without a record label if you were going to be a band, without being able to play an instrument in a traditionally clever way, or if you couldn’t draw perfectly you could use collage or some other way to create. A way for people to create an icon of their uniqueness. That was one of the real ideas behind all of it was that you didn’t need traditional support systems or traditional ways of thinking or being. So with the Coum performances, apart from that it was a personal journey of breaking taboo’s and inhibitions, I wanted to wipe the board clean as a being and say to myself “nothing has to be accepted that I was given.” Not my name, not my gender, not my social class, not what I’m expected to do for a living, I have an absolute right to choose what I want to be, and that’s how Neil started building Genesis. He said “OK, I have this blank concept of a being that I have the right to be, the one I wasn’t told about by society. Let me build him or it. Throbbing Gristle was like that too, it was very much about four people who couldn’t play their instruments, finding a way with music and with sound, to actually discover something so inevitable in terms of expression of life. So each project was very much rooted in that basic ideal that if you really break everything that you’ve been told you can be. If you don’t accept anyone else’s voice in terms of what you can be as a person, then you will start to see and find who and what you really are. I think that looking back now, Genesis has almost been a mirror of the way that society’s been changing over these decades. My concerns have altered from using music as a platform to contemporary times where I’m very naturally interested in cosmetic surgery and transgender and the manipulation of the human body itself as is the world outside, if you look at the national enquirer. I’m looking at it from an artist’s point of view and theoretically, but in a way I’m just like every body else, and that’s the concern of every housewife who’s trying to decide whether or not to get breast implants. I think the artist somehow takes the concerns that the psychology of their society is obsessed with or afraid of or unable to give shape to and describe to them. I’m trying to say that the artist ultimately is the mirror of the society that they’re in, and I’ve created a mirror that changes the same way that society does.
TEAR: Ideally, that is, the artist is the mirror of the society that they’re in.
GPO: I think that’s probably one of the achievements that I’ve made. I think that’s probably why I have the obsession with the idea of mirrors in the arts. Even though they’re not always present in the art, the idea of reflections and infinite reflections seems to me to be incredibly powerful, especially in graphic art.
TEAR: Is there any reason in particular why you chose not to include other forms of art (music and writing) in this retrospective book?
GPO: In 1995 I fell out of a window of a burning mansion in CA, escaping the fire. I landed on some concrete steps. My arm was broken in eight places, I had broken ribs, I had a pulmonary embolism and I was in intensive care for ten days. I was lucky to be alive. I had to spend almost an entire year just physically recovering enough to function properly. I had a whole year to consider what to do, to sit back for the first time since I started out. It was the first time I had a year off. I decided to look at what I was doing and why I was doing it. Was it from habit, or had I become a cork bobbing on the relentless wave of my own work. I decided to sit down and start all over again in terms of choosing what it was I wanted to do. So I asked myself some basic questions. What always gives me pleasure? And the answer was I always get pleasure from making art. Do I really want to keep on making music? No, I’ve made 200 CD’s, I don’t have to ever make music again, I might want to, but right now I’m kind of tired of it, I need a break. And so I just went back to square one, and thought, I love words, I love writing. So I decide that I am no longer obliged to do anything. I don’t have to feel that because I’ve always been creative and don’t things in public that I have to do that ever again. It was very liberating to suddenly say I don’t have to be Genesis anymore. Or Genesis doesn’t have to make Genesis products or art. So I chose very consciously, to return to the things that gave me joy, and that I felt had a precision about them that was finite. That when I finished a piece of art, it was finished. Whereas with music you finish a CD and then people hear it, it hangs around, and you make some more, it’s more of an ongoing, repeating process. I didn’t want to be part of that; I wanted to make things that were from my point of view a clear precise statement of how I see the world and life. Even if they’re surreal and ambiguous in terms of how others view them. That’s why I’ve gone back to fine art. As I did this, I became aware that that’s really what I’ve done all along; I’ve tried to freeze moments of perception, of the mystery of being alive. To me the music and a lot of the things that I’ve done were about sharing similarities with people. Saying You’re not alone, I feel the same way, this is how the world makes me feel as well and you are the voice of like minded people, your own sort of extended family, that’s what the poet and the musician and so on do. But I wanted something that was mine. So I decided in a sense to be creatively selfish and make art that was very personal and intimate, but also exactly my sense of self. And then instead of saying, here I am, I’m like you and I’m just speaking out loud what you’re thinking and feeling. That’s where the shift was, I changed it to this is how I am, and this is what makes me different. So instead of being just the mirror and saying this is how your world is, reflecting it, I was actually saying here’s how my world is, but I will let you come and look. So that’s the big change, and that would be why the whole question of identity pops up again, because I’m looking at my little world again and having to define it.
TEAR: That somehow makes me think of a concept you’ve mentioned before about the heightened emphasis on individuality and uniqueness in the art world, and how the Candy Factory went against that by creating something that was completely collaborative.
GPO: The Candy Factory was a very specific project. In a way it is the fine art equivalent of Throbbing Gristle in the music world or Coum in the performance art world. It’s dealing with different issues in terms of its approach to the art world, and its exploration of the post-Warhol effect on art. With the show in Frankfurt, basically what’s happened is that I’ve come to terms with existing. I think for a very long I really was erasing myself. The experience of being a consciousness in a physical body is completely bizarre. Just the idea that we’re alive arbitrarily, because two people you didn’t know in advance met and were maybe in love and you are created. Certainly after a number of years you become conscious of yourself as an individual being. When you’re a child one day you become aware that you are here, you discover that you are an individual person and usually around the same time you discover that you’re mortal and that one day you’re going to die. From that moment on there’s this huge mystery about the entire process of existing. It’s fascinating and it’s totally bizarre. I’ve never really lost my shock and surprise at the idea that I’m on this planet apparently able to manifest and do things, meet people. It’s hard enough getting used to the idea that you’re here, but also simultaneously coming to terms with the fact that you wont be here. I think that is one reason that I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of collaboration. The basic human need to be connected to someone. I don’t know how it is for you, but I find it hard to be connected to reality. Every day I wake up and I am surprised. Did that answer your question?
TEAR: Sort of, but I was more curious about how you felt about this emphasis on individuality in the art world which to me is very formulaic.
GPO: The art world is these days very much about careers and business. It’s more like a banking phenomenon. There’s two ways that it tends to work, one is that someone, maybe just leaving college or whatever in their show, makes a piece of art and it receives very positive attention. It might be that they’re doing black stripes on a yellow background, or everything that they do is just yellow and black. Because that’s what people like, they think OK, that’s what works, that’s what gets the attention, and they do lots more paintings with black and yellow. Eventually they get known as the “black and yellow person.” It’s a formula, but then it’s repeated over and over with very slight variations until they die. And the other way is who they have sex with, which gallery owners they have sex with. Those are the two basic ways that the art world works. I have no interest in doing the same thing every day of my life, to me that’s the same thing as being dead. Why not just go work in a factory, if all you’re going to do is churn stuff out, you may as well go work in a sweatshop. So it’s a great tragedy that modern art has become a slave to familiarity, that people want an artist to keep doing the same thing, and that that’s seen as a positive quality. I mean what art grew from were various people’s attempts to paint or sculpt transcendental mystical divine states. It was religious and it was about epiphanies and about our place in the universe and our relationship with nature. Sometimes it was schematic too, like sand drawings or Navaho maps, and it as ritualized. It wasn’t even about making something that was permanent. It was a ritual that took place for the psychic or physical healing of the tribe. It was magic, and I grew up feeling very strongly that it was supposed to be magic, it was supposed to be about a conversation with nature and the universe. It was also a way to try and describe the indescribable. It’s about the states of consciousness and joy and revelation that can’t be photographed or manufactured. That to me is was art is for. A religious sacred calling, and it was as important as any religious or spiritual belief system. To me art is the religion. The fact that god’s first quality is creation, to me that’s everything. Creativity and the creation of something that didn’t exist before is something ineffable and incredible and unlikely, that you can share with other human beings. But that’s not what we see in the art world very often, in fact it’s usually laughed at. The art world today is so formularized and so much about cliques and pleasing those with money. It’s basically decoration.
TEAR: I’m interested in what you were saying about art being a way to describe the indescribable, and what you believe to be the most efficient mode of creative communication, whether it be visual art, words or music. Many people feel that music is the most powerful form of communication that there is.
GPO: Well at one point I thought music would be the most efficient way of communicating with the greatest number of people. They way that we thought of a record was literally a record, a document, it’s a multiple. So a record’s just as much of a piece of propaganda. Here’s an opportunity to talk to people and tell them what I’m thinking about the way the world is. In fact making music was almost an afterthought or very much coincidental. The most important idea was that you could speak to a lot of people. It was reasonably democratic in that almost anyone who could get into a shop could get it. It wasn’t limited to the Upper West Side rich people that go to the galleries. We were hoping that we could invest something that was basically street culture with the intent and the information that one would normally get from a piece of art. That was one of the things that TG was trying to prove and I think it managed to.
TEAR: I agree, as you were talking I realized that I would not have asked that last question to just any musician, because music today is usually purely about the aesthetics of sound or a sound, rather than a movement or feeling.
GPO: That world is very much about production value, like Mr. Potato head, they go “OK, we need somebody this height, male or female, this size breasts, basically they just manufacture these people and then they put them over the basic template which is the ongoing “music factory” that’s going on, and that’s very much like the art world. In fact all the cultural media have become businesses. The souls have been sucked out of most of them. And the sad thing is that a lot of people are colluding in that, and are growing up saying “yes, I want to be famous and successful and rich,” not “I want to change the world, I want to heal people’s souls, not I want to try and tell people something they didn’t know before.”
TEAR: Would you say this has been a recent shift in society?
GPO: I think it’s been happening at an accelerated rate since MTV occurred, I’m not saying it’s all MTV’s fault, although I think MTV is a curse on culture. But certainly somewhere in there I think the advent of blanket satellite television, mass media, global media is really the culprit. That we’re in the first age where everybody can communicate with just about everybody else, even people in caves in Afghanistan can use satellite phones to talk to people in America. It’s phenomenal and it’s so completely different to any other period of human history that I don’t think anyone has fully understood the implications. I think television and global media are really the culprits for the disillusion and destruction of serious, thoughtful and spiritual culture. To me that’s incredibly frightening, because as we’ve said I’ve been blessed with growing up a utopian who thought that there was no question that art was a gift, and a blessing and a holy occupation. I’m just appalled when I see the absolutely immoral disinterest in any kind of humanist or empathetic content or intention with art now. Culture is in a sense the visible soul of a people, and the visible soul of our people in the west right now is empty. The national enquirer, extra, access Hollywood, and MTV and the Grammy’s. That is the soul of the people in very many ways. Even the comodification of Sept. 11th, into just the highest rating they’ve had on CNN since the Gulf War.
We were talking earlier about why I’ve returned to doing Fine Art, and I think it’s partly because it’s a controllable environment. The scale of global culture now and the relentlessness of superficiality are so overwhelming and so huge and amorphous a power, that privacy and intimacy become really radical. Everything is now about being connected. People walk down the street talking about their private business out loud. Once upon a time they’d have been arrested for being lunatics, walking around gesticulating and talking out loud like that. Now it’s a sign of status that you’ve got one of those headset phones, and you don’t need to hold it. Everything is about being available 24 hours a day and instantly answering emails and instantly that. It’s all very public; everything is about being available and having access to everything. The web is supposedly fantastic because you can find everything and everyone is on there, you can talk to everyone. It struck me that in a way privacy is taboo. People say to me “why haven’t you got a cell phone?” They’re in shock “poor, poor baby, hasn’t got a cell phone, that must be terrible.” And I hardly even answer the phone until I know who it is. I value my privacy and I like to choose whom I speak to. I like to have moments where I’m with myself. Or moments where I’m with someone one-on-one and focusing very much on that person. I think that’s something that’s really worth exploring now, unplugging from the networks, separating oneself. Not in an aggressive way, but just choosing very carefully who you really want to have interaction with and reclaim the ideas of intimacy and privacy once more. And also with that you rebuild trust, conversation and friendship. All of those things have somehow been eroded by fashion. Somehow fashion has almost taken control over how people behave and relate to each other. That I think is one reason that I’ve returned to the concept of an art gallery, and the images that I use are in a sense becoming more and more intimate. Almost as a reaction against this whole mass-production-comodification-consumerism and the idea that the more you sell, the more you’ll make, or the more people you’ll speak to. Somehow the quantity is the value, and of course it’s not. The value is the content and the value is the trust and the value is deeply caring for and caring about another being.
Some of the works that I’ve been creating, they do touch upon the idea of the shamanic way of making art. Sometimes artwork is the end result of a ritual that would be about healing or cleansing a state of mind and so on. Which is very much in the ancient tradition of art. So in a way what I think I’m doing is very much linked to the origins of art and the way that it occurred rather than being about contemporary art worldviews. To me they are the evidence of my soul search.
The book is called Painful but Fabulous
It’s almost as if the way that you perceive yourself dictates what the artwork is, for example if I’m doing a portrait of GPO—we could argue that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for 30 years—then wherever GPO is, is the subject center of the picture. And so if I’m in a costume in the street that’s the rest of the picture, the frame is conceptual in a sense, the frame is just somewhere. And I am extended out of the canvas into this reality.
TEAR: This brings us full circle to our first question about Neil Megson.
GPO: In this way of describing things I guess Neil Megson is still sitting somewhere in 1965 as the artist. And the subject of the portrait is three-dimensional and exists in time and space. That’s actually an interesting thought because then the mail art would make sense. The artwork is actually travelling through time and space. It’s made here by me and then it’s cast into the mail system and it arrives in somebody else’s universe. Then it’s existing in their environment on the wall, thrown away, set on fire, but everyone in one’s mind is still perceiving it as the work of art. All those scenarios between it being created and it ending up in a fire all of them at any frozen moment are an artwork with that as the center. Same with performance, it’s taking what might have once been a canvas, a scene from the bible or Bruegal’s Medieval Village or whatever, and instead of it being painted on a canvas, you animate it and find people and dress them in costume and drop them out of the canvas and put them into a room or on the street. Because you perceive them as the artwork, they still are. I think a lot of the work that I’ve done has been concerned with taking what was once the content of a painting and/or portrait and manifesting it into what we call real life. The moment to moment experience of living, but it’s actually an artwork. If you were to take a slide of a Coum performance, some of them are actually so beautiful in and of themselves that if you then made a print and framed it, it’s a painting again. A flat piece of art that could only exist because of all the physical actions. The artwork is just a slice of time and space. And sometimes it can only be documented in the memory of those present. To me one of the really exciting aspects of performance work is that the full experience of it is only in the minds and the memories of those present. Even if you film it and photograph it, and do all of these technological methods of documenting it, it’s not the same as being there. It’s not the same as the sense of the smells, the sweat, the shuffling feet, the feeling of how big the room was, the things you were thinking about when you arrived. That’s all part of the performance, an audience is all part of the performance in the way that they effect the ambience of the space. So all the things that are subjectively and secretly happening to them become integrated into the actual piece that they’re watching. It’s a fascinating area of boundaries. I guess these boundaries really obsess me, the line between awake and asleep, the line between alive and dead, the line between performance and daily life. Where are those lines and arbitrary are they and if you go down, down where is the moment where one minute becomes the next on a clock? There isn’t one. Because if you go deep enough, there isn’t a moment when anything changes, and yet things change constantly. That’s where I like to try and place the art, that’s the home of what I try and make. It’s a place that can’t be measured. It only exists in that we are still alive and thinking.
TEAR: It’s occurred to me, as a fan of Industrial music, and being born a few generations too late in the game, that they way I perceive Industrial is surely different from the way that you may have meant it 30 years ago. Is there anything, some concept that you hope would withstand time and evolution?
GPO: Sometimes it concerns me that there appears to be ignorance among the younger generations as to the roots of their music. For example, in the sixties when the Rolling Stones and the Animals started trying to play blues music, they constantly say it in interviews and made it aware that that’s what was inspiring them. And they were all incredibly knowledgeable about the roots of blues music and where the music of which they became a part of came from. They played music because they loved the previous blues music. They might go “yes I love Marilyn Manson and yes, I love Nine Inch Nails” but you’d be lucky if they remembered Ministry and Skinny Puppy. A lot of them have no idea who Throbbing Gristle were, and if you were to say to them “well actually I actually made it industrial music” they’ll go “yeah right” I’ve had people actually say “yeah sure.” The getting credit bit’s not what’s important to me, but the bit that bothers me is that they have no interest in finding out about where the music came from. They don’t realize that it did actually start at a specific time and it was an attempt by us, and then we found that there were others trying to express the same feelings, at which we were excited. We weren’t threatened or felt like we were in competition, we were like “good, we’re not crazy!” Which is very rare in musical history, there was a very particular moment of about two or three years where punk and industrial music were invented basically. Industrial particularly, because punk is kind of an offspring of Rock n’ Roll. Industrial was a new approach altogether. Then naturally, it’s kind of like Jazz, it’s kind of like you’d invented the idea of Jazz. Of course there are hundreds and hundreds of ideas of what Jazz is, in the same way that there are hundreds and hundreds of ideas about what Industrial is. You can even argue that techno and other music have grown out of that; there are a lot of references to it. It seems now that music is just taken as an accessory, like a fashion accessory.
TEAR: That’s an interesting thing I have noticed. Especially in younger generations, people almost define themselves by the music that they listen to. In a sense that shows just how significant music really is in our lives, but I mean more literally, down to the clothes that they wear and the way that they talk, that musical taste and genre is a way of life. It’s all very cookie cutter strange to me.
GPO: It’s how they look, certain slang terms that they might use, it’s really quite remarkable. Somebody one day in music colleges will look at that and say. Industrial music in particular is one of the few times when it’s very clearly defined in terms of when it began and how it spread out. It can be traced very precisely because everyone was making CD’s and records whereas with the blues music, lots of those people never got recorded and are forgotten and lost. So I feel a bit like that, I feel like the old blues man in Louisiana who’s lost all of his teeth and is sitting there playing when he’s 85 years old. Somebody comes along and sort of rediscovers him. And he finds out that some big pop star’s been doing one of his songs. I’ll wake up one morning and someone will knock on the door and say, “here’s a royalty check for that song you wrote 50 years ago.” But that bothers me, just to get back to the point, it baffles me that there seems to be so little curiosity. There seems to be no interest in genres of music and how they intertwine. People don’t seem to want to be knowledgeable; they just want entertainment or distraction. Everything is very much about distraction from the moment, and less to do with background. There’s no passion for what music can be in terms of expressing emotions, feelings and angst. Music and the form of the song are very much the legacy of the storyteller. The song was developed to memorize the history of the people. It was easy to remember because it had rhymes and rhythms, and that’s how the people knew their story. All the history of the world was recorded through the equipment of song and poetry. Entertainment was purely secondary. Somewhere along the line, musicians had patrons that would pay them to write songs about them, just like painters were commissioned. That’s what’s been lost with art and painting as well. And that’s a very hard job and a very responsible one. It requires integrity and a moral stance, without being judgmental and it requires incredible dedication. You have to give your life to it, it’s a lifetimes work. That’s not how most people today see it, they see it as entertainment and as one of the ways to break out of ones economic class and get rich. So we’re losing the game, we’re losing the soul of the people. We were saying earlier that culture is the soul of the people revealed, that’s one of the reasons. Now we have all of these technological ways to actually “record” history, but there’s a big difference between that and Shakespeare. There’s something far more wonderful about that way of recording history, and there’s something that’s more to do with the soul, and the essence of the people that we’re losing if it’s just commodity.
TEAR: Do you think it’s possible for humanity to get its soul back?
GPO: The quest for the soul? There’s a writer called James Hillman who is actually a Jung-ian psychologist, his theory is that the process of being alive is about building a soul, and that one’s responsibility to oneself is to build the soul that you desire in your life. In the west, the materialism, greed and the selfishness that is so rampant, so all pervading as near as I’ve ever seen it to a time of true godlessness. In a way when you imagine the fundamentalists in the Middle East, the America that they see is the America of Hollywood and Magazines, and who wouldn’t think it was a godless, soulless and violently selfish place? The representation that is projected and transmitted out to the rest of the world is some kind of ultimate society. It’s a given that on all the TV programs from all levels of society, even the so called radicals, take it as a given that America is the best country in the world. Everybody would love to be somewhere like America. We might have our problems, but ultimately the idea of America is this fabulous thing. But actually if the culture is the reflection of the soul of the people then we have a really huge problem here. And it’s not that it’s an American problem so much as it’s America being so deeply entrenched in mass-media, it reveals more quickly and it amplifies itself much more because it controls so much. It’s all summed up in things like Real World, Behind the Music. We were talking before about privacy, and all of these people have their life on camera, they reveal everything about their life, but with very little thought, there’s not much thoughtfulness, everyone seems to take for granted that the media are innately beneficial.
TEAR: They take it for granted that I am going to be interested in watching somebody else think, instead of trying to actually think myself, why would that be interesting to anyone?
GPO: It’s as if people want to exist by proxy. They’ve gotten more and more lazy and inert and now it’s as if we never even have to exist, cause other people will exist for them on television. What seems to be happening is that people are abdicating the responsibility of living. Because living is about thinking and building a soul. Perhaps that’s another thing that has to do with Genesis as a mirror, Genesis is the epitome of wanting to build a creative soul, wanting to think, and what I believe living is for. And it can be done, you can live a creative life, you can survive by being an artist and you can take risks or disagree with the status quo. And it’s OK, it’s fun and interesting and exciting to live a creative life. What reality television implies about the psychology of the society is yet to be realized. I imagine if people look back, the impact of reality television in terms of it being a metaphor of the state of mind of the people would be pretty disturbing. The overriding desire of the people in American culture seems to be that they will say, do and be anything to be on a television screen for even a split second. For many people the ultimate achievement in life would be to be on television for a minute. That’s a profound enditement of the sterility of the western cultural vision. How we reclaim the quest for the Holy Grail, which is obviously wisdom and knowledge, through wisdom we can actually step through time and space and be other than trapped in a body and other than trapped in the idea of mortality. All I know is that the only language I know for dealing with the problem and for exploring how to reinvest love into existence is creativity. I do believe that the time has come for people to shed their defenses and shed all the camouflage that they have quite rightly have learned to use since they were small. And to reveal who they really are for better or worse. The courage of exposing that you believe in something other than greed, it seems that that’s the only path that you can take, partly why the book is called “Painful, but Fabulous.” I think that we don’t have the luxury of doing that slowly. We have to really accelerate the process by giving ourselves up to the possibility of being sacrificed to the Great Spirit. And that’s what art is for. The artist is the holy fool, but is prepared to sacrifice themselves in order to save those that they love, which ultimately can’t be limited to just those that you know. You have to ultimately have compassion for the world through the work that you do.