Transformation stories are all the rage in these cosmetically-advanced times. And predictably, so are love stories. Yet it’s strangely uncommon that the two should meet. In Marie Losier‘s The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, what begins as a love story between two creative people morphs–appropriately–into something bigger: a document of physical and spiritual realization. The facts which compose the film’s timeline are dramatic in themselves, following Genesis‘ journey from the frontlines of the industrial music movement with Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV to finding a life partner in Lady Jaye, a performance artist, musician, and provocateur, through their attempt to create a fused, mirror image by a mutual embrace of pandrogyny, and ending with Lady Jaye’s death in 2007. Through images of the couple together and Genesis in the wake of Lady Jaye’s death, Losier’s film is a reminder of that beautiful, ghostly, and rare recurrence in nature, the meeting of soul mates.
BULLETT: After you guys met, how did you decide to make the documentary?
Genesis: All we knew about Marie is that she said she made films in a very offhand way. Lady Jaye had already said to me that we really needed to find someone to document this project, like Warhol and The Factory. Her intuition was to invite Marie over for a cup of tea. Marie spoke to me for a little while and then Jaye came down with the tea, and Jaye just said, “she’s the one, that’s it,” She knew that Marie could do something that would work. We were going on tour with Psychic TV 3 in Europe and we thought we’d throw her in the deep end and see how she copes. So we invited her on tour.
Marie: I didn’t think twice, either. I just said yes. I had to hurry to manage everything so I could leave. I bought tons of rolls of films and got my Bolex camera. I ended up on the bus, which was an amazing experience with bad sandwiches and no sleep and wonderful joy.
Genesis: It was a good way for her to understand that being on the road is not glamorous unless you’re extremely rich and have private jets, and even then it’s exhausting. She very quickly blended in and became part of the extended family. We didn’t register that we had to act to the camera.
Marie: I thought it was going to be a music documentary in the beginning, but it became evident when I saw Genesis and Jaye constantly holding hands what the film would be about. There was such a love between all of them. There were all these blondes jumping around having fun and that’s when I really saw this love. When we came back to New York, for me it was normal to take the next step and just go to their home and spend time. That lasted 6 years.
Genesis: With a budget of zero.
You filmed Genesis in costumes you made for him and interacting with sets that were pretty fantastical in order to bring out more of his character. I was wondering where you get the inspiration for these situations and how that process works.
Marie: There’s this presence of the tableau vivant in all of the films I’ve made. They’ve always been there in my paintings with collage and surreal elements and even in my work with Richard Foreman. It’s also really fed through George Méliès films, and silent films. There are these dramatic emotional experiences that use costuming to reveal the characters. It’s so beautiful to meet someone that you really care about and love and put them in a situation that is a game between the two of you. I create the costume and set for them with them. In a way they just play with you and reveal something so personal and joyful about themselves.
Genesis: How do you decide which one should be the bird, and which one should be swimming through the sky with a deer looking at them? Why would that be me as opposed to someone else?
Marie: You’re a beautiful bird. I didn’t want you to be a pumpkin; I wanted you to be a bird or a mermaid. In spending time with you your voice was almost like a song, a bird song. I’m obsessed with birds, so you became the bird.
Genesis: We just thought you were trying to make me look ridiculous.
Marie: You actually looked elegant.
What was your experience going through these avant-garde situations?
Genesis: We just surrendered. We thought she must know what she’s doing or she’s just trying to see how far she can push me. The thing is she is right. They work. You have to have faith and let go of any preconceptions about logic. Luckily having been inspired to take up art by Dada and surrealism and having done street theatre, improvised theatre and performance art, it isn’t that hard to surrender.
Genesis, you’ve described Marie’s process as revolutionary, could you give some insight as to how that affected you now that the film is over?
Genesis: It’s really strange the first time you watch a film like that and it’s all put together. When you look in the mirror, you see your faults. We had no idea how ridiculous we were. We always felt that we were really serious, and we are, but we express it in a very playful way. Lady Jaye wanted to be remembered as a great love affair and in a very oblique way: Marie captured that. For me, it’s a memorial that we’ve all made for Jaye more than anything else. Life, art, and film are just one long process of exploration. The film is always very moving. We nearly always cry when we watch it. We had no idea what the film was going to be, so we didn’t even get involved with the editing. We left it to be a surprise
The story of Lady Jaye is presented through Genesis’ depiction of her, was it a conscious decision to stray from a biographical depiction of her?
Marie: It was the relationship that I felt that I was living in capturing time with both of them, and spending time alone with Jaye and then with Genesis. When Jaye passed away and even before that, I never consciously pushed her to be in front of the camera. After she passed away it was very difficult to figure out how to bring her, since I didn’t have so much physical and visual imagery, into the film. That’s when Genesis opened the box with all the photos and film archives, so we could find more footage of Jaye. I wanted to let it be Genesis’ life and narration because everyone could have had their own story about Lady Jaye. You see her passing away and it’s a touching moment, but she keeps going. She’s there and she doesn’t really die, she’s there on another sphere until the film ends. That was another link for me to bring Jaye’s presence.
About Lady Jaye’s idea of the human body as a “flesh suitcase,” do you think that being human is to be unsatisfied with the limitations of our body?
Genesis: We’ve worked with William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and many other people on long-term projects, but Lady Jaye is without doubt the most remarkable of all. One of the problems with our culture is that women are thought to only do something because of the man they’re associated with. But Lady Jaye was already really well known in the East Village underground as a performance artist and a really avant-garde inspiration to a lot of people. We’ve always wanted to make sure that people became aware of that. Lady Jaye was a registered nurse and a dominatrix, both of which relate to the human body, and in a way she had a cynical view of the human body because she was aware that people fetishized it in S&M to degrees that were unbelievable. She had an experience in the E.R. where when she pulled off his shoe, his foot came off with it. All the doctors laughed because they knew that was going to happen because he had gangrene. Of course she threw up. She chose those two professions because she always felt that she was trapped in a body. It was limiting her imagination in terms of what she was wishing that she might become. She became obsessed with the body through an existential approach that came from her different professions. That’s how she came to the flesh suitcase idea. She wanted to grow horns, have fur, be able to swim under the sea with gills, go into space, be cold-blooded and to hibernate. We’d always worked with the body in performance art and found it frustrating in different ways. We had a mutual disregard for skin because it is just a logo and a trademark for the mind.
The idea of “the pandrogyne” is not about switching gender, but about the embodiment of both the physical and spiritual of each other. Does the identification of “the pandrogyne” have more to do with the relationship between to people than the gender of one?
Genesis: The two become one. It’s amazing in our culture how much gender is seen as the body. That’s what pissed us off and frustrated us. We used to say that some feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body and some feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body, but we just feel trapped in a body. Our vision is a very long-term evolutionary vision that if we imagine the future and all the tings will be possible, there will be a moment when you can be green with two arms and no legs. In fact, once you liberate the boundaries of what you imagine the human body looks like then you also liberate your approach to all other aspects of life too. That is not to in any way denigrate people who make the really radical decision to switch gender. We had a phrase for a while that transsexuals are the storm troopers of the future. They’re actually acting upon, in a really radical way, an underlying subtext of the culture. We find that really encouraging and because we see it as a step toward our vision.
You have two daughters of your own, I was wondering how that lead to your and Lady Jaye’s decision in creating the pandrogyne?
Genesis: It was none of their business basically. It was a really strange email to send. They just wanted to know what to call me. They’ve not really blinked.
Marie: When I asked them they said that it was always there. We knew dad in makeup and pink trousers when we were really young.
Genesis: There are lots of photos from when we all first lived together in California dressing up in each other’s clothes. We used to go to PTA meetings in thigh high silver boots, a mini skirt and a wig. Tom Waits and Terence McKenna would be there.