With walls bereft of art and industrial noise blasting from all corners, SoHo’s Whitebox felt more like an airplane hangar than an exhibition space last Saturday night. This was the latest stop on anarchic Aussie designer Yang Li’s tour with Genesis P-orridge, punk prophet, occultist, and founder of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV.
While the hirsute DJ Scott Mou played P-orridge’s greatest hits (with a mess of sharpied mix CDs alongside the vinyl), a largely black-clad crowd mingled and sipped their dry white.
Much like Li and P-orridge’s collaboration, this audience bridged the intersection between music and fashion. I spotted pieces from the new Cassette Playa collection alongside Alexander Wang lookalikes, while a white KTZ bomber that I’d seen at Friday’s Yumi Zouma show weaved between wine glasses to the makeshift stage at the back of the room. Best look of the night went to HBA affiliate Ian Isiah, rocking cut-up eyebrows and hair braided into oversized Mickey Mouse ears.
After an hour, P-orridge, along with musical co-conspirators Ryan Martin and David Grant, parted the crowd and situated h/erself center stage. Wearing a blue denim Psychic TV poncho and Adidas high tops. S/he appeared gleefully gnomic, lunging at crowd members with a playfully wicked expression.
“Love how there are no instruments,” commented a guest, sporting a beanie, kilt and AW14 Raf. That wasn’t wholly true (a lone keyboard sat to the side of the stage) but the vast majority of the gear before us was a mess of wires, switches and blinking diodes. If this was music for the future, P-orridge and co were certainly making us feel at home.
“That was our version of Je t’aime, with all real orgasms”, said P-orridge, after a triumphal orchestral whirlwind of an opener. “We’ll see what happens, fuck you all.”
Eyes closed as if in prophetic ecstasy, P-orridge spoke-sang over ominous radar blips. It was poetry for the post-apocalyptic set, with surreal references to tantric eggs and high priestesses. As the menacingly childlike melody began to flange, taking on metallic shrieks and industrial rumbling, P-orridge pronounced oracle-like, “Without you, you could not be here. Without me, I could not be here.”
Li and P-orridge were ostensibly celebrating William S. Burroughs’ centenary, and the show reflected the author’s inherent weirdness. Halfway through, P-orridge segued into a monologue from Tod Browning’s Freaks, screeching and yelping like a deranged British thespian.
This kind of performance definitely wasn’t for everyone. “Doing my best to keep a straight face,” the guy to my right surreptitiously texted, over the roar of synthetic helicopter blades.
But for most, this phantasmagorical introduction to the insurgent world that Li and P-orridge have been creating since their collaboration on Li’s SS15 collection was a striking departure from an average Saturday night in SoHo.