Lady Jaye Breyer P-orridge

Psychic TV keyboardist and singer


Jacqueline Breyer (Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge), nurse, keyboardist and singer: born 1969; married 1993 Genesis P-Orridge; died New York 9 October 2007.

The self-proclaimed "cultural engineer" and conceptual artist Genesis P-Orridge has been creating controversy since the mid-Seventies, first with Throbbing Gristle, pioneers of industrial music, and then with the psychedelic collective Psychic TV.

In 1993, P-Orridge (*é Neil Megson in Manchester in 1950) met and then married Jacqueline Breyer. She adopted the name Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge and the couple subsequently set about becoming mirror images of one another or, more precisely, through the repeated use of cosmetic surgery, mutating into a single being they called "Breyer P-Orridge". "As a couple, we want to become more and more one," said Genesis P-Orridge in 2004:

I guess I'm dedicated to breaking every inherited mould I can in my private life, and I am blessed to work with a partner who is prepared to be involved in that process too. We both went and got breast implants on the same day, on our 10th anniversary, and we woke up in hospital holding hands. By chance, we have the same size shoes, but now we can also share lingerie as well!

He coined the term "pandrogyny" to define this extreme experiment but, even if it brought the couple greater notoriety in contemporary art circles, the project often felt like a spin too far on Gilbert and George's life-as-performance art. The photographs taken during the couple's successive operations provided material for several mixed-media exhibitions, including one entitled "Painful But Fabulous" which toured European capitals and the more liberal American art institutions in the United States.

They lived in Brooklyn, New York, with their two cats, and seemed totally at ease with their chosen lifestyle. "People often want to ask us about our sex lives, especially since Genesis had his breasts," said Lady Jaye. "And I always tell them that we have the life of a normal married couple."

Born in 1969, Jacqueline Breyer attended a Catholic school and was interested in religious imagery and iconography from an early age. She became a nurse, caring for children with terminal illnesses or incurable disabilities, and also did voluntary work for animal charities in New York. When she met Genesis P-Orridge, she hadn't heard of Psychic TV, though she was familiar with the Throbbing Gristle track "Hamburger Lady" and the group's place in the grandiloquent, Grand Guignol scheme of industrial music.

In 1995, a couple of years after meeting Breyer, Genesis P-Orridge suffered dreadful injuries and nearly lost his left arm while escaping a fire at the Los Angeles home of the producer Rick Rubin. He used the money awarded in a $1.5m lawsuit against the producer in 1998 to bankroll his further experiments in photography, collage and sculpture, as well as music and cosmetic surgery. Lady Jaye altered her nose and chin to look more like her husband's while he had cheek implants to match her distinctive facial contours, but the couple drew the line at anything more drastic than their matching breast implants. "I would really prefer us to not have to lose anything," Lady Jaye said.

If I could have a penis attached, I would do it tomorrow, but for him to lose any part of the body that could give pleasure, that's not the idea. We made a decision not to try to go after a conventional idea of beauty. We both could have changed our faces to look like some kind of ideal, but we wanted to look like each other. We're trying to meet in the middle.

With Lady Jaye's help, Genesis P-Orridge enjoyed something of a creative resurgence and critical reappraisal of his work. In 1999, he performed with both Thee Majesty – his spoken-word project – and Psychic TV at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and subsequently rejoined his estranged colleagues to reform Throbbing Gristle in 2004. Lady Jaye also introduced him to the New York drummer Edward O'Dowd (aka Morrison Edley), who assembled around the couple a new line-up of Psychic TV under the name PTV3. They were due to undertake a European and North American tour to promote Hell Is Invisible . . . Heaven Is Her/e, the group's first studio album in 12 years, which was released in 2006 and featured contributions from members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Butthole Surfers, as well as Lady Jaye on keyboards, samples and vocals.

"We view Breyer P-Orridge as a separate person who is both of us," Lady Jaye explained. "Neither of us take credit for the work, the work is a melding of both of our ideas which we would not have had singly. Both of us are in all of our art. That third being, Breyer P-Orridge, is always present."

Pierre Perrone

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