Bight Of The Twin is a feature-length documentary exploring Vodun (Voodoo, Voudou, Vodoun), one of the world's oldest and most misunderstood religions. Los Angeles based artist and filmmaker, Hazel Hill McCarthy III, has documented artist, musician and gender-experimentalist (s/he prefers the term “Cultural Engineer”) Genesis Breyer P-Orridge on h/er journey to Ouidah, Benin in search of the truths and origins of Vodun. From what we’ve seen, it promises to be a glorious piece of film.
We spoke to Hazel (who occasionally goes by ‘HHMIII’, which is the coolest) about the project, which she is hoping to complete with funds raised via Kickstarter.
(N.b. for those thrown by the unique pronouns used here: they’re a consequence of Genesis’ ongoing "project Pandrogeny", which s/he began with h/er late wife Lady Jaye in 1996, undergoing a series of plastic surgery procedures in order to become gender-neutral human beings that looked like each other. P-Orridge identifies using the pronouns s/he, h/er, and h/erself. Keep up, folks.)
You started working with Genesis in 2008, but have you always been a GPO enthusiast? What drew you to h/er?
I was familiar with Genesis’ work with COUM Transmissions, TG and PTV but never fully followed TOPY [Temple Ov Psychic Youth, Gen’s long term experiment in a peculiar sort of collectivism and group magick – but that’s a story for another time]. It was working through the archive and compiling the text and images that I realized how deep h/er work goes. It’s not just placement or performance, Genesis lives the art physically, emotionally and mentally. H/er work is a constant form of activation which is one of the parallels I thought I recognized in h/er work with Vodun, especially in the sigils and early COUM performances.
Your film documents GPO's journey, but how was the trip for you personally?
It was difficult to prepare for the trip, both mentally and emotionally. With the exception of fairly trite online travelogues, there is very little information about Ouidah readily available. We were unable to fully understand the scope of who or what we were going to encounter.
Genesis couldn’t take the necessary yellow fever vaccination due to the medication s/he takes for asthma thus making h/er highly susceptible to contracting the disease while we were there. There were definitely people around us advising us to cancel the whole thing so I felt an enormous sense of responsibility. Genesis is a trooper though, and armed with military grade mosquito spray and a net to sleep under we merely melted in the unrelenting heat of Benin.
How did the people of Benin react to the filming?
The Beninese people were really open to letting us into their homes and speaking with us. There was, of course, a hesitation about allowing us to take photos and film, especially of their fetishes - for these are empowered objects that are strategically placed inside and outside of the home that hold a great importance. A financial exchange definitely allowed us more access to the heads and adepts of Vodun, but as we moved deeper into the ceremonies and people, money was actually turned down and we were asked simply to tell the truth about Vodun.
Tell me a bit about the logistics of the whole thing.
Because of the scarcity of information about Ouidah it took me about 2 years to really get all my thoughts in place for what and how I wanted to attempt to film in Benin. We were there for 2 weeks, starting off the new year with the twin ceremony which initiated Genesis into the twin fetish where Vodun honours twins, both dead or alive. For Genesis, it was a ceremony to reconnect h/er with h/er late wife and pandrogyne partner, Lady Jaye.
With the help of our guides, Emanuel Sardou Gbedjinon and Hypolite Apovo, we rented a house near the Python Temple which is in the centre of the town; very close to Emanuel's father, Dah Gbedjinon, head of Pythons. This made everything in walking distance for us; the Vodun school, the sacred forest, the slave road and the houses of Vodun, so for the most part we did not need any ground transportation apart from motos (moped taxis).
How's the soundtrack coming along?
My husband, Douglas J Mccarthy (Nitzer Ebb; Fixmer/Mccarthy) and his musical partner, Cyrusrex (Skinny Puppy) will be writing and recording the music on location in Ouidah using modular synth and effects systems with Genesis writing and recording h/er vocals in order to reflect what s/he and they experience. A sonic topography of sorts.
What do you hope the viewer might gain from the film?
This film proposes to use one person’s journey through Vodun to show the interconnectivity that Vodun embodies to the people who practice it. There’s a beautiful rawness in Vodun that I want people to see. We need to unveil the truth about the dark and ominous assumptions that we have about one of the oldest religions. My hope is that viewers will find an activation of awareness and understanding of art and humanity.
Be a good sport and chip in to the Kickstarter here. Also, if you happen to be in LA on the 17th of July, stop by the MOCA bookstore and you’ll be able to catch Hazel and Genesis in conversation about Vodun, as well as screening of the film as it stands so far. Click “attending” right here.
Trailer credits: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Dah Gbedjinon, Adepts, Drew Denny, Douglas J. McCarthy, Lewis Teague Wright, Eric Nordhauser, Hypolite Apovo and Emmanuel Sardou Gbedjinon. Tracks by COUM Transmissions, DJMREX and Atem Hein.