Teenage Sensuality in Works of Peter Christopherson aka Sleazy
This multitalented figure, a designer and prominent representative of the industrial genre in Britain, most certainly is known to fans of Nine Inch Nails. It was Christopherson who directed the infamous Broken movie (1993), the "snuff video" to Reznor's EP Broken (1992), and this work remains the most popular and shocking among NIN's videos. Christopherson was a founder of Throbbing Gristle together with Genesis P-Orridge. Later, he took part in P-Orridge's Psychic TV but majorly contributed to Coil, a project he formed together with John Balance (Geoff Rushton) in 1982. This iconic duo existed until John died in 2004. Christopherson passed in 2010 at 55. He was remarkable both as a musician and photographer, although the 'pictorial' side of his creativity was finally brought to the light only after his death.
Fig. 1. Coil: Peter Christopherson (left) and John Balance (right), 1980s, radiostudent.si
'Sleazy,' as friends called him, could pay shocking homages to radical art of performance and make videos for TV commercials, be both in and out of the mainstream. His curiosity for corporality, nudity, and excretion multiplied by natural creativity, resulted in the reputation of a daring and provocative artist, which meant that it would be tough to find an employer. Nevertheless, the high level of performance in photography allowed him to become an assistant in the Hipgnosis design team in 1974. They produced album covers for various music bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Scorpions, etc. Later, Christopherson claimed: "I worked as a free-lance photographer and contributor, then promoted to an assistant to Hipgnosis before becoming a partner, and continued to act also after I officially left the organization. So my contributions range from attempted but rejected artwork or design work, to partial contribution in either/both as an assistant, to being fully responsible for all design and artwork, such as the Peter Gabriel LPs" (Wikipedia.org).
Fig. 2. Hipgnosis. From left to right: Christopherson, Aubrey Powell, Storm Thorgerson (livejournal.com)
Fig. 3. Hipgnosis’ cover of Wishbone Ash by Christopherson (wordpress.com)
The book from which we've taken these pieces, Peter Christopherson Photography, was published in 2014 by Timeless. The artist started making photographs at the age of fifteen. Topics of the photographs are the UK in the 1970s, strangers, friends (e. g. P-Orridge), and young British boys. Lots of them. Depictions of boys' games or violent fights seem to contain a spirit of eroticism close to this in Gerard Reve's prose and poetry. In some of his essays, the Dutch writer recalls the initial feeling that occurred during his stay at the summer camp when he was 13. The object of his obsession was a boy, "let's say, a year older than me. There was something careless, cheerful, even audacious in him that was totally out of my character. His clothes were modest, and he seemed not to be aware of how outstandingly beautiful he was with his chestnut-colored hair, charming grey eyes, slim build, though broad-shouldered, and with a large, laughing mouth which I couldn't take my eyes off. <...> But what did I want from him or to do to him? Nothing special. What I wanted was, in fact, not 'something' but everything: to be with him, to hold him tight, to smell his sweat and the scent of his hair, to be his all-time buddy. This wish was as immense as ideal. For instance, I wanted to kiss him, although didn't dare to even think of it at that time."
Fig. 4. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 8
Fig. 5. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 59
Fig. 6. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 32.
Fig. 7. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 68.
Fig. 8. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 70.
Fig. 9. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 71.
Fig. 10. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 23.
Fig. 11. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 79.
Fig. 12. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 130.
Christopherson's models, hauntingly beautiful in their youth, remind of all the "dear boys" of Gerard Reve. Homosexuality was a driving motif and a subject to reflect upon for Reve and Coil. Homme de lettres, Gerard Reve, poetically speculates about his own sexuality, accepts and greets it back in the 60s and 70s. Facing AIDS in the 80s, Coil conceptualizes homosexual relationships as a form of sinful yet tragic love (in tracks like Anal Staircase and their cover of Tainted Love originally performed by Soft Cell). From this perspective, homosexual art inherits the Eros/Thanatos bond from classic heterosexual oeuvres. While in heterosexual cases, this bond is connected primarily with the pressure of society (Romeo and Juliet perished not because of their love), homosexual love stories involve death as a result of the act of love itself.
Fig. 13. Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 158.
Fig. 14. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 195.
Fig. 15. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 205.
Fig. 16. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 206.
Fig. 17. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 207.
Fig. 18. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 199.
Fig. 19. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 208.
Fig. 20. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 209.
Death Becomes Them
The theme of death fascinated Christopherson as he studied techniques of simulating emergencies for the Red Cross rescue teams. He demonstrated his skills in works like Casualty Simulation 1977 and portfolios depicting different ways to commit suicide. These sets allowed Christopherson to get a job in Hipgnosis and later produce the impressive movie for NIN's EP Broken. The gallery of teenage suicides in black and white is disturbing yet esthetically attractive, like performances of Hermann Nitsch. Photographs of a crucified young man and a dead youth lying on a rock (fig. 30-32) look like illustrations of lost Greek myths, reminding of tragic stories of Hyacinth and Orpheus.
Fig. 21. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 230.
Fig. 22. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 210.
Fig. 23. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 223.
Fig. 24. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 222
Fig. 25. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 225.
Fig. 26. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 247.
Fig. 27. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 248.
Fig. 28. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 234.
Fig. 29. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 236.
Fig. 30. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 253.
Fig. 31. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 254.
Fig. 32. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 261
Sources: Wikipedia.org; katab.asia/2017/02/27/peter-christopherson-photography/; theguardian.com; Герард Реве. Бог очень одинок. Kolonna Publications, 2017
What do you think about the provocative work of Peter Christopherson...!!