Teenage Sensuality in Works of Peter Christopherson aka Sleazy
10 januari 2022 
26 min. read

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. 

 Coil: Peter Christopherson (left) and John Balance

Fig. 1. Coil: Peter Christopherson (left) and John Balance (right), 1980s, radiostudent.si

Hipgnosis

'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). 

 Hipgnosis. From left to right: Christopherson, Aubrey Powell, Storm Thorgerson

Fig. 2. Hipgnosis. From left to right: Christopherson, Aubrey Powell, Storm Thorgerson (livejournal.com)

 Hipgnosis’ cover of Wishbone Ash by Christopherson

Fig. 3. Hipgnosis’ cover of Wishbone Ash by Christopherson (wordpress.com)

Dear Boys

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." 

 Peter Christopherson Photograph

Fig. 4. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 8 

 Peter Christopherson Photographer

Fig. 5. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 59

 Peter Christopherson Photography

Fig. 6. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 32.

  Peter Christopherson Photography police car

Fig. 7. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 68.

 Peter Christopherson Photography two boys

Fig. 8. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 70.

 Peter Christopherson artist

Fig. 9. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 71.

 peter sleazy christopherson coil

Fig. 10. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 23.

artist peter sleazy christopherson

Fig. 11. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 79.

peter sleazy christopherson young man with knife

Fig. 12. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 130. 

Tainted Love

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. 

Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson Photography AIDS

Fig. 13. Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 158.

Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson Photography  nude boy

Fig. 14. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 195.

Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson Photography reclining nude man

Fig. 15. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 205.

Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson Photography reclining nude man in front of a mirror

Fig. 16. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 206.

Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson Photography reclining nude man at the window

Fig. 17. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 207.

peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson

Fig. 18. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 199.

 peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson nude man doing handstand

Fig. 19. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 208.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson

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. 

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson 4 photographs

Fig. 21. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 230.

 chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson casualty simulation

Fig. 22. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 210.

 chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson cruel scene

Fig. 23. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 223.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson suicide

Fig. 24. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 222

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson intestines

Fig. 25. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 225.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson suicide in bath

Fig. 26. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 247.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson suicide in bath photo

Fig. 27. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 248.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson suicide by gas

Fig. 28. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 234.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson nude male

Fig. 29. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 236.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson nude male

Fig. 30. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 253.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson nude male laying against a tree

Fig. 31. Peter Christopherson Photography, p. 254.

chained man peeing man Self-portrait, Peter Christopherson nude male laying on a rock

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 

Click HERE for Bloody Bacchanalias and Dying Gods in The Orgies Mysteries Theater of Hermann Nitsch...!!

What do you think about the provocative work of Peter Christopherson...!!



About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
JB
By

JB

on 10 Jan 2022

A good (there rarely is anything perfect) example of eerie, gorish, yet calm and soothing but troubled aesthetics. Christopherson's work makes me think of Francis Ford Copolla's Apocalypse Now, on that Brandon "horror" side of aesthetics that draws you in, and Visconti's Death in Venice when it comes to pathos condition of nigh-hand yet untouchable, out-of-reach beauty., with the incomparable Dirk Bogarde playing Aschenbach. There is also something that brings to mind Butoh in his work... I wonder if the erotic aspects of Butoh, Eros/Thanatos could be the subject of an article on the SG.

Darya
By

Darya

on 11 Jan 2022

Butoh is an interesting topic, thank you. "eerie, gorish, yet calm and soothing but troubled aesthetics" is what the whole Coil project is about, I should say.

JB
By

JB

on 11 Jan 2022

Darya, are you refereing to COIL as in the Collaborative Online International Learning?

Darya
By

Darya

on 12 Jan 2022

Nope, I mention the band formed by Christopherson and John Balance :) Christopherson was mostly known as a musician and video director. His musical talent manifested itself in this project mainly. Albums such as "Love's Secret Domain" or LSD, "Horse Rotorvator", and "Scatology" (their debut release) are classics of experimental music. These guys were lucky enough not to become mainstream like Trent Reznor. The latter tried to persuade Lynch to use their music in "Lost Highway", but Lynch refused. They also worked on the soundtrack to "Hellraiser", but producers considered it too specific and found another composer.

JB
By

JB

on 12 Jan 2022

Not aware of those. Will have to check it out. Thanks for the pointers.

Some Photographer
By

Some Photographer

on 10 Jan 2022

Well, I hope it's supposed to be foto povera because artistically it's indeed very poor...

Ryan
By

Ryan

on 11 Jan 2022

Artistically, there are some amazing shots, despite how shocking it is. Aesthetics are important but not the required for art.

Darya
By

Darya

on 11 Jan 2022

Some of these shots were made when Christopherson was 15 :) Anyway, I don't agree that his suicide series is "arte povera".

JB
By

JB

on 11 Jan 2022

Since what is and is not art or artistic and what is and is not aesthetically acceptable or pleasing is mostly subjective (as in being ruled --- can art and creative expression be ruled? I think not! --- and dictated by current mores,) and since aesthetics is that often questionable branch of philosophy dealing with the principles of beauty/artistic taste, we always end up caught in a vicious (pun intended!) catch 22. In the end, some people will end up find admirable and the work of a genius what another may find repugnant and reproachable and unworthy of even being looked at... and we are back at discussing what is good and bad taste, what is erotic or pornographic, etc. A wise man once said something that I cannot quote verbatim but can paraphrase as, "If someone agrees with me, we don't need to discuss it; if someone disagrees with me, there's no point discussing it." The only common ground we can find will always remain agreeing on disagreeing. When Germano Celant, in 1967, came up with the new term "arte povera" he was referring to making art without the restraints of traditional practices and materials; the key word to me, however, is no "restraints." Artists are always pushing the limits and breaking conventions and whatever boundaries are forced upon them. Every limit, every definition, every label will always continue to challenge creatives in all areas to go beyond what can be defined and labeled: destroy, deconstruct, reconstruct. That's it. Often the process can shock and offend. There's quite a bit of that in PC Sleazy's work. Creation is all about asking questions. Getting the answers is irrelevant. Usually non-creatives, critics, moralists, are the ones coming up with the (non)answers, as they succumb to the fear of having their own dogmas questioned, their ghosts raised from the tombs that can't hold them. So, is it arte povera? Sure! Why not? No, not really? Well, why not? Anyway, who cares! Does it make any difference what it's called? Did he, would he, care? I doubt. Like the woman, sitting at the bar, most creatives may glance at you and ask, "Does the noise in my head bother you?" and they aren't expecting an answer. It's just more noise.

JB
By

JB

on 12 Jan 2022

And by the way, at a different level, when it comes to disturbing, also worth including in the SG, are John Santerineross and Joel-Peter Witkin, which I don't think are represented yet. These two visited the playground where Eros & Thanatos grew up together and engaged in all sorts of play.

Darya
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