G.P.O. V G.P-O
(Primary Information, 2013)
Reprint of a dossier originally published in the mid 1970s. The title is an abbreviation of ‘General Post Office vs Genesis P-Orridge’ – the book concerns a legal case resulting from some of Gen’s mail art being seized by the sinister Post Office Investigation Division in 1975 (i.e. towards the end of Coum Transmissions and just before Throbbing Gristle).
I first read about this in Stewart Home’s Assault On Culture back in the late eighties, but had never seen a copy until now. The format is all reproductions of documentation, with minimal commentary or editorial. The reader must therefore piece together the story from Gen’s written statements to the Post Office and courts, reproductions of the offending postcards (one of which famously featured a photo of bare arse superimposed on an image of Buckingham Palace), media coverage and other correspondence. This is very effective and one does get a sense of how stressful and frustrating it must have been for an impoverished Genesis to be prosecuted for something so ludicrous.
There are interesting guest appearances in the form of letters to and from William Burroughs and Pauline Smith (of the rather stupidly named ‘Adolf Hitler Fan Club’ mail art project) alongside a cast of lawyers and art word dignitaries who are solicited for support. As the trial approaches a lot of fundamental questions are raised – what is the difference between art and pornography? What is indecent? And some more straightforward ones about the nature of mail art and Gen’s method/intent.
Genesis was eventually found guilty of violating the 1953 Post Office Act. The back cover of the book is an advert in which he offers some of the offending (and now infamous due to press coverage) mail art for sale to cover the costs of the fine.