Wreckers of civilisation

Words by Joe Muggs

For more than four decades, Cosey Fanni Tutti has been at the forefront of the British avant-garde. Now, with the publication of her memoir, she tells her own story in her own words, from COUM Transmissions to the present day

Cosey Fanni Tutti is always matter-of-fact. It makes for a fantastic disjunction: her soft Humberside tones, calm analyses and occasional bone-dry wit somehow don’t seem to square with almost half a century of extraordinary artistic intensity, conflict and controversy. As a quarter of Throbbing Gristle, she was responsible for some of the weirdest and most disquieting cult music and sometimes violently sexualised performances that still reverberate through the global avant-garde, and had the group famously branded “wreckers of civilisation” by a Tory MP. 

From the mid-1980s into the 1990s, with her life partner, fellow former TG member and electronic instrument pioneer Chris Carter, she played as Chris and Cosey, producing fiercely sensual club-oriented electronica that remains relevant to the most demanding dancefloors even now. Most recently C&C became Carter Tutti and Carter Tutti Void (with Factory Floor’s Nik Void), working on art and soundtrack projects even as their tougher electronics continues to reach new club and festival-going audiences. Throbbing Gristle, meanwhile, was resurrected in 2004, continuing as X-TG after Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson’s death in 2010. Now, though, she is reminiscing about the very beginning of that rollercoaster: COUM Transmissions, the performance-art and music collective precursor to TG that she formed in 1969 with Genesis P-Orridge when she was still Christine Newby, “using the streets of Hull as our venues”. COUM is being celebrated in a major retrospective exhibition at the Humber Street Gallery as part of Hull’s tenure as City of Culture, with Cosey, Genesis and others performing over the two months. Cosey has been digging through vast archives of film, music and printed work, creating a new audio-visual piece based on her COUM years.

Read more in Issue 4...