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How Did Cosey Fanni Tutti's Artistic Legacy Influence Other Artists?

  • COUM Transmissions - Cosey Fanni Tutti, Womans Roll, A.I.R Gallery 1976
  • Logo COUM Transmissions
  • Cosey Fanni Tutti and Peter Sleasy Christopherson. Action Prostitution, ICA
  • A Study of Scarlet - Installation view
  • A Study of Scarlet - Installation view
  • A Study of Scarlet - Installation view
May 22, 2018
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

The end of the 1960s has brought a completely new generation which was persistent to change the world as it was. The student protests had severely changed the social course and empowered then-youngsters to express themselves differently. That is how various subcultures slowly started blossoming all the way through the 1970s up to the 1980s when there were so many Punks, Goths and Ravers.

Certain phenomena have largely affected the rise of the subcultures. One of the most interesting ones in the British context was a group of people, or rather an artistic collective called the COUM Transmission.

One particular figure in it was artist Cosey Fanni Tutti, whose distinct, controversial and outstanding practice is a reference point of the recently opened exhibition A Study in Scarlet at the Paris-based exhibition space Le Plateau.

Amalia Ulman - Privilege 2/24/2016, 2016
Amalia Ulman – Privilege 2/24/2016, 2016. Courtesy de l’artiste et de la galerie Arcadia Missa, Londres © Amalia Ulman

In Ecstasy Thus Do They All

The peculiar persona of Cosey Fanni Tutti has vigorously shaped the course of experimental music and body performance after she came to prominence in 1969. The crucial references for the COUM Transmission practice were embedded in Dadaism, Beat poetry, Viennese Actionism, and the occult.

Known for fierce and radical body-based performances, the group worked mostly with topics that were at those times a huge taboo in British society. The sexual imagery in particular was largely present, in accordance with the simultaneous pornographic career Fanni Tutti was running at the time.

The artist was selected to represent Britain at the IX Biennale de Paris in 1975, while one year later, at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London, the notorious exhibition Prostitution of COUM Transmissions was opened, which caused quite a stir in public sphere (the whole thing was even debated in the Parliament).

In the midst of that atmosphere, together with Chris Carter, Genesis P-Orridge and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, Cosey Fanni Tutti founded a cult band called The Throbbing Gristle – and so, the genre of the industrial music was born.

Left Kevin Bliderman - Kevin Blinderman masternantes, Pute pour esclave, 2009 Right Hendrik Hegray - Sans titre, 2012
Left: Kevin Bliderman – Kevin Blinderman masternantes, Pute pour esclave, 2009. Courtesy masternantes / Right: Hendrik Hegray – Sans titre, 2012 © Hendrik Hegray

Cosey Fanni Tutti As A Source of Inspiration

The work of this outstanding performer and musician (notable is the side project with Chris Carter, Chris, and Cosey, as well as other numerous collaborations) is an inspiration for this collective exhibition. Namely, the agenda of the curator Gallien Déjean was to gather various examples of gestures, attitudes, and forms of performers and other artists which go beyond the norms of gender and identity.

A Study in Scarlet is constructed of works by Cosey from the period she worked in the porn industry as a model and performer; during that time she explored both the concepts of desire, sex and image of a woman in patriarchal society.

Besides that, the whole installment rotates around the Fanni Tutti’s artistic legacy – from the above-mentioned influences, through to companions and friends (COUM Transmissions, Genesis P-Oridge, Monte Cazazza), contemporaries (KarenFinley) and artists of the younger generations.

Harun Farocki - Ein Bild - An image, 1983
Harun Farocki – Ein Bild – An image, 1983 © Harun Farocki GbR

A Study in Scarlet at Le Plateau

This exhibition should not be perceived as a retrospective, neither as a project on pornography. It seeks for a net of connections, whether contemporary or historical, in the sense of similar aesthetics, agendas or approaches based on emancipation and transcendence of femininity, sexuality, desire, and spectator ship for the sake of pleasure.

Furthermore, A Study in Scarlet is a specific selection which aims to underline the domains of subversive artistic practice of Cosey Fanni Tutti and the notable influence of the same. The exhibition is open until 22 July 2018 at Le Plateau in Paris, France.

Featured images: COUM Transmissions, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Womans Roll, A.I.R Gallery 1976; Logo COUM Transmissions; Cosey Fanni Tutti end Peter Sleasy Christopherson – Action Prostitution, ICA (London), 1976 © Courtesy Paul Buck. All images courtesy Le Plateau. A Study of Scarlet – Installation views, Photo: Martin Argyroglo