Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby)

1951 | Kingston-upon-Hull, United Kingdom
Informations

British performance artist, musician and author.

In the late 1960s, when part of the alternative scene in Hull (Yorkshire, in the north-east of England), Carol Newby met Genesis P-Orridge, with whom she launched COUM Transmissions, an artist collective that ran from 1969 to 1975. Not knowing her first name, Genesis called her ‘Cosmosis’, shortened to ‘Cosey’ until in 1972 when she adopted the name ‘Cosey Fanni Tutti’ after receiving a letter addressed to her in reference to Mozart’s opera by her friend Robin Klassnik, artist and founder of Matt’s Gallery, London.
COUM Transmissions were committed to the mail art movement, and made a name for themselves through performances, inspired variously by the American group The Merry Pranksters, Surrealism and Dada. Distanced from any academic conception of art, COUM Transmissions became notorious for transgressive public actions which were both pornographic and confrontational. The actions utilised a range of techniques, including self-mutilation, often ambiguously poised between simulation and real. Props included milk, urine, blood and enemas. As COUM Transmission, Cosey and Genesis represented Great Britain at the Biennale de Paris in 1975 and in 1976 at Arte Inglese Oggi 1960 – 1976.

The 1976 exhibition Prostitution at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London triggered an uproar due to the inclusion of Cosey’s used tampons and her Magazine Actions which comprised articles extracted from soft-porn journals in which she is modelling. Having purposely entered the sex industry to procure images of herself, Cosey revealed the parallel lives of artist and sex worker. Reorienting the production of the porn-industry towards artistic ends marked her out as a pioneer of the ‘pro-sex’ feminist movements. In Cosey’s own words, “I was exploiting the sex industry for my own purposes, to subvert and use it to create my own art”. The exhibition challenged not only the Tory establishment (with MP Nicholas Fairbairn labelling the members of the collective ‘wreckers of civilisation’ before the House of Commons) but also the mainstream media as well as feminists, whose position on pornography at the time was uncompromisingly negative.
The final performance at the ICA exhibition inaugurated Throbbing Gristle which, with Chris Carter and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, and Genesis P-Orridge became the foundation of the pioneering industrial music genre precipitating a cult following and the slogan ‘Industrial Music for Industrial People’. The group rented a basement studio in an old factory in Hackney, London which, named ‘The Death Factory’ referenced the local historic plague burial pits as much as the industrialised internment death camps of the Twentieth Century. Alongside her musical activities with Throbbing Gristle, Cosey Fanni Tutti continued her solo art actions modelling and striptease, activating a process of emancipation by embodying a series of stereotypes in defiance of the essentialist, unitary approach to female identity.

Cosey Fanni Tutti stands as an icon of musical and artistic counterculture, her transgressions continually challenging established hierarchies. In Cosey, the model throws off the authority of the photographer, using the erotic charge of her self-image to commandeer gallery venues. Her experiments, imbued with the legacy of the anarchist movements, heralded a queer contemporary feminism that refused to demonise pornographic practices and their inherent form of radical liberation.

In 1981 she and Chris Carter launched the music duo Chris & Cosey, forming their own independent record label Conspiracy International (CTI) to maintain freedom for a creative practice centered on experimentation, solo and collaborative, as Chris & Cosey and more recently under the moniker Carter Tutti. Cosey (alongside her life partner Chris Carter) are internationally regarded as respected and successful pioneers of electronic music.

Cosey continues to work as an artist, a composer, releasing and performing music and as a published author. Works by Cosey have been acquired for the Tate Britain collection and The Arts Council Collection as well as other institutional and private collections. Cosey’s work has featured in exhibitions around the world for over three decades.

Isabelle Alfonsi

Translated from French by Caroline Taylor.

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, This is Cosey, Cute huh?, 1976, Fiesta Vol 10 No. 6, Magazine Action, Print on paper, 30 x 38 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Performance at Paris’s biennale, France, 1975, COUM Transmissions/ Cosey Fanni Tutti, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Prostitution, 1976, promotional poster for Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, performance and exhibition, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Woman’s Roll, 1976, performance at A.I.R Gallery, London, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Woman’s Roll, 1976, performance at A.I.R Gallery, London, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Action, 1979, Hayward Gallery, London, detail, Inkjet print, 11 parts, each 24 x 36 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Action, 1979, Hayward Gallery, London, detail, Inkjet print, 11 parts, each 24 x 36 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Action, 1979, Hayward Gallery, London, detail, Inkjet print, 11 parts, each 24 x 36 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Action, 1979, Hayward Gallery, London, detail, Inkjet print, 11 parts, each 24 x 36 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Partner Vol. 1 No. 9 1980, 1980,’Throbbing Gristle’, 5 parts, each 148 x 112 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Partner Vol. 1 No. 9 1980, 1980,’Throbbing Gristle’, 5 parts, each 148 x 112 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Partner Vol. 1 No. 9 1980, 1980,’Throbbing Gristle’, 5 parts, each 148 x 112 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Partner Vol. 1 No. 9 1980, 1980,’Throbbing Gristle’, 5 parts, each 148 x 112 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Partner Vol. 1 No. 9 1980, 1980,’Throbbing Gristle’, 5 parts, each 148 x 112 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Partner Vol. 1 No. 9 1980, 1980,’Throbbing Gristle’, 5 parts, each 148 x 112 cm, Courtesy to the artist

Cosey Fanni Tutti (dite Christine Carol Newby) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Partner Vol. 1 No. 9 1980, 1980,’Throbbing Gristle’, 5 parts, each 148 x 112 cm, Courtesy to the artist

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