CYBER ZINE FOR AUDIO EXPERIMENTALISTS
Coum/Throbbing Gristle Book Launch At I.C.A. London.
event review/commentary by JOHN
1976: Coum Transmissions' 'Prostitution' show opens at the Institute of
Contemporary Arts (ICA). Framed and dated photos of Cosey are taken from
pornographic magazines, and exhibits like 'It's that time of the month'
prompt questions in Parliament. The 'Daily Mail' describe the artists as
"wreckers of civilisation" and demand the cessation of their Arts Council
grant. Other headlines include:
"P-Orridge Sex Show Scandal"
"Even the Arts Council think it's disgusting"
"MP's Fury At Porn Palace"
"If this is art, what will happen next?"
Early 80s: Genesis P-Orridge takes part in a performance by Einsturzende
Neubauten at the ICA which includes an attempt to drill through the stage.
The ICA is a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace and is rumoured to have
underground tunnels/shelters running underneath it.
Thursday 26th November 1998: TG/Coum 'tribute' night as part of book
launch passes without a murmur.
Simon Ford is the author of The Realization and Suppression of
the Situationist International: An Annotated Bibliography 1972-1992 (AK
Press) and has curated an exhibition of SMILE Magazine (the Neoist
magazine of multiple origins and editors) at the Victoria & Albert Museum
in London. His book on Coum Transmissions/Throbbing Gristle (titled
"Wreckers of Civilisation") has been much anticipated, but
unfortunately wasn't actually published in time for the launch party. A
full review of the book will follow.
The event was very well attended, and it was interesting to see how much
interest there still is in a group that ceased to exist 18 years ago. The
crowd was a motley collection of people, evenly split between those too
young to have ever seen Throbbing Gristle or Coum Transmissions and those
who have probably been scarred for life because they did.
The more interesting bits of the London underground scene were very much in
evidence. I managed to chat with Stewart Home, Alan & Stuart B from Thee
Database, Nomex (Adverse Records), Howard from break/flow, some people
involved with the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, a Luther Blissett
and a number of other old faces who I won't trouble you with. Chris and
Cosey were also in attendance and seemed to be having a good time, albeit
being slightly bemused by the continuous excavation of their past.
TG films were being shown in the ICA cinema, but most of the action was to
be had in the bar. Rare Slides of Coum performances and TG photoshoots were
projected onto the walls and there was a crowd of people waiting to look at
a dummy copy of the book.
The editor of the excellent Autotoxicity zine (the latest issue of which
includes an interview with Simon Ford) was the first DJ of the night. He
played an atmospheric set which took in 80s electronica and some of more
interesting stuff from today.
Aphasic took to the decks at about 10 o'clock and played a selection of
drum 'n' noise, harshcore and other experimental techno, a lot of it from
his own Ambush label. This polarised the audience, with some leaving when
the bpm's got beyond what they wanted, and the remainder bobbing about at
the bar. I thought it was fantastic stuff - funky, but with that edge that
keeps things interesting. Aphasic also looked like he was having a great
time mixing it all together - which was one up some of the dour unsmiling
types in attendance. I left before the mighty DJ Scud could be located by
the organisers... he was probably off doing something disreputable.
All in all, it was a good night, more for reasons of nostalgia than
anything else. Most launch parties are really crap - an excuse for people
to notch up some extra points on their radical CVs and be aloof. This was
more like an excuse to get some interesting people together and ply them
with beer. And what about Coum/TG? On the one hand I suppose it's
inevitable that, despite trying to escape the art world, they will end up
getting pulled back into it as part of the process of historification. On
the other hand, they have been incredibly influential and it's time they
got some credit. Sometimes it's necessary to regroup, to assemble and
debrief the agents, before launching another campaign. This was hopefully a
chance to do that.
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