Coum/Throbbing Gristle Book Launch At I.C.A. London.

event review/commentary by JOHN EDEN

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.
[photo by J.Eden]
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.

[photo ov Chris Carter by J.Eden] 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.

[photo ov Aphasic by JOHN EDEN] 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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