As much as I love books about music, I can sometimes approach them with trepidation since the fact that the authors are successful musicians, doesn’t necessarily mean that they can write a book.
However, Cosey Fanni Tutti has an excellent, engrossing way with words that surprised and delighted me. And of course, Cosey is much more than just a musician.
Art Sex Music tells the story of her life – from her difficult childhood (and eventually complete separation from her parents) to meeting Genesis P-Orridge at a young age and how her life changed; her becoming a part of the artist collective COUM Transmissions, and a founding member of industrial band, Throbbing Gristle.
I came to this book as a huge fan of TG, and having read Simon Ford’s Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of COUM Transmissions and TG which gets a heavy critical drubbing as warping the story of both projects in favour of one person; Genesis (and interestingly, is being reprinted this year – I wonder if it will be revised in light of this?).
And it is the tales of Genesis and Cosey that are the meat of this book.
You know when you know someone’s public persona, and are afraid that behind it all they are not a very nice person, but you’ve never had any proof. That’s how I felt deep down about Genesis – and Art Sex Music gives that proof in abundance (and I can feel the truth ringing out from the page, as well as that other people, in fact all TG by the end can’t stand Gen). He was hugely emotional manipulative, he was physically abusive, he was an all-round not-nice guy, and while I’m not surprised, I am disappointed. It’s clear in his ego. From what Cosey says, Gen has to be the star, the leader, the founder, the visionary. Never mind that there were others in COUM and TG and Gen’s subsequent projects, the world revolved around Gen, and it was that attitude that killed COUM and Throbbing Gristle (both in its original and more recent incarnations). At every turn, he screwed over his bandmates, was barely there in the studio, or onstage, and it seems, purely concerned with money.
But enough about Gen. This is a fascinating book about Cosey’s life as a musician, as an artist (which I didn’t realise was so expansive, and interesting, until I read this book) and her sex work (she was an adult model, in both print and movies) which she viewed from a feminist perspective, and incorporated heavily into her art work (non-music fans might have heard of her primarily through the furore that accompanied COUM’s 1976 ‘Prostitution’ exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, which led to them being called the aforementioned ‘Wreckers of Civilisation’ by a Conservative MP) but also about her decades-long partnership, both personal and professional, with Chris Carter. And I must say, the two of them are very clearly made for each other, and I was SO happy when Cosey finally left Gen for Chris. I was shocked to read about her unfortunate luck with medical issues, which have plagued her throughout her life, and was always delighted when they receded and she was joyous about being able to get back to work.
A fascinating memoir by an utterly fascinating individual in which she tells her own story, clearly, truly, and once and for all. Recommended.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.