Artist: Cosey Fanni Tutti
Venue: Cabinet, London
Exhibition Title: Throbbing Gristle
Date: September 21 – November 4, 2017
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Cabinet, London. Photos by Mark Blower.
What happens when you re-code commodity exchange from the side of labour, by selling objects back to capital, so to speak, to claim a sense of autonomy for the object in an act of re-circulation. And how does that complicate the performative acts that sex and art produce and their structurally dissimilar passages of labour, as Andrea Fraser investigates, for example, in Untitled (2003)? That is, what happens when acts of (self-) commodification imbricate themselves first as sex and then as art, as different manifestations of goods? Furthermore, how does one define a ‘practice’ within this ramified field–who produces what and what produces who?
The Szabo (2017) and ‘Throbbing Gristle’, Partner, Vol. 1, No. 9, February 1980 (1980)series individually and together problematise claims of authorship and modes of circulation. The Szabo series is a collaboration between Cosey and Szabo the photographer shot in 1977, a bespoke, speculative work intended for wide distribution for a sex industry whose market needs and legal conventions vary worldwide. This is made clear by the variety of poses, costumes and degrees of undress Cosey inhabits or performs, underlining the different modes of appeal and taste the photographs potentially generate. But who finally authors the images first as photographs and then as editorial pages in a publication and now as a work by Cosey Fanni Tutti in 2017? And how do networks of circulation affect the images multiple iterations through context and time?
Unlike the Szabo series and unlike almost all her other ‘magazine actions’, the images, layout and text in ‘Throbbing Gristle’, seen in situ, in and amongst the pages of the entire magazine, portray Cosey as an artist, as a musician and as a model, creating a cult of celebrity of sorts: a different kind of persona. This disclosure unmoors, at least from the outside, how a practice may be perceived and how, from the inside, labour can be defined, wherein practice is understood as a form-of-life, a way of doing as being, and labour as a social relation. This relation is literally and figuratively embedded in the magazine with its adverts, news, photos, stories and illustrations, a diagram of the sex industry as much as a document of society.
Together, the two series produce multiple temporalities and ways of reading following the logics of circulation and exchange. A magazine is a serial object, a commodity whose value or utility derives from its newsworthiness, the cheapness of its bulk production, the ease of its distribution and availability, until the logic of market obsolescence forces its redundancy with each successive issue. A companion thesis further extends the role of seriality and repetition within the porn magazine itself where a stock set of sexualised narratives, personae, poses, body types, fantasies and desires, clothes, sets and props are structurally reproduced over and over in a rehearsal of the same.
If the two works break down time or interrupt notions of authorship, circulation and commodity formation, what happens when they are read together? What is the relationship between image and text, between the images and the visual blanks or pauses in the frames? What happens spatially when the private practice of consuming porn is made public as art?
Finally, can we speak about a dialectic of sex?