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Cosey Fanni Tutti - Time To Tell
Cosey Fanni Tutti - Electronic Ambient Remixes Volume 2

In a career that has seen Cosey Fanni Tutti being one-quarter of the highly influential (non) music group Throbbing Gristle, to representing the UK in various art exhibitions, and to even seeing herself emblazoned over the front pages of the UK tabloids for the Coum Transmissions exhibition, Prostitution. Throughout these years and during the formative stages of Chris & Cosey, the musical outlet she formed (with Chris Carter) after Throbbing Gristle's acrimonious split, Cosey Fanni Tutti carved out an alternative career within the sex industry. Time To Tell documents this period of her life, a time regarded by Cosey as a voyage of discovery. Her initial step into the sex industry was to garner pure images of herself for mail art collages. Modeling for soft / hard core magazines lead to strip tease, stag nights, and porn films - even starring alongside 70s porn queen Mary Millington. Each level of the sex industry provided uncharted territories and posed new challenges. It's refreshing to find no real theory or strategy in Cosey's work beyond the desire to experience new and different challenges. Even her subsequent art actions, such as Pussy Got The Cream, which she was producing at the time, didn't impose interpretations on the audience.

Time To Tell features music specifically composed to work in unison with Cosey's performance art work. It ranges from the soft, languid tones of 'The Secret Touch', featuring slow sensual movements in an almost aquatic like fashion. A constant analogue electronic pulse reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle forms the basis of the title track over which Cosey relates her experiences of modeling, dancing and art performance. Her soothing voice shifting between channels, from foreground to background, and, at times, frustratingly, in a voice that's just out of focus. Even 'Ritual Awakening' is a sensual portrait with a sense of human frailty. Time To Tell is like an intimate snapshot of one chapter of Cosey's life.

Interestingly in 1982 when Time To Tell was first issued (via Ian Dobson's Flowmotion cassette label), Cosey Fanni Tutti was still involved in the sex industry as a striptease artist. After several failed attempts by other labels in 1988 Conspiracy International reissued Time To Tell. Various editions exist: one including a set of 26 postcards, and an even rarer edition featuring a signed print. The fact that they now - if you can find one - command exorbitant prices on internet auction sites prompted Cosey to reissue Time To Tell in a standard non-limited edition, augmented by a previously unreleased collaboration with artist John Lacey. With the passing of time, Time To Tell has become an important document, as together with the extensive booklet, it provides Cosey's initial reassessment of her lifework.

Like her own work Time To Tell has been a continuum, an ongoing work in progress, remixed, extended and in many respects the issue of EAR2 is another chapter. EAR 2 features various sound manipulations drawn from Time To Tell and "significant events from (Cosey's) personal life, art actions, musical compositions and personal statements". Deep ambient sound pieces and barely audible voices surface providing a particlulary fine slice of electronica.

Last year an article in UK broadsheet The Independent posed the question: Cosey Fanni Tutti - where is she now? Simple research would have shown that in the past year Cosey had been exhibiting work in Barcelona, London, and New York. As Chris & Cosey she performed live at the Union Chapel, London. Currently, Cosey is starting work on the new Chris & Cosey album. In fact, she's never been away at all.

What follows is Cosey's response to the compulsiononline questions derived and pertaining to Time To Tell and specific to her experience in the sex industry. Special thanks to Cosey Fanni Tutti for taking the time.

i) When and how did you get involved in modelling / stripping? Did you initially do it for money, art or personal reasons? At the time did you have any preconceptions, fears or prior knowledge of the sex industry?
I got involved with modelling for sex magazines first because of my fascination with the sex industry and the images in the mags which I was using for collage material in my mail art. It seemed my collages would be more 'complete' and honest if the images included me in the real sex situation I was pillaging for my own art. From then on that whole art is life/life is art took a real hold because it was a different world to the art scene we were part of at the time. So I guess the reasons I entered the sex industry was for both art and personal reasons. To be perfectly honest I didn't consider the money aspect. My interest was purely in the 'doing' experience of it all. I had contact (through my mail art) with a girl in London who was already a model for sex mags and films. We nicknamed her Nanny Rigby as she'd previously been a nanny. I got my contacts through her when we moved to Martello Street in Hackney.

I had no real preconceptions of what it would be like other than seedy because that was the prevalent notion of the sex industry at the time. Nanny gave me advice as to what to expect, accept and reject. Then I forged my way through the various scenes within the underground/overground sex world. I never had any fears as such, just the nervousness everyone gets when they start a new job. I was just so excited about getting the first mag with me in.

It took so long that by then I'd moved on from mail art to performance art so the initial motivation had been displaced by events. But that was fine because it didn't feel wrong. I was happy for the sex work and art to cross over as and how it did.

I had a very different introduction to striptease. Inevitable really when I put together the links of the chain involved. I had met a couple when doing magazine and soft core work. She also did striptease and we talked about it, I went to see her act and got interested in the very different world of stripping. Later I met Lynn and her boyfriend who wrote for Forum and their own books. Lynn did striptease in pubs as opposed to stag nights. I saw another side to stripping that also appealed to me so I auditioned for the Gemini stripping agency. That was nerve racking! I had to do two topless dances on the stage of the Chelsea Drug Store in the Kings Road. Anyway I got the job. This was 1977 as I remember, post ICA.

ii) In the Time To Tell booklet you mention that stripping was the most satisfying, as striptease featured your own personality and allowed a degree of artistic freedom. Which out of - modelling, striptease, topless dancing, porn films, stag nights - was the least satisfying, and why? Which was the most exploitative for the female and for the male punter?
Without a doubt the least satisfying was the stag nights. I think you need to be in the position of the stripper to appreciate fully what it is to be the focus of such baseness. On occasions even the DJs, compares and comedians derided the girls. The worst were the police stag night gigs. In fact most of the girls would try and avoid doing them. I would say stag nights were dangerous even if we never openly said that to one another, it was an unwritten code that we never left one another alone at any time and we left the venue together. I have remained in the room while the other girl/s provided 'extra services' and maintained some sort of order as the men wait their turn. Such are the scenes behind the scene.

I was lucky that I'd done soft and hard core films because it was a safer environment in which to take of the experiences that I did. There's a difference between being paid to have sex for a film and between the sex for sale involved in the stripping world which was more like prostitution. Your choices and options are limited to the demands of the 'client'. In the film and magazine work I learnt how to do what I wanted, even if it was from a previous bad experience. I wasn't forced to repeat it. That brings me neatly to your next question.

The issue of exploitation in the sex industry over all would take me forever to discuss properly because I think it's very complex. When I was working it was women who were the most exploited, but things have changed somewhat since then. I absolutely detest the word 'punter'. I can't tell you. It makes me gnash my teeth. It's so unreasonably derogatory.

iii) Knowing it was a personal investigation, did that provide a barrier so that you could say no, or at least suggest alternative options, whereas other girls who worked solely for the money perhaps found it harder to say no and under the circumstances were more accepting? How did it make you feel seeing girls being coerced into acts or working with girls that seemed to lack any self worth? How did you deal with that? Was there a sense of camaraderie between the girls?
I obviously had a different attitude and approach to the stripping and modelling than the other girls. That was bound to be because I went into it with a defined and very different agenda to them. I can't think of any one girl who wasn't motivated by the money first and foremost. Admittedly as time went on they got dependent on the attention too. I think the girls who worked solely for the money were more accepting and some had a very practical attitude to what they had to do. Maggie would say she never paid any bills that could be paid in kind, even the fitted wardrobes in her bedroom. When one of the girls got her house safe robbed, she referred to the loss in terms of the number of blow jobs it represented, and how she'd have to do them all again.

I thought that epitomised the difference between me and her as strippers. There were about 6 hard core girls with my stripping agency and each of them would request that I be the second girl for a stag night purely because I never did hard core with the guys, only lesbian acts with the other stripper. That way they could earn BIG money and they could take centre stage as the blue act. In the end I got request bookings for stag nights on the grounds that they wanted a 'class' act. How ironic is that? To refuse to play the game gains you status (of some kind) with both the guys and girls. So yeah, I suppose my motive for being there gave me options that paid off.

There was great camaraderie between the girls in stripping and modelling. I guess it stemmed from an unconscious feeling of vulnerability and willing yet unwilling subordination. If you stick together you don't feel quite so bad about doing something that not only doesn't feel right but also fuels the fantasy of someone you wouldn't normally give the time of day. But we all talked about it and had a great laugh at the guys expense sometimes. Is that bad too? It was another defence mechanism.

There was an instance during a stag night when a girl really didn't want to do any extra sex services. She was almost crying. There were 4 girls there including myself and the other 2 girls were writing up a 'shopping list' of who would give what to which guys. I just told her she could actually make the decision to say no, she had a choice like me. She refused and never did it again. In fact we would work together and do lesbian acts instead. A similar situation arose during a couple of hard core films actually. It's weird watching it all because I empathise with the girl yet I see the film director coercing her, her looking around for support or help. In those situations I and some girls would work out a compromise as to what we wanted to to to and with each other or the guys and present it in such a way that the director was happy to swap his request for what we wanted to do.

I have worked with girls (and a transexual) who had no self worth at all. It becomes a self preservation situation at times because their attitude can be falsely taken as yours too, so I would often distance myself from them. In some of the London pubs it was really dangerous for girls like that because there were guys who would (and did) take full advantage. Some girls you could approach and steer them away from such destructive actions and we always tried. It was accepted that we all had trouble dealing with what we did and we supported one another in different ways. Them against us, even us against our own agency and some of the other girls too.

It was a strange thing coming home to someone after all that has happened and they don't have a clue about what you have had to do to survive. The drives home late at night helped me assimilate things but the cocoon of 'home' was so welcome at times as was the fact that it was totally separate. I was lucky I had that, some of the girls didn't. They worked 7 days and 7 nights a week.

iv) I understand you ceased your activities in the sex industry in 1984, after ten years or so. That's a long time. When did it cease to be an investigation and actually become enjoyable? Why did you decide to stop? What did your explorations in the sex industry teach you about yourself?
I decided to stop because I had my son in 1982 and we had moved out of London to give him a childhood in the country. Besides those personal and practical reasons, there was my music and art. People at the pubs and stag nights began recognising me and booking me as 'Cosey' (I was called Scarlet). For different reasons it began to feel uncomfortable.

At that time I was a three way personality, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Scarlet and mother. The time had come when I needed to be just Cosey and whatever that represented. I had exhausted the intial reason for entering the sex industry and I asked myself why I was continuing. If it was the money only then it was time to leave before I got totally dependent on it. I needed to refocus my energies on personal relationships, my music and art. Also I felt uneasy about my dear innocent child and how what I had done would affect him as an adult male. This came from my knowledge of some men's attitude to women who stripped or modelled for mags and films. Or maybe from a feeling that I was contaminating someone precious to me. Psychoanalyse that one! It's the reason I stopped stripping as soon as I knew I was pregnant.

I'm still trying to figure out what I learnt about myself from all my exploits. I learnt something really obvious but something I think we tend to overlook. That is, to please someone else is not always the right thing for myself and when I do something that I feel uncomfortable with it can be a valuable experience in terms of it being an acknowledgement that the uncomfortable feeling was justified or not. It's when you repeat it knowing it isn't right that the damage is done.

I learnt that I was in control of my sexuality and of the power of being a woman. I chose to enter the sex industry with my own agenda and to explore its reality. That entailed submitting, but not necessarily repetitiously, to what went on. How could I have got as near to the actual experience without being the stereotype 'model' or 'stripper'? Being Scarlet was a challenge and experience in itself that taught me so much about the sexual rapport between men and women and women and women. It's made me a stronger and more confident person. It's taught me social skills I would never have acquired had I not done it.

v) Your experience within the sex industry was the cornerstone of the Coum Transmissions exhibition, Prostitution. The magazines featuring yourself were sealed in containers and could only be viewed one at a time and by request. Did you feel that such a presentation diluted the impact of the overall piece? Did the furore surrounding Prostitution overshadow the purpose of the exhibition? I believe you are working on a retrospective exhibition, Select Reflection, any news?
I think by default, that the enforced boxed presentation actually enhanced the overall project in some respects. It placed the mags back in their worldly 'top shelf' situation and said so much about how the sex industry was regarded at the time. That is, something best not discussed, pushed out of sight. But it was bad in so much as the works weren't seen as 'artworks' and therefore not readily accessible to those who wouldn't find it easy to ask for access.

The furore added and detracted from the purpose of the exhibition. It was itself a retrospective that had the adverse effect of relaunching COUM in a way. The hysteria rode rough shod over the purpose of the show. It wasn't sensationalist in intent. It was just a presentation of our work and a comment on the artworld and society's attitude to our bodies, sex and what is acceptable as art, performance. The underlying prostitution.

Select Reflection is ongoing basically because it requires my reflecting and making sense of what I've done, who I've been and where and who I am now. I don't know yet! Thank goodness, that would be sooo boring.

vi) What reaction did you get from your fellow Coum Transmission/Throbbing Gristle members when you decided to investigate the sex industry? Was it difficult to maintain a separation between the art world and sex world? It's quite strange that you crossed over from the art world to the sex industry which is the reverse from what others such as Annie Sprinkle, Annabel Chong have done. It must have been quite seedy then what's your impression of the sex industry today?
I was modelling before TG was formed. At various times and by different people I was asked to stop, after their initial fascination had worn off. I refused because I didn't feel that I had fulfilled my potential with the project at that time. It had to be my decision to pull out the same as it was to enter. I never consciously tried to keep the art and sex world separate. They merged into one really.

What I've seen of Annie Sprinkle's work I've really liked because of her warmth and directness.I never knew she came from the sex industry into art. That would explain why I found her work so 'unarty' and unpretentious. And apprenticeship in the artworld does tend to result in cold pretentiousness whereas the sex industry demands some degree of warmth and openess.

The sex industry then was very seedy in some areas. I dare say it still is now but I think it has changed enormously. Now women choose it as their career. It's more open now. I wouldn't say it's less dangerous though. In fact I'd say it was dangerous to assume it's safe. And I mean safe in all meanings of the word.

vii) What was the idea behind the CTI series of Electronic Ambient Remixes? Given that Time To Tell dates from 1982, it must feel weird revisiting that era, listening back to those pieces and remixing it for EAR 2, what memories does it rekindle?
The ambient remixes were inspired by Chris and I using new gear and thinking it would be interesting to manipulate sound pieces we'd already created. Like an extension of when we recorded them. To reinvent yet retain the original spirit. At the same time we were invited to submit a sound piece for an exhibition at PS1 gallery in New York. A piece that was based on an important aspect of our individual history. Synchronicity. Hence the first Electronic Ambient Remixes were born. Chris's Space Between and my Time To Tell both contained so much of our personal and creative history they presented themselves so readily.

I can't say I'm comfortable revisiting all that I've discussed because I haven't thought about it in the way people assume. I am who I am, I did what I did and never stopped to analyse it or I wouldn't have experienced things in the way I wanted to. It's only now because of interviews such as this that I have had to think about what it all means/ meant and how I feel/felt about it. And I still can't define my experience. But for me that's a positive thing. It leaves many stones unturned and things to explore. When I hear and see myself from that era, I'm not that person. I was someone else then, I was the person who was to become me as I am now. I said some really idiotic things back then but I can forgive my arrogance and naivety because it was part of the process.

Key resources:
Cosey Fanni Tutti
Chris & Cosey