On 3rd September of 1975 the experimental music and performative group Throbbing Gristle was founded by Cosey Fanni Tutti, Genesis-P-Orridge, Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter.
In opposition to the cultural establishment, they melted together punk attitude with the industrial landscape, performative art, political and pop sense for pornography and electronic sounds, contribuiting to the creation of the industrial music genre. The artistic research of Throbbing Gristle has been deeply characterised by the encounter of music and visual performative art, an approach that hailed also from the experiences of Fluxus and Wiener Actionismus. The band came from the ashes of the performance art group Coum Transmission, mostly known to art history for their shocking Prostitution show presented at the ICA (London) in 1976. TG developed a strong aestethic through the deconstruction of political iconographies from the totalitaran culture mixed with a post-punk position having the aim of struggling the deshumanization typical of the industrial era. In 1981, the band broke up feeling the necessity of shifting their musical research into something more experimental and new, giving birth to many experimental musical projects in the following years, as Chris&Cosey, Coil and Psychic TV.
During the reunion, from 2004 and 2010, Throbbing Gristle released TGV the video archive of Throbbing Gristle, a summa of their past and contemporaneous music and visual art.
Alessandra Franetovich: In 2007 Throbbing Gristle published TGV – The video archive of Throbbing Gristle, a collection that includes 7 dvds featuring 10 full shows of the band. What led you in the creation of a video archive about your activity?
Chris Carter: Historically Throbbing Gristle has always made recordings of our live performances available as releases, even sometimes regardless of technical quality. So over the many years of performing and increasingly acquiring more video footage of our shows we had to consider the notion of making all of those video recordings available as releases too. The biggest stumbling block for us was the amount of work involved and the production costs. With all our previous releases of the TG audio archive we had primarily put those out ourselves, initially as a cassette boxed-set (TG24), first on Industrial Records then later on Mute Records as a CD boxed-set. With both those releases I had done all the audio editing and mastering and Peter, Cosey and myself did the artworks – a not inconsiderable task considering how many performances there were. When we were considering the TG video boxed-set we had to take into account the amount of work involved as we all had our own careers outside of Throbbing Gristle and taking on such a large project was something we three had to completely commit to, even at the expense of our other non-TG commitments. Because of the amount of work involved TGV actually turned out to be the most time consuming, complex and expensive TG project we ever released.
Alessandra: Would you say that this project has been an expression of your historically achieved position as founders of the industrial movement?
Chris: I guess so… in basic audio/visual terms. But TG has always been multifaceted so a video boxed-set doesn’t fully represent or express all the aspects of what we have done. That would need to be a much larger conceptual piece, such as an exhibition.
Cosey Fanni Tutti: I think it can be compared to 24 hours of Throbbing Gristle in terms of it being a visual release of the accumulated video recordings of TG. It wasn’t about stamping our historical rightful place as founders of the industrial movement. We just continue to do what we do, and make it available in formats that we feel are appropriate at that time.
Alessandra: Did any artistic or experimental impulse had any role in the development of the TG Video archive?
Chris: Yes both.
Cosey: Like Chris said, Artistic and experimental impulse was/is part and parcel of what TG do whether it’s the TGV archive or any other project. It’s never about just compiling, boxing and selling. It’s far more than that. Our works represent TG and all it stands for so there’s impulse, a great deal of experimentation as well as aesthetic involved from inception to release.
Alessandra: Since the beginning of TG experience, art has been an important presence: from Coum Transmission performative art group to the collaboration with Cerith Wyn Evans, going through the soundtrack recorded for Derek Jarman’s movie “In the shadow of the sun”. How much relations with artists has been important to the development of TG music and aesthetic?
Cosey: Friendships and collaborations with Artists were not thought of as contributory factors to the development of Throbbing Gristle itself. We had a very firm grip on what TG music and aesthetic was and where we were going with it. We also worked a lot with people who didn’t define themselves as Artists. Art came into the TG equation by virtue of our ethos being ‘Life is Art’ and many of the Artists like Derek and Cerith had an unorthodox and experimental approach to their life and work – that’s what drew us together. That and a mutual respect for one another.
Alessandra: The co-existence of art and life has always been a foundamental point for the industrial experience. Today, looking back to the existence of TG, what do you think about the image you created?
Chris: Personally I find it very difficult to look back at what we have achieved and be objective. Maybe I am too close to what we did to fully appreciate it as others do but to me TG has just become another thread in the history of my journey to now.
Cosey: I don’t really think about it in that way, I’ve done so much in between. But seeing as you ask, I’m OK with it. Our intent and objective was met and the regrouping was a continuum in many aspects. TG as a driving force of Industrial is pretty much its own beast.
All images: Stills from TVG – The video archive of Throbbing Gristle, courtesy Throbbing Gristle.