Coum Transmissions :
SCENES OF VICTORY
COUM has changed. That is good. Up until late 1976 we performed
many actions as art in streets, galleries and festivals. We explored
our own neuroses and exposed them publicly. The article/directive Annihilating Reality grew from our conclusions through
doing all these actions. We found the artworld on every level less
satisfying than real life. For every interesting performance artist
there was a psychopath, fetishist or intense street individual who
created more powerful and socially direct imagery. We also were
unhappy about art being separated from popular culture and the mass
media. It seemd to us that it was far more effective propaganda/information
dispersal to be written up the the NEWS section of daily papers
than in a back page column of a specialist Art journal. Now we much
more rarely make actions in Art spaces, we create private documentation.
We have moved into the public arena and are using popular cultural
archetypes. We live our lives like a movie, we try to make each
scene interesting viewing. We use the press to record our activities
iike a diary. Our documentation is newspapers and magazines.
COUM TRANSMISSIONS has a diverse membership. At its active core
are Peter Christopherson, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P-Orridge.
Cosey Fanni Tutti is working as a professional striptease dancer
and topless go-go dancer in London pubs, Peter Christopherson is
using photography to create private archetypal situations and Genesis
P-Orridge is producing private images as Art and then deliberately
attempting to manipulate the media to absorb them as News and via the news media distribute these images into hundreds of
thousands of ordinary homes to see if it stays art, mutates or just
what the implications of elite versus popular are. We try not to
mystify or use complicated words unnecessarily. Explanations are
always oblique however.
COUM are sometimes distrusted and disliked. People always pretend
to want to be lifted out of themselves, but in reality they are
terribly afraid of anything REALLY happening to them. We want people
to be themselves, and the price of that is to abandon the false
ideas one has of oneself. There is no implicit value in anything.
People like the sham artists who soothe them with aesthetic platitudes.
They dread having to face reality in any form.
Without experiment there is no hope. Without hope there is no point.
With no point life is a lie.
COUM is a fusion, not merely of Art, but of many regenerative ideas.
The subconscious must be brought out and given life so it engulfs
us with its honesty and accuracy. Once Art is brought into line
with everyday life and individual experience in public situations,
it is exposed to the same risks, the same unpredictable coincidences,
the same interaction of living forces. Coum is therefore both a
serious and tragic emotional stimulus combining the fruit of experience
to create precious, yet expendable, moments in time.
COUM is a mirror of all it coums across and all who coum across
it, in any of its forms. With man becouming more and more conscious
of his mortality and isolation, his sense of loneliness and meaninglessness
is becouming unendurable. All thatwe look at is false. In an age
where the image is pillaged, only the anonymous survives. In an
age where order is power, think what chaos provides. COUM do not
believe that the nature of the final action is important.
London HQ., 1978.
Genesis P. Orridge and Peter Christopherson:
- ANNIHILATING REALITY -
Hearsay: Dervishes dancing to music, sticking spikes through their
tongues and cheeks. Pulling a Kris into their chests. Watched on
TV right this minute. What makes a performance, art? What are its
qualities, strengths, directions, functions? Seven years in Tibet,
before the Chinese arrived. Ritual and music performed. How does
a conversant insider perceive it? How much can an unversed outsider
follow? Is it possible to exist, be justified by, creating curiosity,
sheer human interest?
Psychic reality, and its structuring in terms of internal
objects and internal-object relations, is made manifest in fantasy.
The myths and legends of primitive peoples, folk-lore and the imaginative
crealions of literature and art in all ages constitute a continuous
revelation of the fantasy-life of the human race, and throw tremendous
light on the workings of the unconscious.
Hearsay: Aztec ceremonies using control codes, Mayan rituals with
acceprance of slaughter of animals, people slowly tortured to death,
the art of society and part of instinctive collective fantasy. Dean
Corll, arrested 7 August 1973 in Houston, Texas, murdered and sexuallv
assaulted 27 teenage boys. Hermann Nitschs OM Theatre slaughter
100 sheep in castle grounds in art ritual. selected crowd of art
and social elite guests watching, midsummers day. High on
blood. Is it only legality that prevents the artist from slaughter
of human beings as performance?Hearsay: lan Brady and Myra Hindiey
photographed landscapes on the Moors in England where they had buried
children after sexually assaulting and killing them. Landscapes
that only have meaning when perceived through their cyes. Art is
perception of the moment. Action. Conscious. Brady as conceptual
We have but two alternatives left, either the crime that
will make us happy or the noose that will put an end to our unhappiness.
Hearsay: What separates crime from art action? Is crime just unsophisticated
or naive performance art? Structurally Bradys
photos, Hindleys tapes, documentation.
The imagination will not down. If it is not a dance, a song,
it becomes an outcry, a protest. If it is not flamboyance ir beeomes
deformity; if it is not art, it becomes crime.
William Carlos Williams
Off to the side, atop the plastic sheeting, lay a hunting
knife and its scabbard. An open paper bag held a can of acrylic
paint that gave off a faint smell reminiscent of banana oil. A military-type
gas mask lay near the bed. A portable radio was rigged to a pair
of dry cells, giving it increased volume and power, and a vacuum
cleaner was plugged in at the wall. Mens clothing was strewn
about, and there was a wide roll of clear plastic of the samc type
that covered the tloor.
Hearsay: The real continuous thread of human art and life is discovering
the fundamental, tribal essence of a superficially non-tribal society.Hearsay:
Performance art is investigation, a learning situation, actual and
direct. People have to be able to emotionally touch art, to feel
it allows them to exist.He got a movie camera and made movies
with all the kids that lived around the farm. There were two sisters
about a half a mile down the way that played with him all the time,
and theyd take a movie of one ofem laying on a table,
pretending they were making a doctor movie. They put a sheet over
her, and then they got chicken livers and stuff like that, and theyd
take kitchen tongs and pretend to he pulling these organs out of
her, while Dean handIed the eamera.
Hearsay: The first time I heard of Monte Cazazza in San Francisco
he was walking the streers dressed as an old woman; loaded revolver
in holster around his waist; he was carrying a small suitcase containing
a dead cat and bottle of petrol. He would visit artist friends at
their flats. Sit down. open the case, put the dead cat on the floor,
pour petrol on it, set it alight. All his spare money is spent on
guns. Instead of knocking at Anna Bananas door he threw a
brick rhrough the window.
Hearsay: Edward Paisnel, known as the Beast of Jersey. was found
guilty of thirteen charges of attacks on six people on Monday 13
December 1971. On 13 September 1440 Gilles de Rais was found guilty
of 34 murders, though it is believed his victims numbered over 300.
Rais, Prelati, Poitou made crosses, signs, and characters in a circle.
Used coal, grease, torches, candles. a stone, a pet, incense. Words
were chalked on a board. Could these rituals preceding child murders,
in another context and properly photographed, become 8euysian performance?
Are photos of Schwarzkogler reputedly cutting off his penis made
acceptable by being framed on a white wall ?
We should take into account that the turbulent imagination
of puberty always has an afffinity with crime.
At the cinema we kill with the murderer and die with his
There is nothing either fundamentally good, nor anything
fundamentally evil; everything is relative, relative to our point
of view, that is to say, to our manners, to our opinions, to our
prejudices. This point once established, it is extremely possible
that some thing, perfectly indifferent in itself, may indeed be
distasteful in your eyes, but may be most delicious in mine.
Hearsay: Action is merely a discussion of possibilities. Action
is a therapy for facing oneself. What makes an action art? What
gives it purpose enough? Performance art in particular must admit
it is everyone else.
Hearsay: Crime is affirmation of existance in certain cases, high
crime is like high art. We are looking for our self-image. Looking
is the thing itself, to forget we are only looking is the threat,
we fail as soon as we think we know what we are looking for. Mystery
is not cheap. emotion is not alien to art. Performance art is probably
the Shaman, Mystic, Lunatic, Buddha, visionary of contemporary times,
in a post-religious era a crucial and reponsible function best kept
away from dealers who are the Pardoners of our culture.
Tommaso held him with one arm behind his back, and Ugo began
to slaughter him, first in the stomach, then in the face. A bit
of blood spurted from his teeth at once, and from an eyelid, and
he threw up. Then Shitter got out too, and with a kind of moan,
began to hit him in the face, the belly, adding a few kicks. When
Tommaso let go and the man fell to the pavement, Shitter gave him
a couple more kicks in the back and all over, wherever they happend
to land. Then they rolled him swollen and bleeding down the rilway
embankment, into a clump of bushes.
Pier Paolo Pasolini
He learns and then practices the art of gently removing flesh
from bones; he then extracts the marrow, usually by sucking it out,
and pours molten lead into the cavity.
Frykowski suffered sixteen defensive wounds in his Ieft arm
trying to ward off the Evil. Fifty-one wounds Tex dealt to the spleen,
abdomen, left lung, right back, heart, chest, hands. And still the
man who twenty-five years before survived the Nazi atrocities in
Poland crawled on, till he crumpled.
Hearsay: An almost metabolic need in men brings us together, creates
performance art, and there is really nothing that much more special
about being an artist unless he makes a special attempt to be everyone
else. Otto Muehls AA Kommune has seen that art must deal with
the existing structures of a mass society with its tribal cultural
experiment. Art performance will become academics of possibility
The main task of the concentration camp was to lead the prisoners
within them to a natural death, following exploitation of their
labour power The Majdanek camp near Lublin was established in the
autumn of 1940 and was liberated by the Soviet army on July 22 1944.
The official number of victims of all nationalities in this camp
reached 360.000 dead.
He possessed extraordinary powers. He gave the impression
that he did not touch the ground at all, and he would go round the
circle at a pace so great that one constantly expected him to be
shot off tangentially. In the absence of accurate measurements,
one does not like to suggest that there was some unknown force at
work, and yet I have seen so many undeniable magical phenomena take
place in his presence that I feel quite sure in my own mind that
he was generating energies of a very curious kind. The idea of his
dance was, as a rule, ro exhaust him completely. The climax was
his flopping on the floor unconscious. Sometimes he failed to lose
himself, in which case, of course. nothing happened; but when he
succeeded the effect was superb. It was astounding to see his body
suddenly collapse and shoot across the floor like a curling stone.
Hearsay: A new generation of performance artists has arrived. They
use existing situations to actually affect society from the inside,
to subliminally infiltrate popular culture aware of their perception
as art but realising their redundancy. Peter Christopherson joins
the Casualties Union, learns to simulate perfectly cuts, heart attacks,
fits, bruises. He goes to a training course. Why is he there? He
wants to expand his art, he is able to get photos of boys simulating
injury. They are not aware of his reasons, his motives are provocative.
He makes an advert for national television, trying to give the kiss
of life to a drowned boy. Nothing is real except the medium. Millions
see his performance, none of them knows. Cosey Fanni Tutti models
for pin up and porno magazines, in order to get magazines containing
her image. The public buy them, see her, do not know her, do not
have to know its her pertormance art. Jerry Dreva in
Wisconsin masturbates onto the pages at a book thinking of passers-by
he liked. Each volume is sent away to friends who correspond by
mail. The artist understands his action and needs no more, it isnt
to do with recognition any more. Arethuse launches spacecraft in
a bay in Sayville, New York, one night. The work is that it receives
a mention in a general newspaper. Art magazines never hear. People
can enjoy performance without being aware of it. COUM model for
LP cover, it becomes a scandal in America, is resting in living
rooms and flats, no one knows it was them.
Vaguely conscious of that great suspense in which we live,
we find our escape from its sterile, annihilating reality in many
dreams, in religion, passion, art; each a forgetfulness, each a
symbol of creation.
You are not you, you are just reflections, you are reflections
of evervthing that you think that you know, everything that you
have been taught. My reality is my reality, and I stand within myself
on my reality. The truth is now; the truth is right here; the truth
is this minute, and this minute we exist.
It is the assignment of the artist to destroy art, that means
coming closer to reality. Because I knew no other way than art to
get to reality, I intensified my actions to extremely aggressive
undertakings. Suddenly I stood there alone. I could not abolish
the discrepancy between art and reality, I couldnt achieve
an identity through art, I couldnt unify art with reality.
Art unmasks itself here as a derivative of reality. Reality
without art is only half-reality. Art without reality is no art.
Heresy: You can hang a theory, context and significance onto almost
anything. That is not a primary justification. A public should not
feel that they need to understand, or that meaning is in any way
integral to the possibility of inclusion in a work.
I wore a special costume designed by Janco and myself. My
legs were encased in a tight-fitting cylindrical pillar of shiny
blue cardboard which reached to my hips so that I looked like an
obelisk. Above this I wore a huge cardhoard coat-collar, scarlet
inside and gold outside, which was fastened at the neck in such
a way that I could flap it like a pair of wings by moving my elbows.
I also wore a high cylindrical, blue and white striped witch-doctors
Heresy: Performances, especially outdoors, are by their nature
more immediately inclusive. Benefiting from surprise and human curiosity.
Often the bias against Modernism and an art context can thus be
sidestepped. This mental inclusion by fascination creates a situation
where the public create by expectation and empathy.We are
ever more attracted by our own existence. Every work of art is nothing
but the mystique of the being. The aesthetic which pushes us until
As Houdini rose from the couch the boy smashed him in the
stomach. Houdini gasped. He hadnt been ready. He was white
but he set himself and the boy hit again to feel what seemed like
an oak plank. Houdinis side bothered him. During the matinee
he suffered pains in his right side but faithfully chose to ignore
it. By evening it was worse and Bess wanted to call a doctor. No
was the answer.
The central interest is distortion; personal distortion manifested
through the body and motivated by physical contact. It is important
that this distortion should be operative both in form and content;
it could also be extended to areas directly related to the personal
outside of cultural traditions (such as art).
Therefore, one must take reality into account and actually
my awareness of the real, depending on my mood, has thousands of
Heresy: In performance art transience plays a large part. It is
mortal like us. Is born and dies. Immediately it becomes more universally
acceptable. An invisible thing happens between doer and watcher.
Each watcher interprets slightly differently, each is right for
himself in interpretation. The sum total of all interpretations
is probably still only part of the whole meaning, which is immortal.
There is no conclusive truth, so everyone in a sense is the artist.Heresy:
Art is too offen a pale reflection of what alreadv exists. Especially
performance art. The pictures in tit magazines are negated in content
by repetition. They serve however an incantatory function. Magic.
Cosey Fanni Tutti in her action 1973-76, Prostitution, discovered
the owners of these magazines need them as much as the customers
they despise. One man at Premier Camera Club, once a week, photographs
a different girl in the same pose and underwear. He keeps all these
variations in a huge book, years of photographs. If this were framed
and mounted in rows in one of our minimal galleries, with a fashionable
artists name given as its creator, would that make it acccptable
to you? Is the photographer then an artist? Is the model an artist?
If the artist chooses to be the model is it then art?
The artistic nude gets out of its traditional constriction
and, similar to a wreckage, it finally liberates itself from the
reproduction machinery used for information. The artistic nude and
spectacle have by now become a single thing.
Heresy: Performance art can he like a priest in a church, a special
atmosphere, intangible, always unique. Something belonging only
to those present. Like a death in a close-knit family. Described
later, or in photographs, its not the same; it never can be.
Performances are not the thing in itself, nor are bi-products like
photographs. All are luxuries after merely being alive and sharing
in that fact.
The artist should have the opportunity to place environmental
situations in such a way that they are useful for consciousness.
These situations should not limit somebody but should help to free
activities. For instance people should be continuously aware of
time in their environment. By this experience everybody could measure
the degree oi intensity or dullness of the life he is living.
Since then I have been interested in all abnormal situations
like ecstasy, spasm, psychoses, breakdowns. humiliations, etc.
Heresy: Mail Art, Correspondance Art is a performance art in an
open system. Open systems can still be art. Infiltration of mass
media and systems is vital. It means subliminal performance art
reaches an arbitrary, unchosen, unsafe public.Though great
works are surly still possible and may be looked forward to, it
is the sense that they may be moments of profound vision into the
working of things, an imitation of life, so to speak, rather than
artistic tours de force, i.e. cosmetics.
System of possible movements transmitted from the body to
the environment: body haunting spacc: availability:
a situation on which I am required to act, wherevcr I may happen
to be at the time.
Heresy: What is the performancc artists relationship with
society? Is he necessary? Is art meaning just bogus significancc?
When does decoration become life? In what context can art operare
? Marina Abramovic invited visitors to a Naples Gallery to choose
from knives, loaded guns, torture instruments on the floor and do
what they wanted to her. Two men stabbed her in the throat. Then
tried to put the gun in her mouth and make her pull the trigger.
She struggled to stop them. Her dealer tried to stop them. Why do
this in a Gallery? What change takes place if she goes to a rough
dockside bar and risks her life there. Perhaps provoking a real
fight, then using this real intormation complements
it by experiencing. Why does performance art have to be presented?
Infiltration of real life is no different but you alone perceive
this moment, and that makes you the artist, all else is pure luxury.
Gingerbread material consisting of: enriched flour, sugar,
dried molasses, shortening with freshness preserver. leavening,
salt, vegetabie gum, spices, caramel colour, was rolled into dough
and shaped to resemble a human form. These figures were slowly eaten
and digested. Later my intestinal tract was emptied. Ten samples
of faeces were placed on glass slides. These samples were viewed
under a microscope at magnifications of x280 to x300.
Heresy: Chris Burdon sits on a chair for about 36 hours until,
exhausted, he falls off onto the floor. A chalk mark is made round
him, like a corpse in a movie murder. Gina Pane in April 1971 in
her studio climbs 30 times up and down a ladder with sharp points
on the rungs, barefoot, until she reaches her limits of endurance.
The line between art and life should he kept as fluid. and
perhaps indistinct as possible. Therefore, the source of themes,
materials, actions, and the relationships between them are to be
derived from any place or period except from the arts, their derivatives,
and their milieu.
Deprivation that calls for supernormal rcactions in an attempt
at stabilisation: stress: turning in on myself. turning on myself:
performancc as alibi resulting in a presented piece of biography
that, ordinarily, would not have been part of ones active
biography at all.
...magic is a thing which every community must have, and
in a civilization that is rotten with amusement, the more magic
we produce the better. If we were talking about the moral regeneration
of our world, I should urge the deliberate creation of a system
of magic, using as its vehicles such things as the theatre and the
profession of letters, as one indispensable kind of means to that
R. G. Collingwood
Heresy: Because art has divorced itself from culture and mass taste
via language and meaning, it feels superior and then irrelevant
and insecure. Its lofty ideals and pretensions require degrees in
semantics before you can even view it, and usually its a minor,
once-only- interesting point thats obscured by critical clouds.Heresy:
Dennis Oppenheim observes obsessively his faeces The Marquis de
Sade also obsessively investigated faeces. Once is cool art, one
is quirkiness, which is more interesting?
Heresy: There is a political and social threat involved in the
direct person-to-person attributes of performance art and mail art.
No social ticket is required, no venue, the price e a stamp or your
own body are the only needs. The threat is higgest for the art world,
art market. Solving art problems is coincidental.
The task of Art is to make itself touchable.
Art is everything that men call Art.
Which men? and Which Art?
Art works best when it remains unacknowledged. It observes
that shapes and objects and events, by displaying their own nature,
can evoke those deeper and simpler powers in which man recognises
himself. It is one of the rewards we earn for thinking by what we
Heresy: A lot ot the best, youngest, performance artists have an
incredibly sophisticate perception of art media, galleries, socialites.
Followers more often of William S. Burroughs than of Marcel Duchamp,
of Sounds rather than Artforum, they affirm
individualism in a depersonalised age. They recognize only each
other. The basic tenet is that art is the perception of the moment.
An in the perception of the moment, all things are art.
For man, codes and signs differ according to his environment,
the education he has received, and his social background. The peasant
who looks at the sky is creative because he perceives
it by deciphering its codes on the basis of which he will invent
behaviour. Eugenio Carmi
Art is a self-respecting search for the unknown. As such,
it does not necessarily correspond to its common image. It is not
bound to generate objects. It is creative energy whose centrifugal
force generates gestures or looks, objects or projects and situations.
- AA Kommune / Manifesto. (Gols, Austria) 1975.
- Acconci, Vito / Statements in Pertormance catalogue.
(John Gibson Gallery. New York). 1971.
-Arnheim, Rudolf / Film as Art. ( London). 1958.
- Ball, Hugo / From Dada by Hans Richter (London). 1965.
- Carmi, Eugenio / Eugenio Carmi catalogue (Galleria
S. Benedetto. Brescia, Italy). 1975,
- Collingwood, R. G. / The Principles of Art. (London). 1938
- Crowley, Aleister / The Confessions of Aleister Crowley edited
by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant. (New York) 1969.
- Formaggio, Dino / Eugenio Carmi catalogue (Brescia,
- Glucksmann, Andre / Violence on the Screen (London) 1971.
- Guntrip, Harry / Personality and Human Interaction ( London).
- Kaprow, Allan / Assemblage, Environments & Happenings (New
- Lüthi, Urs / Il Corpo Come Linguaggio by Lea Vergine (Milan)
- Manson, Charles / Your Children trial transcript (New
- Masi, Denis / statement from Il Corpo Come Linguaggio op. cit.
- Mazur. Tadeuz / We Have Not Forgotten (Warsaw, Poland). 1961.
- Muehl, Otto / statement from Contemporary Artists (London) 1977.
- Nitsch, Hermann / statement from Il Corpo Come Linguaggio. op
- Oppenheim, Dennis / statement from Il Corpo Come Linguaggio. op.
- Olsen. Jack / The Man With The Candy. The Story ol The Houston
Mass Murders (London) 1975.
- Pasolini, Pier Paolo / A Violent Life. (London) 1968.
- Poittier. A / Cinema et Criminalite in Revue de Science
Criminelle. (Paris) 1957.
- Rainer, Arnulf / statement in Il Corpo Come Linguaggio. op. cit.
- Rinke, Klaus / statement inIl Corpo Come Linguaggio. op. cit.
- Ruppersberg, Allen / from transcript of videotape A Lecture
on Houdini (New York) 1973.
- Sade, Marquis de / 120 Days of Sodom (Nev York) 1966.
- Sanders, Ed / The Family (New York) 1972.
- Schwarzkogler, Rudolf / statement in Il Corpo Come Linguaggio.
- Symons, Arthur / The Symbolist Movement In Literature (London)