Why COUM Transmissions's notoriously sexually explicit art wholly deserves its place in Hull's City of Culture celebration

COUM Transmissions exhibition begins at Humber Street Gallery
COUM Transmissions exhibition begins at Humber Street Gallery Credit: Humber Street Gallery

In the summer of 1977 at the height of the punk explosion, I organised an opening disco for a performance by a group called Throbbing Gristle in Winchester School of Art Students’ Union, a dank, bunker-like building on the outskirts of the historic cathedral city.

I didn’t expect the event to be exactly tuneful: the group’s leaders, Hull artists Genesis P-Orridge (born Neil Megson) and Cosey Fanni Tutti (born Christine Newby) had become nationally notorious the previous years as COUM Transmissions, with their Prostitution show at ICA, in which used syringes and bloody tampons were exhibited as works of art alongside girlie-mag centrefolds, with Tutti’s genitals on full view.

But neither I nor anyone else there was prepared for what followed: an hour of screaming, utterly tuneless, arrhythmic electronic noise, that ended as abruptly as it began, leaving us stunned.

Throbbing Gristle performing in Culver City in 1981 Credit: Michael Ochs Archives

The “band”, in person – P-Orridge,...


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