From 1973 to 1980, a key aspect of Cosey Fanni Tutti ‘s art practice was her participation, as a model, in the glamour and pornographic industries. As a form of ‘performance’, this work was conceived in opposition to the didactic exploration of gender politics favoured by contemporary feminism. Fanni Tutti’s success in the field enabled her to gain first-hand experience as a participant in the industry, appearing in more than 100 top shelf publications such as Fiesta and Playbirds. The Magazine Actions show the artist regularly shifting persona, appearing in one early shoot as the faux-naïve character ‘Tessa from Sunderland’, and later participating in a staged painting-and-decorating scene for Knave magazine.
A member of the performance-art group COUM Transmissions and founder member of the Industrial band Throbbing Gristle, all of Tutti’s work is rooted in a highly personal and mediated form of performance, enabling her to move from the porn and music industries to the equally reified context of the art world. In 1976, a selection of her Magazine Actions were included in the exhibition Prostitution, mounted by COUM Transmissions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. They provoked scandalised reactions in the national press as well as feminist journals including Spare Rib. Under pressure from the ICA and the Arts Council, the framed Magazine Actions were removed from the wall, placed in white boxes and relegated to the back room of the gallery to be viewed under supervision only. On the gallery wall where the Magazine Actions had previously hung, the artist pinned up newspaper clippings documenting the controversy.