"Dirty Meditations on Coil’s Sex Magick"
Dr. Wachter-Grene writes, "my talk offers a series of "dirty meditations" reflecting on queer, London-based experimental/post-industrial band Coil. Formed by John Balance and Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson of industrial bands Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle, Coil was active from 1982 until 2004 when Balance fell to his untimely death out of a two-story window. The band maintains a cult-like following to this day. Their 1984 debut album “How to Destroy Angels” was subtitled “ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy.” Balance and Christopherson, who were partners, conceived of their work going forward as ritualistic “dirty meditations” infused with androphile sexuality. Influenced by Aleister Crowley, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Austin Osman Spare, Coil’s music explored the occult, sexuality, drugs, and alchemical dissolution but was also imbued on a subtextual level with magick. Their music is intended to be a spiritual media in addition to a sonic composition. Their interest in alchemy—both a science and a metaphysics—suggests their commitment to externalizing the composition towards the tuning of specific energies at their highest state. Much of their sonic landscapes draw attention to the record’s production (i.e. electronic crackling and distortion), drawing the listener’s awareness to cultural frames of reference outside of the musical and lyrical techniques. I argue that the nature of spirituality and sexuality take on new forms in Coil’s ritualistic, sex magickal sonic experiments. Through the band’s approach to industrial sound (a denatured, mechanical genre informed by Gysin’s “cut-up method”), the listener is primed to consider disparate, contradictory concepts. Coil’s music provides a ritualistic experience that collapses the spiritual/sexual binary, provoking an attentional shift that reveals the mind’s expanded state. Ultimately, this talk considers what it might mean for a musical composition to be an act of magick.
Dr. Wachter-Grene will deliver her lecture, which will be followed by a discussion circle. Please join us for our last installment in the Spring 2023 "Occult Natures" series with Cultural Studies!
Kirin Wacter-Grene is Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She holds a Ph.D. in English with a focus on 19th -21st century African American literature and gender and sexuality studies. Her research and teaching interests include Black feminist thought; Black sexuality studies; Black queer studies; African American literature and paraliterature; BIPOC speculative fiction; queer studies and history; BDSM and kink; censorship; and Samuel R. Delany. Dr. Wachter-Grene is the guest-editor of two special issues of The Black Scholar: “At the Limits of Desire: Black Radical Pleasure” (50.2), published in 2020 in honor of the journal’s 50th Anniversary, and the double-issue “Unsafe Words: Black Radical Pleasure II” (53.3/4), forthcoming in 2023. She sits on the journal’s Active Editorial Board. Dr. Wachter-Grene’s academic writing is published in African American Review, The Black Scholar, Callaloo, Feminist Formations, and Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers and is forthcoming in Cultural Critique and Post45. Additionally, her work is included in various edited collections and she contributes essays about contemporary art and visual culture to Sixty Inches from Center. Dr. Wachter-Grene was the 2017-18 Visiting Scholar at Chicago’s Leather Archives and Museum. While at the LA&M she conducted research into Black women’s historical, manifold involvement with leather, kink, and fetish communities which inspired her monograph Black Kenosis: The Erotic Undoing of African American Literature, forthcoming from Fordham University Press.