What I fi nd amazing about Tracey Emin Tracey Emin’s is a name you hear before you see her work, and that can really piss
and her work is that she foresaw our you of_f . You hear all this stuf_f about a person, more than you want to know about someone you’ve never met, and it really makes you want to hate what they do. Why
fascination with ‘everyday celebrities’ long are famous people famous? I guess the simple answer is: because they want to be.
before that phenomenon existed. Now Somebody has to want to soak it all up, the good things like the adulation, the money and all that, along with the bad stuf_f , the envy, the hatred, the fact that everyone
we’re so used to seeing faces of people wants to see you fail.
from Big Brother or any other reality TV So I had heard these things and not really liked what I’d heard or how it made me feel,
show gracing the covers of an ever- and then here’s the thing. In 1999 I was invited to a private view of the Turner Prize.
increasing number of gossip magazines, I’m not sure why. I drifted through a crowd of important, interesting, smartly dressed
and are used to examining every facet of people, wishing I knew somebody, until I turned a corner and walked into Tracey Emin’s My Bed, and my heart fl ipped. I was sucker-punched. I knew that bed as if it
their lives. When Tracey fi rst put herself was my own, and she made me look at it dif_f erently. I loved the scale of it and the
out there and announced ‘everyone I have detail – the blood (was there blood or did I make that up?) and the used condom and the empty bottles. The crumpled mess of it. The whif_f of it. The way you are before
ever slept with’ with her tent in 1995, or put you fi nd your place again. It reminded me of something secret that I knew very well
her bed on display for the Turner Prize at and didn’t remember, like the very best art.
the Tate Gallery in 1999, she understood I don’t care about the rest of it. Even the other work which hasn’t done That Thing for
our fascination with getting to know every me – because you only need One Thing to stick with you forever, and that’s enough. She took my breath away.
sordid detail of the ‘person next door’ long
before we knew we had such desires. PENNY WOOLCOCK, artist and fi lmmaker
She just got it, she put her fi nger on it way
ahead of her time.
CHEYENNE WESTPHAL, Chairman of
Contemporary Art, Europe, Sotheby’s
I was recently thinking about Emin in relation to an article by Jenni Sorkin, titled
‘Social Construction’ published in Frieze to coincide with the opening of the Elizabeth A.
Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum and MOCA’s exhibition
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, curated by Connie Butler. Sorkin wrote: Legs I, 2007, purple neon, 142 x 100 cm. Photo: Stephen White.
© the artist. Courtesy Jay Jopling / White Cube, London
‘Five or so years ago, I was asked to write an article for Parkett. It was agreed that my
contribution would involve a feminist reading of the artist’s work… I centred my piece
around the rhetorical question: what if Emin had been born a decade prior, in the seaside She has one great
town of Venice, California, rather than Margate, England? What if she had escaped to
Los Angeles rather than London, and still ended up in art college at the age of twenty,
but this time at CalArts rather than Maidstone?’ idea, which is her
In so doing, Sorkin injected Emin into the foundations of the feminist art revolution. beautiful body,
Not surprisingly – at least to me, knowing Emin’s work – the artist has said she is
not a feminist and did not want to be identifi ed by feminism. I was a little surprised by and I think she has
the audacity of a young scholar speculating and imposing an interpretation that was so
grounded in the rhetoric of the previous generation, which ultimately had to be rejected exploited this idea
in order to facilitate the development of a new language by the next generation. with brilliant ef_f ect.
This is a consistent pattern of art in the twentieth century: breakthrough, rejection,
breakthrough, rejection. And as I myself have observed, while it is inconceivable to think She also has
of an artist like Andrea Zittel (whose exhibition is currently on view at MOCA,
concurrent with WACK!) without feminism, it is equally inconceivable to see the artists
of her generation – including Emin – eschewing the didactic and explicitly political great charm and
aspects of feminism while simultaneously having at the very foundations of what
makes their art possible, that which the previous generation had accomplished. a wonderfully
This is similar to Pop art and Abstract Expressionism, which seem almost polar opposites;
however, Pop art would not have been possible without the accomplishments of rackety innocence.
J.G. BALLARD, writer
PAUL SCHIMMEL, MOCA Chief Curator
p109-126 Venice AR Jun07.indd 113 10/5/07 03:10:11
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