The word ‘emin’ means ‘to be sure’ in When I was in graduate school I vaguely remember some rumblings through the library stacks about an
Turkish, and Tracey (who is half artist whose Turner Prize nomination had come from exhibiting her bed, replete with rumpled
Turkish-Cypriot) lives up to this sheets, used condoms and bloodstains. This made sense, given that only such gratuitous displays
name with her confi dent eccentricity. could cut through the great wall of theory that academia had built for itself. I’m sure Emin’s name
Meanwhile the confessional aspects was tossed around, but it did not stick with me. Any aestheticised bed at that point belonged to
of her work have resonated with Rauschenberg, and any philosophy of the boudoir was Sade’s alone, though Slavoj Zizek was doing
women in particular. But for me her a good job of updating it.
art is almost like a call to her writing, After that, to be quite honest, Emin’s name and art
became rather invisible to me, which is curious, where she reveals her true self.
because her notoriety grew in the intervening years
(apparently with no little help from certain drink-
HUSSEIN CHALAYAN, artist and fashion designer fuelled antics, and Jay Jopling); and invisibility
would seem to be the single condition against
which Emin pitched her aesthetic sensibility: here
was an artist that demanded she be seen, and not
just as an artist but as a whipping post at the
In the voice-over narration that opens his 1971 fi lm About Me: A Musical, intersection of public attention and personal
Robert Frank says, “Fuck the music. I’m going to make this fi lm about me”, femininity.
speaking of the fi lm’s origin in a grant from the American Film Institute to
make a documentary about American musicians. In the early 1980s Tracey Nevertheless, I cannot but feel like I have failed
Emin went out with punk musician/writer/artist Billy Childish; although she Emin in some way, because she, as an artist, does
sometimes joined in with his poetry performance group the Medway Poets, not mean much to me at all (though she has written
she was never in a band. But I still like to think that at some point she said to in one of her neon works that people like me need
herself, “Fuck the music, I’m going to make art about me.” to fuck people like her, but that seems rather
indiscreet). And I take this as a failure of mine
And why not? Why write, sing, perform, then record, then perform again, over because obviously Emin means quite a lot to quite
and over, a song about an ex-lover when you could fi ll a tent with all their a number of people, at least as much as a dead
names written down, and put it in a gallery where everyone could see it? homosexual conceptual artist apparently means
For that matter, why make a painting that expresses a suicidal period when you to the US (need I point out the irony here?).
could just import your bedroom, intact with the scars and debris accumulated So as Venice advances, I will try to sit up and take
during that time, into an art space? What could be more direct? That’s more note. Won’t that mean something?
punk than Green Day, and Darby Crash might still be alive if he’d thought of
it. It would be easy to say that Emin is the artworld’s Courtney Love, but all JONATHAN T.D. NEIL, art critic
that Courtney Love’s career has proved is that a woman can live up to the
Keith Richards/Ozzy Osbourne wasted-rock-star-train-wreck stereotype too.
Why slog through reading Courtney Love’s diary (or one of her records) when
you could look at a Tracey Emin piece instead? I can’t imagine.
ALAN LICHT, musician, artist and writer
Tracey Emin, Top Spot, 2004. Courtesy of Tartan Films
Contemporary art has enjoyed a renaissance in Britain over the past 20 years, with ever-broadening audiences engaging and connecting
with the work of the extraordinary artists who have emerged in this time. Tracey Emin has been pivotal in her ability to combine traditions
in art history with a contemporary sensibility, and her place in broader contemporary culture is a testament to this. A long-standing
resident of East London, she is a familiar and welcome fi gure at galleries and studios in this energetic cultural quarter. What perhaps fewer
people appreciate is that, behind the scenes, Emin is also a tireless supporter of the arts. To give one small example: she has not only
created and donated works in support of the Whitechapel, but enthusiastically taken on the roles of auctioneer, expert salesperson and
rabble-rouser, all in aid of the Whitechapel’s exhibitions and forthcoming expansion.
ANDREA TARSIA, Head of Exhibitions and Projects, Whitechapel Gallery
p109-126 Venice AR Jun07.indd 114 10/5/07 03:10:30
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