Tracey Emin is one of the artists and writers that continues to inspire (and amuse) me, pretty much on a daily basis at the moment as I am reading her book, ‘My Life in a column‘ which is a collection of the columns that she’s written once a week for the Independent over 4 years between 2005 and 2009. About a month ago I went to visit her exhibition ‘Love is what you want‘ at The Hayward, South Bank and after the initial excitement wore off i realised I’d seen a lot of the work before at an exhibition in Edinburgh a couple of years ago. But I guess that’s not really the point- its seeing the work and the new work (several neon, wood and metal sculptures) arranged in space.
Whilst in places I felt there was too much work trying to fill the space, what worked really and surprised me were the tiny sculptures on the balcony that I didn’t even notice the first time I went out there. Walking out onto the balcony the first time and finding nothing I turned to take in the viewpoint over London leaning on the edge of the wall which slants outwards – leaning on it you feel you are being held. From here I could see the big urban straw fox with its sad orange eyes watching the world go by. It struck me that London is a playground – its sculpted for a human being to be playful – its a brilliant place for a writer – there are views from which you can see strange incidents and intimacies unfold – indeed it would be easy to hide in amongst the fabric of the city and to just write about what you see.
Indeed last time I was in London I was up on a rooftop of a place inhabited by artists in the East End of London – you could climb all the way to the roof and glean a secret view over the city. Inside, some performance art work was going on as people chatted, drank wine and packed stuff up in boxes (they were being evicted) and i loved that these creative people had just taken over the empty building and as part of their everyday living along with the sleeping, the eating, the dressing and undressing was this huge burst of creativity played out in the chaos of a derelict building – the disorder was enough to explode my scientist mind right off its logical radar (thank god!). What could be more exciting than to do some crazy performance art, dressed in a ripped silver dress with your nipple peaking through as your white make up runs down your face and your friends drink beer with strangers with moustaches on the roof. And on that roof you know you could topple to your death if you danced a little too close to the edge.
I thought and wrote about all of this as I looked out across London before going back inside to find the people I’d come with. When they finally came back out to the same balcony, having seen the view already, my attention turned to the floor – and it was here that I was surprised to find tiny Emin baby shoe sculptures scattered about in the most surprising of places.
I think people need to update their opinions of Tracey Emin (more slagging off yesterday courtesy of Brian Eno) – yes – her films are a bit naff – yes she has done some crazy stuff – but she’s open and honest and I like that. She thinks things through with her artwork – and I admire her for that. Art can’t just be about creating beauty – it needs to transform, interrupt and disrupt – and lets face it Tracey Emin certainly manages to do that in person, through her art and through her writing.
And then on the other side – she hungers after love, she never gives up on it – Her sketch of the kiss of the newly married royal couple is brilliant. And for me this past year or so – its been really important to remember that – yes – Love is what you want. Happy Birthday Miss Emin – b. 3rd July 1963 and thanks for the inspiration.