Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why Tracey Emin is a like the 'Warning.' Why her art is like a 15 year old girl's MySpace page. Why she will end up a Dame.

This is what I think about when I think about Tracey Emin:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves.

Artists using words have always annoyed me. Cos usually they're crap. If they knew what do do with words, they'd write poetry.

And if they're using these daft words in the context of making some really really chuffin *obvious* statement, then all the more crapper

Student Art Show 101 - something mega-obvious involving oil & death; fame & superficiality; the end of art & their own empty heads ... Come on. Do better.
War = bad. Love = good.

Cheers. I would never of thought of that myself. Thanks, artist mate. Nice. Hmmm. Pro-found.

If you're going to step on "our" writerly territory, well, yeh you're gonna have to be good. Damn, girl, you're gonna have to be better than good. I want you to surprise me. You don't have to *make me* but you do have to make me shake my head n frown...

Artist Sol LeWitt has this to tell me about what is what Conceptual Artists are *meant* to do:
  • Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
  • Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
  • Irrational judgements lead to new experience
[35 Sentences on Conceptual Art, written May 1969]

Yeh, well fair enough, LeWitty boy. Hard to argue. Certainly, our Tracey Emin is someone that has always seemed - in her public persona and her art - to have a touch of the irrational about her. The drinkin n the shoutin, the shouty words sown into the tent.

She doesn't always make sense to my rational mind. And that's fine. Me n LeWitty like that from our artists. Bein deliberately *wacky* can be fun. Like Jennifer Joseph says in her (unwitting) Ode to Emin:

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple

When Trace is as old as the hills and starts actin like she is as mad as a hat stand, no one is gonna be surprised are they? She's kinda kooky now, but she's obviously sane and rational (generally). But when Dame Tracey says fuck on the telly in 2038, it isn't going to create a stir. It's what you'd expect of her at 80. It's sort of *what she's for*.

Words in Art: where were we

Gillian Wearing has done some pretty whacked out weirdy wordstuff. Like this photo of a twatty bloke's *intimate thoughts*. So yeh, Gillian, a big *thumbs up* to you.

But you art school boys (that I'm randomly slaggin off to make myself feel clever & superior). Whaddaya know bout this world, you lot? Hmmm. Go paint a picture, fools. Draw me some fruit n come back when you're as mad as a bag of wolf puppies floating on a bin lid on the Manchester Ship Canal. Then. When you're that mad, that close to death, and in that sort of weird life situation - then you will have something interesting to tell us. In the meantime, make me something nice. Okay? Pretty. Decorative. Pictures.

Well that's my quasi-philistine attitude anyway..

(God, I really hate lookin at this bloke now, he's doin my head in. I guess that is the power of Art. Scroll down, for fuck's sakes...)

About Tracey Emin's words.

She has that kind of lack of spelling ability where even spellcheck wouldn't be much use. She'd end up pickin the wrong word out of the list. *Causal* sex, instead of casual. But at least her wordage is sometimes surprising. Like in these titles for her bits of art:

Forgot to Kiss My Soul; Every Part of Me Is Bleeding; My Cunt is Wet With Fear; I Need Art Like I Need God.

Kind of original, not exactly drop-down brilliant, and yeh, mebbe she's deliberately setting out to shock. But odd, I would say. A bit nutty/scary, on-the-edgy. Don't come round my house spoutin words like that Ms Emin...

I've not got anythin against her, like, but I don't necessarily want her coming round for a cup of tea. Well she can if she wants, but not after 4.30 - I've got Countdown to watch...

But I do want to be surprised by word art, even if I'm only surprised at how crass the words are. "You forgot to kiss my soul" it has the ring of something written on a 15 year-old's Bebo page. Or like this Myspace page I've randomly Googled:

-_ _
( , , )
| ( hug ) |
| ". ." |
| _,-."._.",-._ |
'-(ooO )---( Ooo)-'
((_) ) ( (_))
"--" "--"

*Laugh Out Loud*

Throw in some *Ascii bunny rabbits*, some folksy aphorisms about *dancin like no 1 is watchin* & a few disorganised spellin mistakes. It all adds up an early Emin work.

You have the feelin that their bedrooms probably look a lot like a TraceyEmin artwork as well. (I'm thinkin specifically of the bed one. O, do try & keep up.)

Tracey Emin's artwork is a sort of slice of a weird little bit of the *Modern World*. The female bit especially. If you were gonna bury a Time Capsule in the Blue Peter garden, you should probably include something of hers. The famous bed would be something for future archeologists to look at. Provided they wearin gloves & had pegs on their noses. A portrait of the *Great Unwashed*. It's Emin MySpace. It's like looking through your noisy neighbour's window to see *WTF* has been going on over the weekend. What did she get up to?

In comparison, Damian Hurst's animal things - as pretty as they are - probably wouldn't tell you much about 21st century Britain. Emin's work would be there to represent all the ferment of internet bloggery, the self-questioning, self-loathing, celebrity obsessed, attention seeking world that we're all a part of...

Dame Tracey, the artist of our time and her time. Like it or not.

Her early work is like a *readymade* blog. The sewing/text stuff. It's like a habidashery version of the the original *home-pages* people started making back in the early internet days of - when? 1997? But round about the same time that she was doing her sewin - the html autodidacts were startin to present us with lots of excitin information about *what they had for their tea* & postin up pictures of their cat's new kittens. Wow. Nice. Taking 12 minutes to download the photos via your screechy modem cos the ejiits forgot to reduce the size of the cat pics. Usually downloadin em by mistake cos you were lookin for porn & your primitive search engine came up with that load of old kitten crap. (Yes, there's a joke there, but don't go searching for it...)

She lives & then the art happens as a by-product of her life. The art is ordered & polished detritus. Her brain has a burning need to expurge her thoughts and feelings. O, yeh, just like a blogger.

*In Real Life* some other artists like Jeff Koons or Andy Warhol are wallflower fellows producing Alpha art. But take away their art and they are nothing. Would you even notice them *In Real Life*. Koons would be a helpful shop assistant in a stationary store & Warhol would own a small painting & decorating business in Walsall. Emin in comparison, would have got sacked from her call centre job for telling a flirtatious customer to fuck off. Or for being unable to get out of her mucky bed in the morning and get to work on time. O, you'd notice her.

As in her life, so her art: chaotic, all over the place, messy, lacking any narrow aesthetic theme or methodology.

[Okay. Hands up. Confession time. The reason I'm writing all this guff is that she's got a career retrospective exhibition on at the moment in Edinburgh. I've not seen it, but I'm reviewing it anyway. Next week I will be reviewing a book I haven't read. O yes. Bring it on, my friend.]

Continuing unabated (and unabridged).

Compare and contract Trace with Rachel Whiteread. Whiteread seems like a determined sort; hard working, spends her time mouldin stuff out of concrete. And she's happy with that. That's what she does. Fair enough. But hard to imagine Emin still doing the *same* thing for 20 years.

  • Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
  • It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
  • When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art

Is she a dilettante? Perhaps. But you would say the same about her CV in our *alternative non-art reality*. Whiteread has build up a good business doing driveways and paving over weedy front gardens. It's a job, it pays well if you're prepared to put the hours in. Koons has his special offer on pencils. Warhols got a lot of work on doin up buy-to-let properties. Emin, meanwhile, has spent some time abroad, working in a bar. It didn't turn out that well. Then she got the call centre job, then a job in Boots the chemist when she came back. She ended up packin that in. She admits that she doesn't know what she is going to be doing tomorrow.

*Alternative Reality* Tracey lives her chaotic life and flatly holds out her hands to show us the life lines, the tattoos and scars.

I find her fascinating & eerily needy. The new baby clothes are creepy - but then they're meant to be. Probably. She has this desire to be loved that she spreads all over everything she does. Loved or wanted or pitied or understood - but then isn't that what all artists - across all media want?
"Emin's rude text on eBay
A swear word texted by art rebel Tracey Emin is up for sale on eBay for £20, labelled as art. The message, which reads simply 'T***', is being flogged by David West. He got the artist's number from a notice she put up in East London asking if anyone had seen her cat. He texted her a summary of a newspaper article about her and she sent back the obscenity. Mr West, of North London, is selling framed copies of the text. In an ad for BT, Emin said: 'Art's everywhere. A text message could even be art.'"

  • If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.
  • All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.

Screaming at people. It's what most artists do. Tryin to get attention one way or another. It doesn't matter what they're screaming about, so long as they have the passion, the energy, the desire to be noticed and to exist in the world. Sending furious texts. Sewing. Doing crappy little anguished paintings.

She's like a Jane Austen heroine transposed to the 21st century, aware that Mr Darcy is a bit of a dick n gettin on with her needlepoint to stop herself from going mad. She is never gonna be a mother, but eventually she will become a dame. Like all reviled eccentrics, we'll miss her when she's gone.

  • One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.
  • Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
  • The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
  • There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.

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