Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want

Ok, here’s a fun  and divisive activity: go up to a group of friends (or strangers) and tell them you’re excited to go see the Tracey Emin retrospective exhibition that’s currently on at the Hayward Gallery in London. I reckon, out of a group of ten, five or six will go ‘no, she’s a fraud/awful person/exhibitionist opportunist’, one or two might go ‘who?’ and carry on drinking and the final two, three or four might express something between vague, sheepish interest and an interest equal to yours (or, more accurately, mine.)
(If you're not sure who she is, maybe click the highlighted words and watch the videos below. I'm not actually sure how well know she is outside the UK.)

I went to see said exhibit earlier this month and I thought it was excellent. There, I said it. EXCELLENT. Moving and raw and immensely affecting. I think her work is vulnerable and touching and immensely powerful in its honesty. Also, I think her work on fertility, childhood and abortion (namely, her childhood, fertility and abortions) has gone some way to lifting the veil of secrecy and shame that tends to hang over such things, and I don’t understand how people target her for her controversy when she’s just expressing what has been a difficult and controversial life. Art is self-expression, after all, so what else would she express? Most of it is actually about a longing for love: familial, nostalgic, sexual, platonic. 

What I did find slightly creepy was the number of mothers with children and babies in prams watching the video installation How It Feels; if you’ve seen that you’ll probably be able to imagine how unsettling that might be. But then, I guess that’s the whole point of it. By expressing her own experience of it, she unites others who’ve experienced it but can’t, or don’t want to, say. Tellingly, there were people of all sorts there, and lots of them too.

Anyway, that’s probably enough from me, except to say GO AND SEE IT if you can, if only to put meat on the bones of the arguments against.

This is the gallery’s overview of the exhibit:

Her thoughts on the retrospective:

And a clip of a Sky Arts interview, ‘In Confidence’, in which Laurie Taylor exhibited, to me, a complete ignorance on the processes and meaning of art (that part isn’t really in this short excerpt though):

The Tracey Emin: Love is What You Want exhibit is at the Hayward Gallery until the 29th August 2011.

For more information on Tracey Emin, see her page on Artsy.

1 comment:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly! I've just been googling Tracey Emin and this exhibition in particular and have seen so many really critical voices; really nice to read your post and know I'm not the only person who found her work brave and moving :)
    I just posted my thoughts on the show here at my blog lipstickandteeth.wordpress.com if you would like to check it out!


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