I wanted to write something serious about this lady and her art but instead found after reading the comments below the Guardian’s article: Tracey Emin’s Bed Sold at Auction for over £2.5m that perhaps it’s better to just go with the public’s view and agree that her art is ridiculous, except, I’m not going to stick to that view entirely either – not because I think her bed is art, or even fitting within the framework of conceptual art – for me it’s much too obvious, the statement of an unmade bed reflecting her frantic and depressed state of mind after the breakdown of a relationship, or many relationships is much too crudely made. So putting aside what is and is not art, I just want to discuss briefly why I think her work deserves some credit, if only as a statement of postmodern decadence.
A while back I read Emin’s book Strangeland, which though written terribly, was thoroughly engaging. Before that moment I hadn’t even realised that I was interested in the artist but as I delved deeper into her background and personal life I became aware of her tender consciousness and her deep inner plight. I realised from that reading that Emin had strong self-belief and an attitude that focused on well sort of self-flagellation or ruthless critiquing and frankness about what has happened to her in life, which perhaps is the reason for her success (she did not fear the reprisal that came with being so open). Without over-romanticising things, it became quite clear that her awful life-experiences had made her turn to art. Right now I can’t think of anyone else who has done what she has done in this particular way – that is of turning herself into the product; while the art might stand as a symbol – she or her life is the art. If placed under the banner of conceptualism, then her work fits neatly because her life can be interpreted through the art: she tells her personal tale through it. That tale might not be to our taste, but it’s the one that many people in today’s society recognise and in the end, is a statement of degradation.
Art critics and academics love her so much because they are able to analyse the work, us everyday people on the other hand have to work it out for ourselves and most of the time we’re just a humble public who do not care for theory but want to see art with merit and quality either as something that can be experienced meaningfully or which can be hung and displayed on the walls of our home. I don’t think the public is stupid so it’s a shame that the art world continues a façade giving the impression that there is a more knowledgeable ‘in-crowd’ who knows something much more about the art. On the other hand, perhaps they do…?
The comments on the Guardian’s website are hilarious and if anything should be put alongside one of Emin’s exhibitions as an ironic statement of the counter-productivity of unsatisfying art.