Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Something's Wrong

From Tate Magazine, Issue 1, Something's Wrong: Melanie McGrath on Tracey Emin:
You see, Tracey Emin is narcissistic. And by that I don't mean that she loves herself. I mean that Tracey Emin loves an image which may or may not be herself but of which she can never be sure. I mean that Emin only half recognises her own projection. And this, of course, is why her work is so lonely, so furious and so demanding of attention. When you look at Tracey Emin's work you see the artist struggling to reach herself, compelled by her own self-consciousness to fail and condemned by the self-same thing to begin again. What you see up on the wall or in the bed or on the screen is Emin's own reflection, exiled. As a result Emin has been criticised for being nothing more than a biographical documentarist, concerned only with the mundane minutiae of her narcissistic personality. 'It's so unmediated, I wonder if it's art,' says Julian Stallabrass, a critic of Emin's work. But that is both to misunderstand and to miss the point. While it's true that little of Emin's work is a commentary on the business of art itself, Emin is herself the mediator between her experience and its expression. The human world consists in individual lives lived and the connections between them. By exposing her own life to public view, Emin makes those connections. Anxiety, neediness, powerlessness, exhilaration, tenderness, the fear that one is condemned to live inside a reflection of oneself, attached only to the image. Who hasn't felt these things? Who hasn't looked in the mirror and thought, 'There's something wrong'?

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