Tracey Emin: ‘My head and face became a flash, my body strangely sexy’

My Life In A Column
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The Independent Online

I feel like everything is going awry, like it’s definitely not right. I feel the pressure again, and I hate it with all my soul. I feel the enormous pressure of failure. I feel like I am not at peace with my own mind, like I am being torn apart. I feel very much alone. It’s as if the actions of my day are to just get through my day. I feel like I don’t want to do this any more. I just want to be me. I want to go away to a place of calm, a sleep where my eyes really close, where fear does not exist.

I looked into your eyes and they were not there –

Clouds fly over my head. A passing stream of consciousness. The day is blue, the nights draw out, but I long for those dark jet mornings of deep Prussian blue.

I am sick to death of waiting for another big idea. It’s just not necessary. Freedom of my mind, of my soul, that’s what’s necessary. A good way forward – to invent and live, not relive and reinvent. Put my paws in the old box and see what gets dragged out. A tragic, sad rehash of my old self – an old self that used to be so much younger, full of so much life. I feel today that I really don’t want to do this any more. I am trying to make sense of it all – living – being an artist. Almost not living – everything held back by an invisible string, a small fence that divides me, the real me from the real world.

Today, I feel utterly separate from it. I can’t touch or feel anything. My eyes even have a slight invisible scrim that moves up and down every time I open and close my lids – fuzzy world. YES, fuzzy world. Nothing is hard, nothing sharp. I am very spongy, soft, holey, a little bit yellow - very, very spongy. I am today what is around me, a jaundiced place – sad yellow completions racing to the end of the line.

Apparently today I look happier. Maybe it’s because I swam for the first time in seven weeks. Or maybe it’s because today when I woke up I knew I was going to swim, enter the other element, feel light, weightlessness, not to be attached to the painful standing world.

Today I am very concerned for a friend, for friends. My concern has somehow turned in on itself, on to me. From caring for others I am now left almost loathing myself. I am left with too much me. That is very unhealthy. I need to be busier, more active. Now I’m arguing with myself. I need to slow down, sit back, not join in.

Today, I feel like I have wasted |a lot of my life. Nothing is in the |right place.

How do we measure achievement? Self value? I have rarely, ever, looked in a mirror and felt good. The last time was 2004 just after I had smashed my leg up. I took a photo – a very Helmut Newton kind of thing – in a mirror. My head and face became a flash, my body strangely sexy with my leg in a cast. I took the photo to keep the memory. Now I have the memory and it keeps the photo.

Apart from the pain in my leg, I wish I could look like that again. But my mind, my brain, was a giant slurping bowl of intense unhappiness, severe loneliness and terrible self-doubt. But somehow I took the photo, always creative, making something of the moment, enjoying all my handy craft, touching base with myself. Now it’s like my hands are a million miles from my brain, like a disjointed puppet, jerking one way then the other, not really having any control.

Time is a really horrible state – as in a place. I wish time did not exist. I want to be free from everything that entraps me, makes me human – the day, the night, the food, the love – I wish I could just float away.

But no one does, life is utterly painful, measured, there is very little freedom out there.

Today I am like a beauty queen. I want to make the world a better place but I don’t want to travel and speak other languages. I just want to lay in bed and delegate. I want to be in control, or at least take control.

I am going to leave the studio now. After another day of mulling around, on nothing, not starting, not thinking, just hoping my brain will snap into gear. I don’t have a creative block, a have a strange shadow of depression – it gets bigger with fear. That’s why I want to be young again. If only I can readjust the fear – if I knew then what I know now!

Today, we were looking through a series of very old drawings. There was a complication with the date. About 60 drawings, all together, all done at the same time, some dated June 1991, others dated May 1st 1990. The dates made no sense. Then I remembered I wrote two dates on the drawings. One date on some to show when I made them, the other date on others to show when the drawings first existed in my mind, and one had both dates. I did it that way to make life simple. But, of course, nothing is fucking simple. It took us a while to decipher my code. It’s lucky I’m here. What the hell would happen if I wasn’t around?