Tracey Emin: 'I know there's another world out there. I can't prove it. But I know it'

My Life In A Column: 'I should put aside more time to think about the people who are dead that I love. To conjure their voice'

Share
Related Topics

I am lying in bed, my eyes are just peeping over the covers. I'm staring at the grey of Docket's fur against the grey of my fake fur blanket, against the grey of the sky that's coming through the window. The air looks heavy and saturated and the grey looks like a colour that's been mixed. Half a tube of zinc white with the tiniest drop of Payne's grey, a couple of splashes of water and that's the colour of my sky.

It seems like I've spent weeks in bed, but that's the problem with being unwell, days and nights just seem to fade into one another and early morning really is early morning. I wake at 5am wanting to be filled with zest and energy, but instead I just lie on my back, my neck propped up with a pillow, listening to Radio 3. It has only recently dawned on me how much I really love classical music, music I know absolutely nothing about. I find myself happily absorbed for hours in the dream-like tranquillity of its sound. It feels real and uncontaminated, two adjectives that I find almost impossible to apply to anything these days.

I started being unwell about two weeks ago. I found myself lying in bed, hot and cold and shivery, the nape of my neck saturated in sweat. I said to my boyfriend on a Sunday afternoon: "I think this is what it feels like when you're going to die." And in my shivering state I went into a kind of delirium. I dreamt that I had closed the door behind me, the door of the house that I had lived in when I was a child. But now I was a super-fit adult wearing a black baseball cap and running gear. My body was muscley and well formed. There was zero fat.

I jogged down the alleyway towards the Britannia pub, eventually arriving at Fort Hill. But everything was different, the road had gone and the car park had tumbled into the sea. Broken bits of asphalt with tufts of grass moved and rocked slightly beneath my feet. I clambered down towards the beach, climbing in between the jagged rocks and asphalt.

The beach was beautiful: golden sands soft under my feet but just the right consistency to run on, the colour of the sea an amazing aquamarine, and as I squinted towards the sun, I could see silhouettes of figures flying the most beautiful kites. As I ran, my eyes remained focused on the movements of the sails of the kites as they danced around in the wind. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of happiness and freedom, but as my eyes followed the darting shapes, I realised my trainers were getting wet. The tide had come in and I was blocked off in a bay. I couldn't go forward, I could only go back, back the way I had come. I looked at the kite-flying figures to realise that they weren't real, they were just shadows on the sands.

I ran back toward the crumbling asphalt. The sea was becoming ferocious, spitting and licking at my thighs. Giant waves began to appear that at any second could just sweep me away. I clambered up on to the broken bits of tarmac, my hands grappling to hold on to whatever I could. I could feel my back getting wet and the sea spray covering my neck. I began to panic and cry as my nails were filled with the soft black tar, and my elevation seemed almost impossible. I panicked and looked for a stronger foothold. And then up above me, I saw my Nan. She said: "This way, come this way." She held out her hand and pulled me to the top, and just as I reached my destination of safety, she let go my hand and said: "I have to go now."

A few days later, I was in hospital with a temperature of 110. As I lay there, attached to my drip, I thought about my dream and I wondered whether it was a dream, or whether it was one of those near-death experiences. I wondered whether my Nan was saving my life, or whether she would have been leading me to another world.

It's so long since I have dreamt of her and to be honest, I don't think of her enough. I realise I should put time aside to think about the people who are dead that I love. To conjure their voice, their smell, the touch of their hair and their skin. To try and remember how someone truly was. I know there's another world out there. I can't prove it, but I know it. Since I was a child I have always known it.

This last couple of weeks I have been in and out of sleep, the twilight hours lasting longer than ever and the sleep patterns deeper than they have ever been before. It really feels like I have slipped into another world. Somewhere beautiful and peaceful, somewhere I can rest and sleep.

Tracey Emin's '20 Years' retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, closes on Sunday

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Unbiased': Former M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police