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Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin: 'I've told Art to keep away. We're going to have a trial separation...'

My Life In A Column

This week Art has really left me. Even when I tried to hold its foot as it made its escape through the front door, and I screamed: "Art, don't leave me, I love you, I love you!" Art seemed to be going somewhere else, a place it could reside in a lot more comfort than inside my mind.

Art is as good to me as I am to it. And at the moment we seem to be arguing quite a lot. I want to hang on the side of creativity and Art wants to hang on the side of practice. I want to be a free spirit and paint mad love poems across the gallery walls, and Art wants me to slave and labour using every bit of knowledge I know, but I want to abandon everything I know. I need to be free. I need to be fresh. I don't want to be held by the restraints of my own language. Anyway, Art had enough this week and just walked out on me.

As it rolled out of my mind like a big, voluminous balloon I jumped out of bed and chased it down the stairs. Half of it escaped through my dressing room window; the rest floated down to the ground floor and tried to make a swift exit through the letterbox. This is where I caught it. This is when I started screaming. I was screaming with my frustration and the agony of being split in two minds over what I need and what I believe in with regard to Art.

I have some really big shows coming up and I wish so much that I didn't. There somehow is never enough time and it's always about a couple of months before a new show with new work that I begin to doubt myself immensely. I give myself a harder time than any critic would ever dream of giving me. And at the moment, my big question is integrity. Everyone is grappling around for money; everyone is desperate for it now. And I really don't want to be. On the other hand, I could be having an unhealthy reaction and cutting off my nose to spite my face. Career suicide. Oh, I long for the days when there was absolutely nothing to lose. But that's the kind of argument I've been having with Art. Art and everything I've worked for. My world, the mini world of Emin, dictates that there is a lot at stake but in reality: who actually gives a fuck?

Art did have a slight reprieve this week: I went to my friend Rebecca Warren's show at the Serpentine and I thought that it was really amazing. My only regret was seeing the work surrounded by so many people. But I've said this before: Art can't exist without the people. I wish that I were looking at her work really early in the morning, about 7am, when the first clear skies are there. I can imagine all her rough insane materials being filled with a total new entity of early light. I also imagined her working in her studio smiling as she picked up a piece of polystyrene and a piece of fluff and neatly wedged it into the crack of Perspex. I enjoy so much the freedom of her work. Her work is incredibly "Aphrodite at the Waterhole", as in the rebel Tony Hancock. True genius.

I even realised yesterday, whilst lying in bed all day long, why I drink a lot sometimes and dance like a lunatic, like I did on Monday night at Rebecca's party. One is to be celebratory, and the other is to really step outside of my own mind, the absolute desire to be free. As an artist, when you don't feel free, free with your ideas and your creativity, you feel suffocated. And the worst thing about this suffocation is that as you slowly start to become faint, nothing really matters, just your own breath. Everything you have made, invented, mastered, taught, learnt really does become so unimportant. And that is a very horrible feeling.

This week, I have far too much to do and I have far too much to do now. I have to condense a whole day's work within the next three hours. All I would like to do is play some really loud music, drink two bottles of red wine, and make some really wild paintings. It would be like a holiday. As I write this I can clearly imagine myself doing it. I want me back. Me the physical being doing what I should be doing, good or bad, following the correct trajectory, going up, not down.

Tomorrow, I have to go to Berne to install my 20 Years travelling charabang show. It will look good and it will look very different there.

But, again, I will be holding on to my own past, when what is so important for me at the moment is to be concentrating on my future. On a daily basis, time is being taken away from me. My head is in a state of scrambled flux.

I've told Art to keep away from me. We're going to have a 10-day trial separation. Hopefully, by the time I come back from Berne, Art will be happily re-ensconced in my heart and soul, as well as my mind.