Tracey Emin; My Life In A Column

'The only time I haven't looked in the mirror and loathed myself is when I've been dangerously thin'
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I'm back. I'm back. I'm on the right track. People have been saying: "Hey Trace, what have you been doing the last couple of months while you haven't been writing your column?" Like as if I don't have anything else to do. But to be really honest I haven't done that much. Well not as much as I usually do. It's as though I've gone down a couple of gears. Slower, slower, slow. Mentally as well as physically.

The one thing I have managed to do exceptionally well is put on a ton of weight - 10 whole, fat kilos. At first it was OK because it seemed to be all in the bust - and then suddenly one day none of my clothes fitted me. From a size 10 to a size 14 is a pretty big leap when you only wear designer labels. I never used to understand it when women would say they couldn't go somewhere because they had nothing to wear. But it's not about the wearing; it's about the feeling.

I'm going to admit something now and be really honest. The only times in my life where I haven't looked in the mirror and loathed myself are the times when I have been dangerously thin. The less there is of me, the more I like of me. Now, the reason why that's an admission is because I'm quite brainy and not that unhinged. I'd like to sound all psychologically cleaned up but I can't, because part of me still hangs on to the anorexic teenager. But anyway, that's not my problem at the moment.


My problem is that it's half past three in the afternoon and I'm lying in bed with what I can only describe as a mild case of bubonic plague. I'm surrounded by Lemsip, Beechams Powders, cough medicine and Panadol. And I smell. That horrible, weaselly, cold smell. Damp. Normally this wouldn't be such a big deal. I'd just potter around and get over it. But today I have to thrust myself up and force myself to be a media person. Another book signing - my fifth this month.

This time it's for my paperback, Strangeland. At the moment, lying here, I am trying to conserve all my energy, as tonight I may have to meet and greet hundreds of people. And all of these people will tell me their names. At the same time as I will be smiling and shaking their hands, part of me will feel afraid, because I just never know who is actually standing in front of me.

But what is considerably worse at a book signing is when there is nobody standing in front of you. The other week I was sitting in Borders on Charing Cross Road surrounded by mountains of my book. My giant tome-like book. I was quite pleased at the end when the security guard came and bought one. I had been sitting there for a good hour saying: "Hello. I'm Tracey Emin, the Alan Partridge of the art world." It really is quite humiliating, even for someone like me who is never at a loss for something to say and quite splendid in times of adversity. It's so embarrassing when no one turns up. You have to go all existential on yourself. And sometimes they make an announcement in the shop and that means that people will come and stare at you. Oh God, I'm dreading tonight! This is not me moaning and whining. This is me trying to express how it is to muster up the energy to go out, to put a face on what I do. It's as though I become public property.


And now my brain has come to a complete grinding halt. I can't think, I can't write. It's because, mentally, I just don't feel sharp. I'm out of practice of being on the ball. I've got to get my head back in that gym. I've got to pull myself through that water. Relinquish that mental stodge. Release the silt that clogs up my veins. I have sworn to God that from tomorrow I will be totally focused.

Oh, I forgot to say - I do have some big news. If you haven't already heard, I'm going to be representing Great Britain in the 2007 Venice Biennale. And for anyone who doesn't know what this means exactly, I will explain simply: it's the World Cup of art. And I am your British team! With this appointment comes a great deal of honour, but also a vast amount of responsibility. Only three women in the 100-year history of the Biennale have represented Britain. It's a fucking big deal! In Venice there is a garden and in the garden there are all the different countries' pavilions. It's sort of nationalism in a really sweet way.

For example, the Japanese Pavilion looks really Japanese. The Australian Pavilion is a cross between something beachy and a mini Sydney Opera House. The British Pavilion is somewhat colonial. As you walk up the steps, words and phrases like Britannia, God Save the Queen, Queen Mary, King George, double-decker buses, red postbox - all things British fly around your head like a giant Union Jack blowing in the wind. Which is really cool for someone like me who is half-Turkish. I am the epitome of what it is to be British now. Everything is all in place. I'm not afraid; I'm just really excited. The big thing now is to be focused and make the work. And that's the biggest challenge of all. It's great to be back!

PS: I forgot to say, my show in Rome opened last week at the Galleria Lorcan O'Neill.