Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'I feel very good tucked up in bed on the 53rd floor. Tiny, insignificant and safe. But I dream that I am a giant'
Click to follow

I'm sitting in the bath. My head is tilted at a 45-degree angle and my eyes peer between the slats of the blind. Vertical and horizontal stripes appear before me, as my eyes make out the distance between the shadows of the buildings below. My exhausted body is soaking on the 53rd floor. The Hudson River, the warehouses, and the 12th,11th, 10th and 9th Avenues are splayed out before me like majestic ribbons. Tiny dots of humanoids and the metallic spangle of automobiles move around below like enchanted ants.

The view from my window has been my preoccupation over the last few days. I'm waiting for the Queen Mary to arrive. She is supposed to dock directly at my 12 o'clock and produce the most fantastic view. As a teenager I imagined arriving in New York by ship and, as I disembarked, Andy Warhol would be standing on the quayside ready to greet me. The simple enjoyment of David Bowie lyrics, "Andy Warhol looks a scream/ Hang him my wall-all-all', as a teenager, made me wonder who this Andy Warhol was. Even without knowing, I still wanted him there to meet me. I now wonder when I arrive in New York if I am met by the ghost of Andy Warhol.

I often believe that art history hangs next to the next piece of art history. I believe all artists and ideas are connected by an invisible line. I have come to New York this week specifically to look at art. I was so excited on the flight from Sydney with my little diary; planning and plotting to visit this show, that show, this museum, that museum. To be in New York sober, without a hangover, clear headed, sprightly and enthusiastic: these are reasons for excitement, but the harsh reality is that I have hardly left my 53rd floor. Jet lag has hit me like some evil spell numbing my mind and body to a frightening disability. It's like I am stuck inside myself and I can't get out. I did make it down to the 36th floor for a swim but I swam like somebody who has been resurrected and the pieces have not been put back together properly again; my head resolutely jutting from my hipbone, legs attached to my shoulder-blades and almost an impossibility to move through the water with any grace or ease whatsoever.

Today I have decided to just go with it. I will have to give New York a miss and concentrate on what is possible in my own mind: slowly working to the corners of my room and physically venturing to the 35th floor, making communication with reception and, finally, jetting myself out through the lift down to the ground floor and throwing myself out onto Columbus Circle.

In the early evening there is a stage of euphoria when twilight starts to come and everything from my window looks sparkly and magical, but it doesn't matter how things look if you feel flat within yourself. The outside world can be sharp and brutal. I feel very good tucked up in bed on the 53rd floor. I feel tiny and safe and totally insignificant. I go to sleep dreaming of miniature-pony-and-trap races. I dream that I am a giant stepping over roads and looking down on buildings.

I have a completely different perspective. I don't think it's truly due to the height where I am, I think it's mainly due to the journey that I have taken. In my life I have been to the parties in New York, the art openings, the special dinners and now I prefer to treat New York more as a pilgrimage. I'm happy to lay in bed for a week, sort out my head and maybe go and visit one or two very special pieces of art. My sober, uncontaminated mind is not ready for the onslaught of images and an everyday barrage of noise. I'm still really busy editing everything out.

To me, luxury is no TV, no book, no iPod, no internet; to lay here in this warm water with absolutely nothing apart from what enters my mind. People talk about having nothing to do being boring but for me this is the ultimate luxury, something that touches a level of divinity. I am often made to feel like a philistine: I don't go to the cinema enough; I don't go to the theatre enough; I've been to one ballet in my whole entire life. I have fallen asleep during two operas and walked out of one (though, according to my opera-aficionado friends, on that occasion I did the right thing!).

I am happy looking out of the window, although I rarely ever daydream, I just think until a point where my brain is going to explode. Lately, I have thought about the good and the bad, and does it really exist? How far does the pendulum swing or is it just our peculiar notions? I constantly sit around questioning my own level of morality, my levels of truth and honesty. I question the fact that I never ever want to lie again, but I know that's a totally unrealistic way of thinking and an impossibility. How important is honesty and how different is it from truth?

This is what makes it difficult for me to go out. I want to talk about these things. I want to share these ideas with other people, but the world out there is too busy being social. I find constant small-talk, as lovely as it is, crippling and soul-destroying. So for now, I might just give the New York social whirl a miss and stare out of my window, watch the Queen Mary dock and see myself disembark as a carefree 17-year old, excitedly clasping a copy of Andy Warhol's From A to B and Back Again.

Comments