Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'I want to be free, but am I a little bit too old to be dancing alone in front of a giant mirror?'
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The Independent Online

Prosecco, prosecco, prosecco. Out in the garden. Should be writing the column. Extra dry. No, seriously, sometimes I can be a bit reckless and leave my column to the last moment. Sometimes it goes in my favour and makes it slightly more spunky, and other times it's just completely flat!

Last week must have been just flat, flat, flat. But it was entitled to be. Firstly, I was really stressed out because I was doing all the promotion for my DVD, Topspot, released by Tartan, signing today at the Tate Modern between 7pm and 8 pm. Secondly because I was off to Belfast.

Yes, yes, as my friend Stephen Webster said on the plane: "Just for the crack of it!" The crack of it was helping James Nesbitt and others raise £280,000 for Wave Trauma, a charity set up to help children and young people affected by the troubles in Northern Ireland. Where's the charity to help us with our hangovers? A 48-hour drinking marathon! If there's one thing I can say about Belfast: it's very cold outside, it's very hot inside. Air conditioning seems to be a non-existent word. Everyone decided that my sleeping on the bathroom floor was a cool stroke of genius as I had sadly bottled out after only 12 hours of drinking.

It's fantastic being an artist. Being able to create something, which is so desirable that it can help others. Almost everything I do now has a certain palatability. For some kinds of work there are waiting lists all around the world and I'm banging my head against the wall, saying: "If I make another blanket I will go absolutely insane!" I want to protect and love all the blankets I've ever made. When I make work I want to be able to see the work in my mind. And as corny as this sounds, I can't live with myself if I see only £s and $s. Pound and dollar signs with a big Bugs Bunny would actually make a good blanket - but that's not what the collectors are waiting for.

Next week I'm going to the Baltic, not the Baltic seas, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. But I do often think about the Baring Sea. Sometimes I have nightmares about it. I did this morning. It's a very calm sea and ships will suddenly disappear because of 100ft waves that appear from nowhere, like giant tongues taking the ships out of the sea. Sorry, I just went off on a bit of a tangent there. Back to the art gallery.

Apparently it's a very large space. Some artists don't bother to go and view spaces they are going to be exhibited in. They send their assistants and they have small maquettes, and often this does the job very well, as, being international, it is extremely difficult to visit every site. In 1996, a year before I had my show at the South London Gallery, David Thorpe, the then director, very proudly handed over a miniature South London Gallery. Two months before my show, on a final studio visit, he looked quite alarmed to see the contents of the miniature gallery filled with a ball of orange wool, a crochet hook and a packet of Marlboro Lights. (But it was my local gallery at the time.)

Back to this large Baltic space. I think maybe I should do something completely different. Maybe even an idea that I had for a show in 1997 with the German curator Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen at the Hamburg Kunstverein. I would live and work in the giant empty gallery space for six weeks, and every day I would have a budget to make one piece of work. And every day I would have to present my ideas to the gallery director to see if they were agreeable. My first idea was to light a fire in the centre of the gallery, which apparently would have blown my budget for the complete duration of the project. My next idea was to mirror an entire wall - the wall being something like 100ft-by-20ft - then I would fly a friend's band over and dance in front of the mirror. Again I had blown the budget. These ideas went on, and on, but eventually it would have made an incredible show. The performance of making art seems a great idea for the Baltic.

But this is an idea I had 10 years ago. Am I hankering after something that has already gone? Am I a little bit too old to be dancing alone in front of a giant mirror? Or maybe it's just a crap idea and I'm just being sentimental for the youth and audacity of young art.

I want to be courageous in what I do and, as corny as it sounds, I never want to rest on my laurels. At the moment I feel like I want to smash everything up and tear everything down. I want to turn myself inside out. I want to enjoy my moment of confusion, but at the same time, not feel that I am standing on the border of the reckless and insane. I want to be free. When I was at the Royal College, in the courtyard, I smashed all my work up (just for the record, they were painted on wood) with a sledgehammer. I was screaming at my paintings calling them every name under the sun. Like Lady Macbeth, my hands were covered in blood, blisters were bursting one by one. It is soul destroying to create something which cannot be loved. I learnt my lesson. Now back to the prosecco. Extra dry.

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