Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'I would seriously like to to stop being Tracey Emin for a while. I'd like to give me a shakedown'


When I woke up this morning I felt cold. Even though the covers were warm and snuggly, I, the person inside the covers, felt cold.

One of my favourite things at the moment is to wake from my cramped-up foetal position, roll over on my back, and stretch as much as possible, extending my legs from my hips as far as I can. Then I close my eyes and sleep again, waking usually 40 or 50 minutes later, feeling as though that was my real sleep; as though the night-time sleep was fake, a sleep of restlessness and agitation.

Today is a day when I feel I have no direction. I am just plodding around in an ungainly way like a Mrs Blobby, wearing some kind of sandwich board that reads with some kind of stupid slogan: "This way here." An ontolog-ical misdemeanour.

I was plodding my sandwich board down Harley Street today and I was really concentrating on the weather. In fact, I was actually looking at it. I stood still for a moment on the pavement and tried to look at the air. It was the kind of air that I knew when I was 17; the same kind of weather that I would wake up to on a Margate spring day. The sort of weather that, when it was sunny I had no objection to putting myself in, but when the wind came, and those bitter, ice-cold drops of rain, I would be filled with dread, with more contempt for the weather than on an ice-cold winter's day.

Every morning I would walk from the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop, along Northdown Road, past the Holy Trinity war memorial, up through Cecil Square, down to the clock tower and along the sea front. Every morning I would catch the train from Margate to Chatham. Every morning my ears would be red and swollen from being buffeted by the wind. Me, Tracey, a teenage commuter.

I liked my train journey, but I didn't really like the destination and, as corny as that sounds, it really is a metaphor for my life. I've always enjoyed that moment of being suspended. The little bit of no-man's land, the little bit of no one actually knowing where I am. I seem to crave that more and more these days. I would like to take some kind of sabbatical. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like this.) I would seriously like to stop being Tracey Emin for a short while.

It's like sometimes I have a fantasy that I would like to completely move out of my house and then move back in again. I would like to start from scratch, from new, collecting things that I love, but being neater, more refined. I made a poster once, in 1993, it said: "Clarity = Harmony".

I crave for harmony and I crave for clarity. That's why I'd like to stop being me for a while. I'd like to give me a big shakedown, give the bits of me that are tired a really good rest and slap the lazy bits around a bit.

I hardly ever go on journeys any more because now when I travel, in my head I'm just mentally getting somewhere, going somewhere. I'm so desperate for the gap between A and B that all I'm aware of is the gap, a void-like place, not the reality of the actual experience that I'm going through. I'd like to be a child again, in the back seat of a car, in a deep, deep sleep, being driven from one side of Europe to another.

That's a journey, that's a real journey. Waking up at different border patrols, my Dad cooking breakfast by the roadside on a Calor gas stove; catching the milk train from London to Margate at 3am, hiding under the seat when the guards came along, our hands and faces blackened from the spaces that were never cleaned; travelling across Turkey by coach with no end destination in mind, learning the contour lines of a map by the actual roads that we took.

All of these things and millions more flash through my mind as I stand still and try to look at the weather.

The mind is an incredible thing. Today, I went for a brain scan. Nothing to be scared of, or worry about, a usual procedure when someone suffers severe headaches over a long period of time. I lay there in this 2001: A Space Odyssey fandangled piece of machinery, and occasionally I would hear the woman say: "Tracey, you're doing really well." I had no idea what I was actually doing well at. I just lay there completely still, almost asleep, in fact at one point I think that I may have gone to sleep. There are really, really loud noises, like a strange kind of music, music from the future.

The brain scan machine, as it scans, makes the sound of the science fiction orchestra, and it's really nice. It was like being suspended for 40 minutes; I felt like I was floating, or that my mind was somehow completely detached from me. I imagined a cocooned pod with the action of a clam, and me being nicely tucked up inside it. No weather. No past. No future. No journey. Just me, suspended. That felt like a really nice place. But of course, I look forward to seeing the maps of my mind.

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