Susie Rushton: This isn't art, it's a focus group

Share
Related Topics

More Passion, it reads. Or, rather, "More PAssion", because Tracey Emin's neon artworks are based on her own handwriting – ungrammatical tics and all.

As of this weekend, those two words have been illuminating a dark corner of a Downing Street stairwell, just outside the door to the Terracotta Room (I don't dare imagine its decor; have they never heard of Farrow and Ball?). According to one unimpressed "insider", the effect of the cherry-coloured neon haze emanating from Emin's artwork is rather louche, "like the entrance to a nightclub".

Her generous gift to the Government Art Collection – and to her friend David Cameron – is intriguing for several reasons. It confirms the Prime Minister as a man with his finger on the pulse – if the pulse in question were beating in 1997. A purist might argue that art should exist independently of fashion, but Emin's much-imitated neon signs became such a popular signifier of Britart that it's hard not to see them and instantly be transported back to the age of Liam and Patsy, Tony Blair and Sensation at the Royal Academy.

Cameron could have asked her for one of her wall-hangings or monoprints. But neon was very much the PM's choice. On a visit that Emin paid to No 10 earlier this year, Cameron apparently "dragged" her to the corner of the notoriously poky building that needed to become "edgy" (her word).

Then there's the choice of phrase. We know that Emin tried to avoid using "rude" words that are featured in many of her other neons. So choice statements such as "Is anal sex legal", a phrase used in a previous work, were out of the question. But most of her other illuminated works express a heartfelt phrase, such as "Keep me safe" or "I promise to love you" or "You forgot to kiss my soul". Working on the Downing Street commission, Emin searched for a slogan that would be also be fitting for "all the dignitaries and world leaders and religious groups" herded through the corridor.

If the final choice of words sounds a bit flat, perhaps even focus-grouped, it passed the taste test for Cameron. You can see why. "More passion" has the ring of the motivational management expert. "Passion" – no longer in this age used to mean the opposite of "reason" – has become a business buzzword.

"Passion" is a Sugarism, a synonym for ambition, and application. It's not hard to think of blue-sky genius Steve Hilton cycling to Whitehall in a T-shirt that reads "More passion", is it? One imagines that when the Prime Minister took delivery of the artwork, he must have looked at the thing, and thought to himself: yes, that sums me up. So what is it that Cameron and George Osborne and their drones are supposed to be more passionate about? Reforming the NHS? Removing the 50p tax rate for top earners? Looking and sounding really late-Nineties? Could be ...

The sting in summer's tail

Stop worrying about being eaten alive by a shark: it's wasps you should be afraid of. Late in the summer they are more aggressive than a rampaging gang of feral rioters. At least two Britons die each year after being speared by the wasp's venomous sting, and although it's usually people with pre-existing allergies that suffer the worst outcomes, a bad encounter with a pack of wasps (and they definitely work together) could hospitalise any of us.

Last week, in an incident that wasn't splashed across the front pages of all the tabloids, 70-year-old Jeanette Duncan and her husband George were set upon by a swarm as they walked along the road near Chelmsford, Essex; Mrs Duncan was so badly stung that it caused a fatal cardiac arrest. Mostly, though, wasps are very, very annoying; we spent a balmy lunchtime in a pub garden on Sunday being dive-bombed, apparently thanks to a combination of beer, brightly coloured T-shirts and fragrance around our table (the current trend for fruity-smelling scents is particularly alluring to them, apparently). It's enough to make me hope summer should just call it a day already.

How the gap year turned into a luxury purchase

I learnt to scuba-dive, pick industrial amounts of tomatoes, and probably ruined my skin through too much sunbathing, but can I say my "gap year" was a life-changing experience? Not exactly. It taught me how to save up for something, as I worked for six months to pay for the following half a year travelling around the world, but I don't think I'd kid myself it was educational, not unless there's a qualification for lying on a beach.

I did my trip in between a university degree and a post-grad course, and in retrospect it seems preposterously self-indulgent. But as more A-level students put off a year of travel in order to go straight to university and avoid higher fees, it's beginning to look like the gap year, once a rite of passage for middle-class youth, could go the way of first-time buyer mortgages.

s.rushton@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michelle Mone attends the annual Serpentine Gallery summer party at The Serpentine Gallery on June 26, 2013 in London, England.  

Michelle Mone made millions selling bras and now dares to enter the House of Lords - what would Lord Sewel and Alan Sugar say?

Kate Maltby
Jeremy Corbyn could be about to pull off a shock victory over the mainstream candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall (AFP/Getty)  

Win or lose, Corbyn will set the agenda unless Labour speaks up

Isabel Hardman
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen