Saw Tracey Emin’s exhibition at the Hayward – mainly out of curiosity. I wasn’t really expecting much but I did want to see the famed bed. My spirits weren’t lifted by the words of the ticket collector as we went in: “it’s not my cup of tea…” and on entering the first room my expectations seemed to have been met.
The corrugated hut built on stilts, later explained to me as being built in memory of her father who loved to hear the rain against the roof, dominates the room. On the walls, stitch edged blankets hold written or sewn messages from Tracey as a schoolgirl. Shades of Pink Floyd and the Wall. Neon signs blaze out messages of love and sex. I’m starting to get the picture of an adolescent’s yearning for love through sex.
Through to the next room filled with memorabilia. A huge black and white picture of her family at a jolly outdoor celebration covers one wall, glass cabinets filled with notes and pictures of a museum of art somewhere in Camden. This for me is where it starts to get really interesting.
There is a picture called “goodbye mummy” with embroidered flowers emanating from the womb of the outline of a woman. There are used tampons, with an explanation of her type of bleeding and her acceptance of when it will be over. There is a wordless, looped film of her riding a pony on Margate beach (her hometown) and a graphic shot of her face as she looks into the camera and steers the pony away. It should be funny – like someone pretending to be a wild west heroine, but it leaves you feeling uneasy. There is a film of her being interviewed about her abortion. I don’t know whether or not it was filmed for this exhibition or was filmed some time ago. It is very moving.
Her voice is like a sincere child’s voice and thinking about, it that’s what this exhibition is all about for me. The ebullience, wonder and curiosity of a child, taken beyond into adulthood. The fantastic acceptance of it all. It mentioned in the notes that Tracey Chapman first received recognition when she was interviewed for an arts programme on TV. The impact of a voice can never be underestimated.