Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tracey Emin's "My Bed" is filthy, dirty work.

I'd have to be in a full blackout to crawl into that cesspool. And, yet, I have - whilst in and out of blackouts. Not this specific bed, per se, but others just like it. I have actually chosen to occupy such spaces. I'm not proud that I have lain in such filth and I hope I won't ever return to such a state, but it's there. Woven into my story. And now it's here. On this page. For people I do and do not know to read and wonder aloud, What. The. Fuck?!

What makes this work relevant to me is that I know what it's like to wake up and not recognise oneself, where I am or what I have been doing. To come to and suddenly see the layers of self-destruction piled up to a state of unnaturalness. That terrible, miserable moment when one realises that she has failed herself:
I am not that person.
I'm definitely not that person.
I can't be that person!
Good people don't live like this.
I don't live like this.
But then, why am I here?
How did I get this way?
How do I get out?
Fuck. Fuck me. Fuck my life. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Emin's work is breathtakingly sad. Tragic and beautiful in all its honesty. I want to hold the woman she was and tell her it really can get better. That life does not have to be one blackout to the next. Passing out. Coming to. Waiting for the next fix. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Love. Hate. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Unprotected sex. Public sex. Drinking at home so you won't get kicked out of other places anymore. Drinking alone so you won't have to listen to other people complain about your drinking. Having to justify yourself to even yourself. Finding, searching, praying for relevance. Purpose. Anything to make this part of your life not be a complete and total fucking disaster like it already is.
Tracey, life can have purpose. You can be proud of yourself again.
But you got out of it! I watched your interview on Tate Britain's website. You got out of that fuckhole and you're grateful it gave breath to your art. I have so much respect for your honesty. Your willingness to share how fucking horrible that life had gotten. Your work, this work, is really important to those of us who have known what death is like whilst walking, waking, watching oneself come to out of that fucking fuckshow, to blaze amongst the shadow and not know thy own name. That nightmare that chokes us until we give up. I've been there, Tracey. And so have you. And now you're somewhere else, making art and being acknowledged for your art.
In Tate's four-minute interview of you, you had been drinking "like a fish", hadn't eaten in weeks, probably, and passed out for four days in your bed. When you came to, you couldn't believe who and where you were and what you had become. And in that instant you knew, you knew, the entire mess of it had to be inside a museum. This is your redemption. Was it worth it, Tracey? For you, was the death of you worth it? I think so. And I'm grateful. Thank you.
For those of us sober, in recovery, this piece holds massive significance. I don't know if Tracey Emin is "a friend of Bill" (not you, WAN, "BN" for short - but Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA), probably not, but for those of us who have worked all Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (clearly, I am not "anonymous" in my own recovery) can recognise the fearlessness and searching moral inventory one has to perform to take this bed, with all its sodden shit and put it into a fucking museum. It's beautiful. So brave. Honestly, work like this can help get other people clean and sober. It has the potential to effect them as it effects me and force them to ask themselves, What am I doing with my life? My life has elements of her bedside. That cannot be healthy. How can I make myself healthy again? Anyway, that's enough out of me.

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