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Monday, 18 April 2016

Tracey Emin, “Minnefuckinghellholeshittingapolis” and The Art History Audience

I enjoyed reading about Young British Artists at the weekend in Did Britart Change the World, especially the bit about Tracey Emin, who always struck me as having a lot that went beyond the formulaic and the superficial and is a gobshite in the good sense of the word at least some of the time,

This is what the article said about Emin showing in Minneapolis which I thought I'd reproduce for my friends in Minneapolis.

 At the 1995 show Brilliant!, at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis (or in Emin’s words, “Minnefuckinghellholeshittingapolis”), Emin exhibited her tent sewn with the names of everyone she had ever slept with. When she tried to remove it, because it was installed in a noisy space, she was informed she wasn’t allowed to take it off the premises. “I was told by the curator that, with my attitude, I would never show in an American museum again,” she says. And his prophecy proved true for nearly two decades.

I saw her bed at Tate Britain for the first time two weeks ago and really enjoyed it; the overflowing ashtray, the stains and the greyness of the sheets, the sauce sachets, it's not just a female bed. As I approached it there were two young guys filming and one said to the other, "If you allow this, then you allow anything," Which he meant in a bad way. But round the bed itself, nobody had that sentiment. The bed had an audience (see the picture below) that completely understood where she was coming from. I completely understood where she was coming from.

Emin's bed, and its audience, reminded me of  Amelia Jones and her ideas on extending the audience and art history. It seems a curious thing to say about something that practically has its own room in Tate Britain, shared only with a few Bacons, but the quote fits.

“For me, art history is really about studying history through the lens of culture. But the truth is that art history as a discipline remains remarkably conservative and has steadfast ideas about what art is supposed to be — all of which is steeped in its European foundations. From very early on I found myself interrogating the structures of the discipline, by asking such questions as, ‘Where are the black artists? The women artists?’ In my work I also started challenging the neutrality of art history, and I came to increasingly believe that my job, the position I took onto myself in art history, was to find the artists who had not been written about in art history and to make visible the structural, often invisible, biases within the field which led to these artists not getting the attention that they deserved.”

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