Art and cities


Tracey Emin and the Web confessional

Tracey Emin, the well-known modern artist who should have won the 1999 Turner Prize, but didn't, produces autobiographical art -- art which is about herself. Her works have included the famous embroidered tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-95 (1995), the book about her childhood Exploration of the Soul (1994), the Tracey Emin Museum in a shop on Waterloo Road (1995-98), and her bed, My Bed (1998).

Critics were forced to note that, whether you liked it or not, the public visiting the Tate's exhibition were much more visibly engaged by Emin's work than that of the other Turner Prize nominees (including the eventual winner, Steve McQueen).

People are fascinated by the raw openness of her work.

What has this got to do with web culture? Well, Emin's controlled exhibition of self clearly has something in common with all those websites which people make about themselves [this one is not excluded from this point].

Art as confessional.

The artist as maverick, 'outsider' celebrity.

We love it.

The Web, of course, makes it easier for more people to have a go at this themselves, in a public space. The Web, in this way, is being Eminised by lots of people with a few bytes of webspace and a story to tell.

Whilse there is a certain amount of hype about the anonymity of the internet, most personal webpages are clearly authored by someone who is quite happy to be identified in a public space (like Tracey).

Emin has said: 'There should be something revelatory about art. It should be totally new and creative, and it should open doors for new thoughts and new experiences'.

Matthew Collings has written: "After [1993ish] I would see Tracey Emin at various gallery openings. She would just launch into talking about herself in a way that would have been quite strange if it was anyone else, and actually was quite strange when she did it, but she did it so often it began to seem normal. Which in a way is the story of her art." (Blimey!, 1997, p. 108).

And about My Major Retrospective, an early-ish autobiographical exhibition: "The exhibition told her life story in notes and diary and memorabilia form. It was a story which seemed tragic and hard and mostly set in Margate, with a disturbing streak of sexual abjection running through it. But it was full of passion and striving and liveliness. It was a good idea to do art that had a lot of feelings and warmth but some irony too." (Blimey!, 1997, p. 110).

Lots of people are doing a similar thing on the Web. They may not call it 'art' in the same way -- maybe it's part of a separate culture -- but it's made in the same spirit.

See also the Tracey Emin Trading Card at

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