In an interview with the Mirror, former enfant terrible Tracey Emin reveals that her ex-boyfriend, who she dated when she was just 14 and he was 22, is auctioning off her old love letters. Emin is pissed.
Although Emin does not see herself as a celebrity, she has become somewhat of a famous figure, even outside the art world. She has laid her life bare, exposed her history of abuse and depression within her art, which, coupled with her drunken appearance on live television, has made her into an attractive subject for scandalized discussion. But Emin still finds herself surprised when she is recognized on the street. She says,
"When people recognise me, they say strange things like, ‘I knew it couldn't be you'...
"But it is me. Anyway I'm not a celebrity I'm an artist. I do something. A lot of young people think fame is a shortcut to success. They forget that the footballer has been training since he was 11 or 12, and has given up so much to be in that position."
Although Emin has divulged much of her past willingly, her ex-boyfriend has decided to reveal a whole lot more, without Emin's consent. He is auctioning off some explicit letters she wrote to him as a young teen. "That's iffy, isn't it? Selling a 14-year-old girl's love letters?" she asks. "People say, 'Oh you put his name in the tent,' but it didn't say whether I'd slept with him and now that tent's burnt anyway." (The tent Emin is referring to was titled Everyone I've Ever Slept With, and embroidered with the names of everyone she had shared a bed with between 1963-1995, including her grandmother). As Emin points out, revealing the name of a 22-year-old man she slept with (in either sense of the phrase) at 14 is rather different from auctioning off the explicit thoughts of a troubled 14-year-old girl. "I was 14! What was he thinking? I was up for it but even so. Someone who is 19 got done the other day for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old," she added. Whether or not Emin was "up for it" at the time (or whether any 14-year-old can be "up for it"), the fact that the same man who took advantage of her at a very young age continues to exploit Emin over 30 years after the fact is disgusting. It also raises the question, once you open the door with confessional art or writing, is it possible to retain a sense of privacy?
Emin's interview touches on another issue that has been on her mind a lot lately: Children. Emin is 46, and she says she has finally come to terms with the fact that she will not have kids. "It has been really difficult," she says. "For the last few years, I've been secretly hopeful." She says part of the difficulty comes from societal pressures:
"As an older woman without children, society sees you as pretty redundant. Especially because you lose your looks.
"But you have to force yourself to think, ‘Maybe the mirror's not so important.' Rather than thinking, ‘I've got to get my breasts raised or get some Botox,' why not think, ‘I'm going to learn French'?
"I learned to drive last year. It was the best thing I've ever done in my life. And now I'm going to learn how to speak French."
To this, Mirror writer Miranda Sawyer writes, rather patronizingly, "I think Tracey needs to do less, not more." But Emin has no interest in slowing down. She has just released a new book, One Thousand Drawings, and will open a major show in New York in November, and contribute to two others in London. Whether she likes it or not, Emin is only growing more famous as her career rolls on. Hopefully no other assholes come out of the woodwork to exploit this fact.