I am into modern art, primarily because a good few years ago now when I was studying for the MA that turned into a PG Dip (must get the dissertation done this time) we were doing a module on the link between art and activism. I was a philistine who didn’t do galleries and so got basically sent to the Tate Britain to see the Turner Prize exhibition. Whilst I still, on that visit, asked where the “proper art” was after seeing the exhibition and duly got directed to the appropriate mainstream section of classic pictures I started on a journey then.
The main exhibit as far as I was concerned (and the only one I remember or really liked) was My Bed by Tracey Emin. I found something beautiful in that exhibit which was also deeply disturbing in its own way – I could connect with it.
To me that has always been the thing about Tracey Emin’s work – it often tends to be disturbed to the point of being f***ked up but there is generally a beauty that comes from survival and overcoming within it. There is an overwhelming sense of honesty within it as it shows things how they are, without adding an artificial coating of respectibility.
So it is with her book Strangeland which is the current commuter book. It is brutal and unattractive in many ways; dealing with nightmares, abuse, abortion and range of other subjects that “nice” people don’t talk about. It is fragmented and lacks depth in some ways. However, there is also a sense in which it is really deep and highly beautiful partly through the way it is written with its jagged edges and partly because of the sense of her spirit and journey which comes through. So it’s not a pretty or an easy read, but it is worth going through – if you think you can handle it.