The 1998 piece My Bed by Tracey Emin is both revered for how strong it is in it’s originality and reviled for its perceived lack of effort and artistic merit. It’s caused contention since it’s showing during the 19990 Turner Prize exhibition and despite losing the prize, the piece managed to launch Emin’s career as an artists, helping her achieve a well known status in the artworld.
My Bed depicts a severely unmade bed surrounded by trash, cigarettes, liquor bottles, a pregnancy text, condoms and other various objects to reinforce the dismal narrative this scene is intended to evoke with viewers. It is almost impossible to escape the questions of how this scene was cultivated, leading viewers to wonder what sort of circumstances led to the mess.
Tracey Emin has explained her intention behind the piece, stating that it is a reflection of a bender that lasted for four days after a particularly tough break up during a sexually-charged and depressive phase of her life.
I chose to write about this piece this week because, for me, it elicits a response that is honest in its despondency, something that feels fundamentally relatable to our lives right now… although I think it is pertinent to mention that I can’t speak for everyone.
Despite differences in the circumstances and objects that might surround my (and probably many others’) beds, there is a familiar sense of solemnity for me when looking at the piece. In a way, it seems like a more vulnerable self portrait than any painting is able to portray, allowing the viewer to experience Emin’s feelings in what I often consider to be one of the safest places to be: our own bed.