Tracey Emin’s bad advert

I never got to see Earth: Art of the Changing World at the Royal Academy back in 2009. I really wanted to, but life got in the way! I remember a fair amount of news about the show though as it showed a range of work from some well known artists.

Despite not actually going to the show, it has stuck in my memory because of a quote from Tracey Emin.

I’m not a good person. I’m a bad advert. I take too many planes… I keep my heating on all day and night because I get really cold and I’m scared of the dark so I sleep with the light on.” (As quoted in the Telegraph on 1 Dec 2009)

I seem to remember she got a fair bit of flack for this comment,  was there a bit of a furore about it? For me, “I’m scared of the dark so I sleep with the light on” was an interesting thing to say.

I guess it resonated – I have experienced night terrors as an adult (It seems shameful to say it in public… you might think ‘oh, well, if she has night terrors sometimes, she must be unhinged and irrational, I’d better stop reading, she can be written off, Freak alert!’ ) Anyway, I know that sometimes, you can prevent night terrors from being overwhelming by having a light on… it is incredibly wasteful to use energy so flagrantly.

Why are we scared of the dark? (apparently 40% of adults are, according to research by Go Glow). The wonderful wikipedia says (so it must be true) “Fear of the dark is usually not fear of darkness itself, but fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by darkness.

And how do you overcome fear? There are all sorts of tips that you can find online, most include:

  • Prepare, avoid anxiety in general
  • Meditate
  • Wean yourself off your crutches (the light for instance)
  • Challenge your fears – expose yourself to the things you’re frightened of bit by bit
  • Talk about it – don’t be ashamed – get help from professionals
  • Surround yourself with calming and reassuring people, and objects
  • Adjust your perspective – find the humour in the situation
  • Don’t play into the fear by looking for the object of fear
  • Go to bed early
  • Distract yourself – Read, play games, make something or listen to music

If fear is a route cause of some excessive energy consumption – then it would seem to me that we could do with considering how to help eachother overcome our fears. I think art can help us to do all these things?

I guess what I’m saying is, Tracey Emin’s comment about being afraid of the dark, possibly points to solutions for how on earth we can make art that changes the world.

Artist Tracey Emin poses in front of her piece “I loved you like the sky” during the press preview of “Earth: Art of a changing world” at the Royal Academy of Art in London Photo: REUTERS

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