Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin C.V. Cunt Vernacular


Not on display

Tracey Emin born 1963
Video, projection, colour and sound (stereo)
8 mins
Presented by Stuart and Margaret Evans 2000


Emin's video CV is an accompaniment to her work on paper, Tracey Emin CV 1995 (Tate T07632), which is a potted history of the artist's professional and emotional life from conception until 1995. This CV, read aloud by Emin, constitutes the sound-track to the video and provides contrasting background to the visual information on display. As Emin narrates her story of trauma and abuse, mixed with pleasure and success, the video takes the viewer on a journey through the artist's home. The artist is not visibly present in person until the last frames when she appears curled up naked on the floor of her sitting-room at the feet of her mother (who wears black sunglasses and looks away from both her daughter and the camera). Like Emin's handwritten CV, the video constitutes her self-portrait, in this instance adding the component of a journey around the space of her apartment to her narrating voice.

As with Emin's work in other media, her video CV seems to offer access into her private and personal world. The camera stages the opening into Emin's space by its passage through the opening front door, from which it progresses quickly to the artist's bathroom. Here a running bath tap and clouds of bubble-bath suggest Emin may be planning to take a bath, promising but not delivering the titillation of a naked female artist. The camera pans evenly around, occasionally focussing on such everyday objects as a tube of toothpaste and toothbrush or a copy of Vogue magazine. In contrast to Emin's emotionally-charged words, the view of her living quarters offered in the video is surprisingly ordinary. Piles of post, papers and other detritus such as clothes have an anonymous feel. Bills in foreign currency and half-unpacked suitcases indicate travel. Pots of undeveloped films could be snapshots or professional material. The mess covering this apartment suggests an inhabitant who has recently been too busy (or lazy) to pick up her compact discs and put them back in their cases, hang up her clothes or do her paperwork. Looking around Emin's flat is redeemed from feeling voyeuristic by the rawness of the text she narrates, which creates some strange juxtapositions. A carefully positioned Turkish flag - Emin's father is Turkish - , a view of a magazine article about Emin and fellow artist Sarah Lucas (born 1963), a stripy bag with EMIN appliquéed on it, a typical Emin monoprint and a snapshot of the artist doing a performance are all the recognisably personal items in this strangely depersonalised intimate space.

The video was originally titled Tracey Emin Curriculum Vitae, but the artist later replaced the words 'curriculum vitae' with 'cunt vernacular' as a pun referring to the sexual history recounted in the narrative (the original written cv). It was filmed on hi-eight by Sebastian Sharples under Emin's direction. It was produced in an edition of ten. The artist prefers it to be exhibited with her nine-page text work (Tate T07632), projected rather than shown on a monitor. She is no longer living in the apartment shown in this work.

Further reading:
Neal Brown, Sarah Kent, Matthew Collings, Tracey Emin: I Need Art Like I Need God, exhibition catalogue, Jay Jopling/White Cube, London 1998
Stuart Morgan, 'The Story of I: Interview with Tracey Emin', Frieze, issue 34, May 1997, pp.56-61
Lynn Barber, Gregor Muir, Robert Preece, 'Tracey Emin', Parkett, issue 63, 2001, pp.22-63

Elizabeth Manchester
February 2002

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