Tracey Emin Says Her First Abortion was Impetus for Art

We all knew Young British Artist Tracey Emin isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. From making her dirty, unmade bed into an art installation to appliqueing the name of everyone she’s ever slept with on a tent, no one can say Emin doesn’t bare it all. In this 1999 interview Emin gets even more personal: she recounts how her first abortion forced her to rethink her artwork.

Interviewed and shot by Hermann Vaske, Emin is seen in this clip slowly eating lychee fruit in a nicely-shot coffee table set up. The pleasant setting and Vaske’s vague first question doesn’t leave much clue for what’s to come. He simply asks Emin, “why are you creative?” Emin answers, as is her style, with a confessional.

“I didn’t ever want to have children, because I didn’t feel like I was a responsible, capable human being,” she starts off. “If I imagined myself with a baby I’d be throwing it out the window, screaming.” At an earlier point in her life, Emin felt like she wasn’t mentally or physically capable of taking care of a child, much less herself. After establishing her career, though, she’s started to feel capable, to feel that “the creative act” of having a child is “okay.” Hmmm. Maybe not the best idea with that whole window thing.

The kicker, though, comes in a powerful line Emin delivers without a pause:

After my first abortion, I learned more about the essence and knowledge of where things come from than any fuckin’ art college or lecture or anyone could tell me. I also knew intuitively as soon as I’d come round from my abortion that all the art I’d ever made was a real big bunch of crap and had to be destroyed immediately.

I promised myself I wouldn’t start making art or making things again until I could justify it, parallel, alongside my life. Which I do now.

Talk about artistic awakenings.

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