The story of relationships: Tracey Emin’s Love Is What You Want and Museum of Broken Relationships

I’ll admit I didn’t know too much about Tracey Emin when I decided to go see her exhibition Love is What You Want at the Hayward Gallery. Over the years I have been aware of Tracey Emin, the celebrity artist known for her quite ‘shocking’ artwork and behaviour that has been recorded in the tabloids, but not followed her career with great interest. When thinking of her work the bed, bloody tampons, her blankets and explicit images spring to mind.

A retrospective of her life as an artist, Love Is What You Want is a look into the mind and world of Tracey through videos, interviews, drawings, neon lights, blankets and… the written word. Suppose the way Tracey uses words in her art is what makes her so different. She is a storyteller, no doubt about it.

This is a story of love, sex, gender, aggression and vulnerability – the latter which is excellently conveyed in the video Why I Never Became A Dancer, in which Tracey shares the story of her teenage years in Margate, her voice so childlike and sweet. I am not sure I left the Hayward an Emin fan, but Tracey makes more sense now.

My second destination this cultural Sunday was the Museum of Broken Relationships. Ever since spotting the image of a gnome without a nose somewhere online I have been intrigued of what this show had to offer.

Split across to venues (Tristan Bates Theatre and 38 Earlham Street) the Museum of Broken Relationshipsis a collection of ‘seemingly ordinary yet incredibly poignant objects’ – I couldn’t have said it better.

The trinkets on display have been donated by people from all over the world who have gone through the heartbreak, sorrow, and happiness of relationships past. Among the donated items are a mix tape, a pair of underpants, a garden gnome, some white shoes and a bike.

This is a story of lost love – a story which most of us can relate to. And I think this is the beauty of this showcase. Each object tell a story of a failed relationship; some ending because of betrayal, others because of death or simply because the love fizzled out and the relationship had run its course.

Then there are the reminders – in this case a tiny box of matches – that sometimes you will never truly fall out of love with – or forget –that person.

When leaving the Tristan Bates Theatre visitors are invited to write messages onto blackboards, even directly onto the brick wall. A nice touch, and if you feel like sharing your story this is the perfect opportunity.

What can I say, it’s been an emotional kind of day.

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