We live in the times of the Confessional. Privacy is not exclusive. Well it IS, you can read these ‘exclusive’ stories every day in the newspapers. It’s amazing how privacy flies out of the window when the price is right…
The act of the confessing is supposed to be between God and the confessor (using the Priest as a mediator or a conduit). It seems that the act of confessing all has now become an art form, Tracey Emin is a living ambassador of the confessional art, (sometimes known as autobiographical). In order for the confession to be of any interest to an audience though, it has to have a shock factor, an air of secrecy and exclusivity, and that is where it falls down (when it loses its exclusivity, where it’s shared among the media and therefore becomes common knowledge. That doesn’t stop people being interested in others dirty washing though!
Fly on the wall documentaries, and ‘reality’programmes like Big Brother, The Osbournes and ‘I’m a Celebrity – get me out of here!‘ now provide popular entertainment . The confessional aspect of these shows requires starstruck voyeurs to really work. – and we have become a nation of voyeurs (or viewers, as we like to call ourselves). The Jeremy Kyle Show has even won an award for this abrasive style of interogation (though not much arm twisting is involved to get guests to ‘spill the beans’) A strange camera technique is used to throw the participant’s face into hideous relief showing up each blemish, wrinkle etc. the victim is then shouted at , told to ‘grow a pair’ and sent off to a ‘good cop’ (Kyle is ‘Bad cop’) for ‘after care’
Perhaps these shows make us feel better about ourselves or maybe some of the issues they deal with (well, touch upon) affect us, or we have experience of them? There’s also the added bonus whilst watching these types of shows of the realisation that things could be a lot worse in our own world. I must add though that the reverse is true for me when I watch The Antiques Road Show and see all the personal stuff people have been left and are willing to part for a few quid. Having never been left anything – and having no rich relatives so never likely to be left anything, I do confess to a feeling of envy.
The act of confessing is said to have a cathartic effect: though sometimes the opposite can occur. The opening up of old wounds, the telling of secrets: especially when these ‘secrets’ hurt or effect others lives.
Many agree that the original founder of Confessional art is French American artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois (b 1911 – 2010) . In this interview (celebrating her 70th birthday and her Retrospective) she revealed that her sculptures are mostly self confessional, and that the materials used are personal and symbolic to her and represent parts of her personal life that she felt she needed to ‘explain’ or come to terms with. There’s a great article about this here
Here’s some quotes by the great sculptress;-
I’m neither a preacher nor a teacher.”
“If the artwork is true, then it will communicate and have value to others.”
“Trust yourself. In your art you must tell your own story and if you tell your own story, you will be interesting.”
“My art is a form of psychoanalysis. I was able to exorcise my demons through art.”
Artist Tracey Emin’s is a story-teller. Her art is a dichotomy. On the one hand, it is very self absorbed - all about herself and her experiences – yet it reaches out through its narrative and we become absorbed in it through the artist’s way of communication, which is very powerful.
Roberta Smith of The New Yorker says the following about Tracey’s work:
“If Tracey Emin could sing, she might be Judy Garland, a bundle of irresistible, pathetic, ferocious, self-indulgent, brilliant energy. Since she can’t, or doesn’t, she writes, incorporating autobiographical texts and statements into drawings, monoprints, watercolors, collages, quilts, neon sculptures, installations and videotapes. In her art she tells all, all the truths, both awful and wonderful, but mostly awful, about her life. Physical and psychic pain in the form of rejection, incest, rape, abortion and sex with strangers figure in this tale, as do love, passion and joy.”
The art of the confessional is here to stay – both in the art world and the media. People will always want to read all about it in Heat magazine or biographys. Anyone can do it – just make sure you get your story straight……. and don’t tell everything….. leave that for your next book.
Confessional box image from here
Town crier image – here
Bourgeois quotes from here and here
Roberta Smith interview quote from here
Jeremy Kyle image here
PS There’s a brand new post over on my other blog BOOKSTAINS
Happy Birthday L S Lowry! (1st November 1887) I shall be writing a post about him