By Abigail Yue Wang
British artist Tracey Emin, among Japanese architect Junya Ishigami and Australian artist Hany Armanious, is selected as one of the first three to install her new sculptures in Sydney, as part of the city’s highly invested City Centre Public Art Plan.
Emin once said, “There’s picture maker, and there’s artist.” She has spent the majority of her artistic path voicing a personal past with openness and daring, all the while frequently falling into arguments with taxi drivers about whether My Bed is art still to this day. Despite how viewers often see her artistic mettle as humorous, fearless and leaving no room for sentimentality, this concern was proven wrong in the past at least once, by the heart-felt illumination of You Forgot to Kiss My Soul (2001). Her new sculpture for Sydney continues the tenderness in her expression; simple and accessible to everyone in the city.
The Distance of Your Heart is the poetics of homesickness. Emin’s handmade bronze birds are to address the geographic interspace between Australia and the rest of the world. The birds will become the urban emblems, “perching on poles and above existing doorways along Bridge Street, Grosvenor Street and the Kent Street underpass”. The site was historically marked to “record the distance to various locations in New South Wales along the earliest roads developed in the colony”, and for Emin, “the perfect site to measure the distance of my heart.”
A bird is Emin’s answer to loneliness without words. They have been seen in Emin’s past pieces, unthreatening and non-overpowering, such as Self-Portrait (2001), where a small bird quietly rests on the verge of a weighty helter-skelter. It’s the minute at odds with the monumental. By 2017, 60 bronze birds will be fully installed, hiding in the plain sight of Sydney’s architecture, waiting to be discerned by “the young, the old, the backpackers, the tourists and the businessmen and women”. They become the anchored emotions wishing to take flight. Like a treasure hunt, it will give those who detect them “somewhere else they can have their image taken to send back to the loved ones that they miss, that conveys the feelings of distance and homesickness.”