The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 30, 1999 - 9
Emin' s 'Bed'no sleeper hit at show
Los Angeles Times
Anyone who has ever looked at the
deceptively simple brush strokes of a
modern painting and thought, "I could
do that," would certainly have a similar
response to Tracey Emin's "My Bed"
installation at the Tate Gallery.
Emin is one of the contenders for
Britain's coveted Turner Prize for con-
temporary art. Her "My Bed" is a double
mattress heaped with stained and
disheveled sheets, surrounded by the
debris of indulgence _ discarded stock-
ings, empty vodka bottles, cigarette
butts, a used condom and menstrual-
Seems easy enough to amass. The
question is, would you want to?
Or, as the critics and some of the pub-
lic flocking to an exhibition of the four
finalists for the Turner Prize have been
asking: When is an unmade bed a work
of art and when is it an unmade bed?
Dirty laundry aired in public, as it were.
Emin. 36, established her reputation
as a bad girl of British art in 1995 on a
tent embroidered with a three-figure list
of "Everyone I Have Ever Slept With."
In a live television performance related
to that work, she stumbled drunkenly off
the stage muttering that she was going
home to her mum. The piece is included
in the notorious "Sensation" show of
young British artists currently at the
Brooklyn Museum of Art.
You might say that the shock value of
"My Bed" is a bit old hat: John Lennon
and Yoko Ono did a bed ages ago, and at
least they were in it. Let alone Robert
Rauschenberg's pivotal 1955 Combine
painting "Bed," in which he slathered
paint on his quilt and pillow.
"The bed isn't shocking, you're not
supposed to be shocked by it," Emin said
in an interview at her East End loft.
"You're supposed to relate to it, to say,
I've been there.' Or, I've never been
there but can imagine.' Or, 'That's
The bed was Tracey, or a product of
her despair in the summer of 1998, a
memorial to the place she laid as a phys-
ical and mental wreck "with the most
negative thoughts possible going
through my head" for many days. It was
also the scene of an epiphany.
"I got up and took a bath and looked
at the bed and thought, 'Christ, I made
that.' By realizing how separate I was
from it, I separated myself from the bed.
I wasn't there anymore," Emin said.
When the installation showed in Japan
last year, a noose hung over the bed. It is
gone now, partly because Emin said she
does not "feel like the noose anymore"
and partly for health and safety regula-
tions _ concern that some deranged stu-
dent would try to go out with a bang at
the Tate, Emin explained.
It is not an unfounded fear given the
high incidence of visitor interference
with the now heavily guarded exhibit. In
one case, housewife Chris de Ville of
Swansea rushed the bed with a bottle
of disinfectant to mop up what she
considered to be filth.
"Tracey is setting a bad example to
young women," de Ville told the
Daily Mail newspaper. "It was my
duty to clean up the mess."
Tate curator Simon Wilson is con-
fident that Emin's work stands up on
its own, but he happily provides an
explanation. In fact, he is generally
happy that so many people are ask-
There is no denying that Emin's
bed is a tremendous draw for the
Tate. People are talking about it,
writing about it and flocking to see
it, together with the other Turner
Prize entries, to the tune of a thou-
sand visitors a day, 2,000 on week-
ends. That makes the Turner Prize
show at least the 10th most popular
exhibit ever recorded at the Tate.
Emin is one of a growing number
of artists who share an obsession
with self-examination and self-reve-
lation. Her adolescence, sexuality
and existential conflicts provide the
fodder for most of her work. "My
Bed" suggests "themes of loss, sick-
ness, fertility, copulation, conception
and death _ almost the whole cycle
of human life," Wilson said.
"The most striking thing about
Tracey's art is that it is a cry of
anguish," he said. "Though it comes
out of very specific experiences,
they are ones that all human beings
potentially or actually go through."
"My Bed" is accompanied by a
wall full of childlike sketches rang-
ing from the humorous to the banal
drawing of a small chair that says,
"What it looks like to be alone."
To Wilson, Emin's art is part of a
tradition of feminist works that
describe "the experience of being a
woman in all its gynecology and
"Aaargh!" Adrian Searle respond-
ed in the Guardian newspaper. "Once
I was touched by your stories. Now
you're only a bore."
The bed and other Turner exhibits
even made Chris Smith, Britain's
culture minister, question the nature
of contemporary art and the Turner
Prize. Smith was quoted in British
newspapers as saying the Tate was
courting "controversy for controver-
sy's sake" and that the Turner short
list was "too narrow" and "unrepre-
sentative of British art."
Comments such as that make
Wilson smile. "It's like Oscar Wilde
said: 'When the critics fall out, the
artist is in accord with the universe,
" Wilson said. As for Emin's bed, he
added, "If there is shell and shot
from both sides, she must be doing
courtesy of Disney/Pixar
Mr. Potato Head - a fun, hilarious character or an enthralling commercial?
Of all the gags in "Toy Story 2,"
the most self-referential comes as
the Barbie tour guide wheels through
the sky-high shelves of Al's Toy
arn. Explainin'g the rows and rows
f Buzz Lightyear figures filling an
entire aisle, Barbie chirps with
uncharacteristic sarcasm: "In 1995,
shortsighted retailers did not order
enough toys to meet demand."
That was the year, of course, when
the first "Toy Story" was released,
introducing the world to Woody the
good-natured cowboy doll and Buzz
Lightyear, spaceman toy. The stars of
.&e first full-length computer-generat-
d film, with voices by Tom Hanks
and Tim Allen respectively, may seem
in hindsight a commercial sure thing.
But in 1995, Disney officials who
had picked up the film from Pixar, if
only as a way to stay ahead in the ani-
mation genre, were apparently not that
confident and didn't bet big on the
movie generating a lot of licensed toy
sales. Although cast members of "Toy
tory" were essentially newly
' signed toys, such as Buzz or Woody,
or toy-chest classics, from Mr. Potato
Head to Slinky Dog, surprisingly few
of its characters were available in
stores that Christmas. Nor, at the time
of the movie release four
Thanksgivings ago, were there any of
the usual fast-food tie-ins, video
games, prime-time specials or other
common accouterments of expected
W"Toy Story," with domestic receipts of
$184 million and nearly S360 million
worldwide, became the third-highest-
grossing animated film for Disney,
behind only "The Lion King" and
"Aladdin." Toys eventually trickled out in
1996, but the movie's vast potential for
toy spinoffs was not realized.
There is no such fumble with "Toy
Story 2." Racks at retailers are as filled as
those at Al's Toy Barn in the movie.
*onsumers will find it impossible to
oid the "Toy Story 2" deluge.
The toy line accompanying the film
certainly builds, as does the movie, on
existing "Toy Story" characters, from
Buzz, Woody, Mr. (and Mrs.) Potato
Head, Slinky Dog, Rex the dinosaur,
Little Bo Peep, Etch-a-Sketch, Mr.
Mike, and even the three-eyed aliens
from Planet Pizza.
But "Toy Story 2" also adds some
*ajor characters in the Woody-associ-
atedr."Roundup Gang" of cowgirl
Jessie, the Prospector and faithful
horse Bullseye. It also provides a face
for the space-age enemy of Buzz
Boys are targeted for good guy-bad
guy battles between Buzz and Zurg,
with action figures and video games.
Girls are marketing targets for a lovey-
dovey Mattell Woody and Bo Peep
Gift Set at $24.99 in which a Bo Peep
Doll comes accompanied by a Woody
doll; she has his badge on; he has a big
kiss painted on his cheek.
That and, of course, the Tour Guide
Barbie, which is less a boost to the
"Toy Story 2" line than it is good
exposure for the long-lived doll, sales
of which were flat last year.
"Toy Story 2" may poke fun at the
toy industry a bit when a long line of
now-collectible Woody toys from a
fictional '50s TV series are displayed.
But there's no shortage in marketing
plans for the movie itself.
In the cereal aisles, guesswork will
be eliminated for the first time when
each of the four "Toy Story 2" charac-
ters that come in boxes of Honey Nut
Cheerios and Lucky Charms will be
visible from a window in the package.
It's patented, new packaging technology
that allows figures of Woody, Buzz,
Jessie and Bullseye to peer out.
It was Burger King that eventually
benefited from the popularity of the
first "Toy Story," offering a line of
toys in what proved to be the last
Disney tie-in for the fast-food chain.
McDonald's, which signed a 10-year
exclusive with Disney, will handle the
shower of "Toy Story 2" tie-ins.
(Don't cry for Burger King; it has
Planning for big toy surges is not an
exact science. Back in January, during
the International Toy Fair in New
York, manufacturers were sure they
were going to overcome 1998's dip in
toy sales when "Star Wars: Episode I
- The Phantom Menace" rode in to
save the industry. But while the much-
hyped space film made money, Jar Jar
Binks banks languished at toy stores,
deeply discounted by summer's end
- only to be overwhelmed by the
arrival of Pokemon.
"Toy Story 2" seems a good bet if
only because the first wasn't as heavi-
ly merchandised. The sequel begins
with a gratuitous action scene worthy
of James Bond that pits Buzz against
Zurg. It turns out to be a video game
played by Rex, who becomes
obsessed with winning it throughout
the film. It's no coincidence that
there's a new Nintendo 64 game pit-
ting Buzz vs. Zurg out the same week
as the movie.
Its $49.99 price tag is not the high-
est for the 40 or so "Toy Story 2"-
related items that appear on the Toys
R Us Web site www.toysrus.com. That
would go to Thinkway Toys' $59.99
set of Woody and Buzz Toys that not
only talk to you, but also, left in a
room together, talk with one another
Likely Oscar contenders arrive in
theaters dhldyuring thehoia season
Listen - are those sleigh bells
we're hearing? Could be. Either that,
or it's somebody's cell phone telling
us the Holiday Movie Season has
It's certainly a big, bulging bag of
would-be blockbusters and/or works
of art - 39 will open between
Wednesday and New Year's Day.
There's no question that the whole
gluttonous cornucopia is quite keep-
ing with the seasonal sentiment of
Where Santa and the movie season
part company, of course, is that the
former is expected to bring Pokemon
cards, Earth's last Beanie Babies and
bottles of 20-year-old scotch; the lat- -
ter, for all its probable bounty, will
inevitably include the cinematic
equivalent of rehydrated fruitcakes
and velvet paintings of Donald
And, unlike Santa, the movies take
things back: This year's lth-hour
premieres include more than the
usual number of films opening only
for week-long, Oscar-qualifying runs
before reappearing during the depths
But the overriding fact is, it's tro-
phy season, the time when the stu-
dios release the hounds, aka the
films most likely to do well in the
months-long sweepstakes for critics'
prizes and the positioning of their
Academy Awards campaigns. Given
what a crapshoot the year-in-awards
is turning out to be, the tension
should be thick enough to cut with
the edge of a press release:
With the exception of "American
Beauty" (most categories), "Being
John Malkovich (screenplay) and
"Boys Don't Cry" (direction and
actress Hillary Swank), there seem to
be very few films that have anything
close to what you'd call popular
momentum. When you factor in
Oscar's constitutional abhorrence for
the fresh and the weird, "American
Beauty" seems to be running unop-
That may change in the next few
months, but from this early vantage
point, nothing on the movie menu
has the look of a "Saving Private
Ryan" or a "Shakespeare in Love"
about it . Oscar will find something
to like, of course, but every indica-
tion is that this is going to be a year
of standout performances, rather
than standout movies.
Among the most talked-about
best-actor candidates is Jim Carrey
for "Man on the Moon," Milos
Forman's bio-pic about the late, rad-
ical comedian Andy Kaufman. Even
people who don't necessarily like the
movie say Carrey will likely be
going head-to-head with "American
Beauty's" Kevin Spacey. Physical
transformation is always a plus in the
awards race, and even those of us
who've seen only the stills have to
admit that Carrey has achieved
Similarly, the pumped-up Denzel
Washington, who in "The
Hurricane" gives a moving portrayal
of one-time middleweight contender
Rubin Carter, the '70s cause celebre
convicted - many thought unjustly
- of a 1966 Paterson, N.J., triple
murder. Carter later became the sub-
ject of a Bob Dylan song and celebri-
ty-powered protests. Washington's
handicap is the structure of the filrh,
which prevents a sustained perfor-
mance from taking shape - a prob-
lem not shared by Sean Penn, whose
acting in Woody Allen's "Sweet and
Lowdown" will confirm all those
suspicions that he's one of our most
talented and underrated actors.
courtesy of Castle Rock Fr
Director Frank Darabont returns with the Tom Hanks prison drama "The Green Mile."
With his back-to-back Oscar wins,
Tom Hanks becomes a contender
every time he walks on screen (well,
maybe not for "You've Got Mail").
His appearance in "The Green Mile"
Frank Darabont's adaptation of the
Stephen King death row novel, is
fueling the usual speculation. Any
awards handicapping also has to
include the wild card of British actor
Jim Broadbent, whose turn as lyricist.
William Gilbert in Mike Leigh's
Gilbert&Sullivan movie "Topsy
Turvy" is a marvelous mix of har-
rumphing and pathos.
Among the women? The field, as
usual, is a lot less jammed, because
roles for women are a lot less plenti-
ful. However, Janet McTeer - the
Tn"v ".."" 'strP' "in "A 1"'
Tony-winning actress in "A Doll's
House" - would seem to be among
the clear favorites for her role in
"Tumbleweeds," the mother-daugh-
ter dramedy that will probably bene-
fit from opening so closely behind
the similarly themed "Anywhere but
Sigourney Weaver, who hasn't had
the chance to do an Oscar-level part
in some time, may give McTeer
headaches with "A Map of the
World," in which she plays a school-
.teacher falsely accused and impris-
oned for child abuse. Likewise, Jodie
Foster, who like Hanks and Meryl
Streep, is a more or less perennial
nominee, and in "Anna and the
King" follows in the footsteps of
Irene Dunne and Deborah Kerr by
invading Siam. You can add to this
totally speculative mix Winona
Ryder for "Girl, Interrupted," Jessica
Lange for Julie Taymor's "Titus" and
someone may even remember Mary
Elizabeth Mastrantonio in "Limbo."
Other possibilities are Emily
Watson in "Angela's Ashes," possi-
bly Kate Winslet, an outside shot for
Jane Campion's "Holy Smoke,"
again, the likely scenario being that
performances will be cited apart
frnm their film, This year has seen a
from their films. This year has seen a
crop of movies whose overall quality
seems to be better than in recent
years, while the number of films that
really inspire passion and partign-
ship have dwindled (will anyone
even remember "Star Wars: Episode
One - The Phantom Menace" at
year's end?). It's precisely the kind of
year to prompt critics' awards
always viewed as a barometer and/or
instigator of Oscar sentiment -- to be
all over the map.
C-u-f- -Uivl d r.LUre
JIm Carrey stars in "Man On the Moon."
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MICHIGAN LEAGUE UNDERGROUND
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