Artist makes work for London station, I Want My Time With You, and says Brexit is madness.
The giant pink letters, a 20-metre sentence glowing below the clock in St Pancras station, spell out a love letter from the artist Tracey Emin – but the words I Want My Time With You are addressed to Europe, not to a man.
“It’s really a great subliminal message sent out to the rest of Europe, I want my time with you,” Emin said. “I am deeply, deeply concerned about Europe, and that in a year’s time we’re going to be a tiny little island just floating around in the North Sea. It’s madness.”
She hopes the thousands of travellers arriving every day by Eurostar from mainland Europe into the soaring 19th-century station will read her words, which were unveiled on Tuesday, and feel the love.
“I don’t personally want to leave Europe at all – and this is my message to all Europeans. I love Europe. I’m not saying there are no problems with Europe, of course there are, so many of them, but it’s so much easier to sort problems from the inside.”
Emin said the sentence had come straight into her mind, but it had taken a year to create the largest so far of what have become trademark works spelling out her texts in her own handwriting.
“It looks effortless, it looks really simple but health and safety … believe me, it was really difficult. The main thing is the train drivers coming in must not be shocked, and so you can’t use some colours, no red or green or yellow.”
Health and safety meant the letters had to use LEDs rather than her usual neon, but they were always going to be pink, she said.
“At night the whole station will be bathed in a pink light, and it will make people happy, I promise you, it will make people smile because pink will make them feel good.”
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Interviewed on the BBC’s Today programme, Emin gave no more clues about her weekend revelation that she had once been sexually assaulted by “a well-known female artist” who had attempted to grab her crotch at a party. Emin had responded by threatening to “punch her lights out”. Women should have the confidence to respond to any such assault at the time, she told John Humphrys: “I shouted and I caused such a scene, and I told everybody what she had done, much to their humiliation and embarrassment. I don’t think they’ll be doing that again in a hurry.”
“Everybody is making accusations and saying things about men, but it happens with everybody in many different circumstances – people don’t seem to be seeing the whole picture that harassment is actually bullying in a lot of cases as well.”
The St Pancras light work is a commission from the station owner and the Royal Academy, and will be seen by an estimated 50 million travellers over the year. Tim Marlow, the artistic director of the Royal Academy, called Emin one of the most important and influential artists in the world. “Her work is intense and compelling and blurs the boundaries between the personal and the public and between art and life,” he said.
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After time in the station Emin said she hoped the piece might find a home in Europe – or in her native Margate.
Apart from wrapping her arms around Europe, Emin said she hoped one day her words could have a more personal resonance: “I desperately hope to be met at the train station in a really romantic way – one day.”