What I like most about the BBC is the surrealism that surrounds listening to it in the middle of the night. My local public radio station broadcasts the BBC World Service in the wee hours. If I wake up then I flip on the clock radio and let suave, cultured radio voices on the other side of the world lull me back to sleep.
When that happened several nights ago I was rudely awakened again around 3:30 by a riot of animals pawing at my back door. On the radio I heard a woman with an exotic East London accent talking about art, sex, and despair. I got out of bed, found the flashlight, and then discovered a family of raccoons, mama and five babies, desperately seeking to enter my summer bedroom. They clawed at the door with a ferocious certainty that it would open for them, as if storming the Bastille with Justice on their side.. I heard the woman on the radio say that sex used to get her out of bed in the morning, but now she’s 46 and doesn’t care so much about it anymore. I thought, maybe she needs these raccoons. How could I ship them to London?
I’ll spare you the narrative of how I tried and failed to chase away the intruders during an intermittent skirmish that lasted about as long as the BBC interview. For now, suffice it to say that a Boy Scout bugle sort of worked in the end, but it woke up the neighbors.
Later that day I remembered the scene and wannted to know who on earth I heard on the radio while I was feuding with raccoons. Turns out it was Tracey Emin, notorious Bad Girl of the 1990s British art scene. She was interviewed by none other than Carrie Gracie, fiercest of BBC inquisitors. And the interview took place at the White Cube Gallery in London. Emin (right) and Gracie pose discretely in front of an erotic Emin drawing in the photo below.
Tracey Emin is a British artist who has courted controversy for the way she has made her private life public.
Her work includes a tent sewn with the names of everyone she had slept with and a display of her unmade bed complete with empty alcohol bottles, cigarette butts and other remnants of her life.
Her latest show has an animation of a woman masturbating.
Carrie Gracie asks her what lies behind it all.
Tracey Emin says more about her show, Those Who Suffer Love, in an echoing gallery talk at White Cube. And then there’s the snarky TV news story embedded below. A video of Emin dancing at the Beverly Hills Hotel comes closest to the surreal energy of my encounter in the middle of the night.