Tracey Emin has issued a fierce rebuke to people who criticise her for sharing updates on her health.
The artist announced in April that her bladder cancer is gone, following a series of successful major surgeries.
In the operation, she lost her uterus, ovaries, lymph nodes, urethra and parts of her colon and vagina.
In a new interview, Emin told The Guardian that she also has “no bladder” and has to use a urostomy bag for the rest of her life.
Sharing unflinchingly intimate photographs of her hospital stay and the device attached to her body, Emin said the bag is “quite a disadvantage” and something that “most people would want to keep a secret”. However, she wants to reduce the stigma around wearing one.
She added: “It’s a very private thing because, basically, you’ve got part of your bodily function happening on the outside of your body. It leaks and things happen.”
Emin, who is best known for seminal works such as 1998’s My Bed and 1995’s Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, revealed that she has been criticised for talking about her health issues online.
“Someone said something horrible about me the other day on Instagram,” she recalled. “They said: ‘She should just let up.’ I thought: ‘F*** them – this is mine, I own it.’ What the f*** are they talking about? Let up from what? Let up from the fact that for the rest of my life I’ve got a bag attached to me with a load of piss in it?”
She continued: “There’s different ways of dealing with stuff. You can go off into a corner and curl up and die, or you can just get on with it. If talking about it is getting on with it, expressing myself, then yeah I will, because it’s much better than the alternative – a hundred million times better.”
Emin’s acclaimed exhibition, Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul, opened at the Royal Academy for just nine days before lockdown.
The exhibition, which she had initially thought would be her farewell show, is reopening next week.
It will be shown at the RA, London, from 18 May to 1 August.