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Nothing to do but Dream

The Early Films of Tracey Emin

By Sebastian Sharples
Limited Edition of 1,000
Dispatched from 10 May 2021
For its debut title, Art & Music Books has collaborated with filmmaker Sebastian Sharples. Nothing to do but Dreaminvites readers behind the scenes of Why I Never Became a Dancer (1995) and How it Feels (1996) – two early films by internationally renowned artist Tracey Emin. The book will be launched in an editioned run available to purchase in 2021.

The mid-to-late-'90s media obsession with Tracey Emin propelled her into the celebrity spotlight. Her Margate accent, her ruffled beauty, her openness – all dressed up in trademark Vivienne Westwood – brought both glamour and approachability to a previously rigid and elitist art world.
"The story of Why I Never Became a Dancer ends with Tracey running, tears in her eyes, from the dancefloor, leaving the club and leaving Margate – setting her on the road of discovery which ended in her finding her true voice and true self through art."
— Sebastian Sharples
Emin's work stood out for its brutal honesty; while others were lost for words she gave hers freely and spoke frankly about issues that other people avoided. This is most evident in two films made with Sebastian Sharples: Why I Never Became a Dancer and How it Feels.
While these films have often been overlooked by the wider media, they remain crucial to an understanding of Emin's practice. Nothing to do but Dream focuses on Sharples' experience of making these films with Emin, from the comedy and tragedy to the strong working relationship that soon developed. Shot with equal parts empathy and a dispassionate, documentarian's eye, the films hit the viewer with overwhelming power. Sharples instinctively understood the complexity of what Emin wanted to achieve; he neither lionised her nor played to her vanity; instead he filmed, cut and edited together the stories she wanted to tell with neither judgement or fanfare. He defines what these films deliver as "her truth".
About the author — Sebastian Sharples

How it Feels marks another great crossroads moment in her life – the horror of her experiences retold in the film and the helplessness Tracey felt galvanised her into rejecting and, ultimately, destroying all of her early attempts at art. As Tracey says at the end of the film, from that point on her art had to really mean something.

Sebastian Sharples has been a documentary filmmaker for over 30 years. He has worked on projects for the BBC and The Saatchi Gallery, with artists including Juergen Teller, Billy Childish, Jeremy Deller and Cedar Lewisohn and on numerous independent projects.

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