British artist Tracey Emin has married a rock - as in an actual naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and not the kind of man who one describes as such because he can be relied upon to prop you up in the face of all life’s disasters with unwavering predictability. There are indeed many such ‘man-rocks’ - but they do tend to lack the charisma, sex appeal and derring-do of all the great romantic heroes - whose very charm is precisely that they might kiss you passionately or dump you by next week - you can never tell.
Perhaps Emin, a darling of the modern art world whose work has always been engaged with female sexuality, is suggesting that desire is ossified by commitment, trust in others is risky, and she’d sooner marry a rock, have a string of lovers and remain dedicated to producing conceptual art?
Is she rejecting the idea of marrying her soul mate, resigning herself to nights in with a solid mass because she wants to make a statement about marriage as obsolete and bourgeois?
Is she defining a new lifestyle choice whereby she celebrates the unmarried state by turning it into a rather humorous artistic statement?
Can this large rock in her garden have consented to the union and is this marriage to an inanimate object yet more evidence of the end of civilisation? Is this some banal attempt to further desanctify the beauty of marriage in its time-honoured form?
The stone in question is reportedly rather lovely, and the 52-year-old bride wore her father’s funeral shroud for the grand occasion.
I don’t believe Tracey Emin has simply gone mad, discovered a bizarre affinity for rock culture or does not believe in love. I think the artist has decided her singledom and solitude is as worthy of a day’s celebration as two people pledging their lives to each other; in Japan many single women marry themselves so as they can wear the white dress and declare to the world that their singledom is not a tragedy but a valid choice. Similarly Emin is suggesting that she is married to herself and to the production of conceptual art that challenges women’s enslavement to cultural norms. Not all of us will get married to our very own prince charming during a fairytale white wedding with ice sculptures. There are many routes to fulfilment. Emin is choosing dedication to art and freedom.
This union of woman and rock is hilarious but also a way of countering the stereotypes foisted upon unmarried women - miserable spinsters with cats whom others are always pitying or targes in hairnets. By marrying a rock, Emin is drawing attention to the ways in which women are pilloried by society by refusing to become dutiful wives.
Society is fine with male autonomy but less so with errant women who do not become dutiful wives. Emin is doing things her way. And in doing so she is reminding us that there are many routes to contentment. If you want to marry a plant, rock or mineral, a sandwich, a water hydrant, or, much more traditionally, your one true love, whatever, love is a many splendoured thing.
Personally I’d rather marry Superman or some sort of eclair with a high alcohol content or Tom Cruise after he had publicly denounced the cult of Scientology to win my heart, or some kind of hunky standup comedian crossed with a trusty manservant who manages all the variegated domestic rubbish that makes life such a hassle - from dishes to putting out the bins.
Actually, a stone is statistically a much more likely proposition... unable to give back cheek to boot.