I IMAGINE THE CYNICAL JEAN BAUDRILLARD PASSING A comment on My Bed (1999), by Tracey Emin: “Art, that Western notion, has made its bed. Now, it must lie in it.” Well. Who would dare disturb this Sleeping Beauty, swaddled in the semblance of banality, while occupying nevertheless the gilded space of the museum?
On Oct 24th,1999, at London’s Tate Gallery, the artists, JJ Xi (b.1962) and Cai Yuan (b.1956) stripped down to their underpants before jumping on top of Emin’s bed and engaging in a pillow fight. This was to be the first collaborative act by the duo, henceforth known as, Mad For Real. Were they conservative reactionaries, mad that such a thing could find a place in the same gallery as real masterpieces by artists like Turner? Certainly, their action appealed to a large portion of the philistine press, winning them notoriety. They had, at one level, taken the art object at face value. If it really was a bed then why not jump on it instead of engaging in passive contemplation? If there really was vodka in the bottles strewn across the divan then why not try and drink some? One suspects that if it weren’t totally impossible (given the nature of security regulations at the Tate) the two would have tried to fall asleep on the bed.
Yet, this wasn’t conservative iconoclasm. What was at stake in the performance, Two Artists Jump on Tracey Emin’s Bed, was the horizon of the Duchampian readymade.