The Distance of Your Heart

Related to City Art
Installed 2018
A small bronze bird perches on the ledge of a building. In the background, pedestrians walk along a tree-lined street.
Two small bronze bird sculptures perch on a ledge of a building above the street address of the building, a large number 32.
Pedestrians walk and wait at the corner of Harrington Street. Above them, on the ledge of a building, perch three small bronze bird sculptures.

A flock of small bronze birds have come to rest along Bridge and Grosvenor streets, perched on poles, above doorways and on awnings.

Artist: Tracey Emin
Curator: Barbara Flynn

Artwork description

At the city’s northern end on Bridge and Grosvenor streets and in Lang Park, The Distance of Your Heart features more than 60 handmade bronze bird sculptures, created by acclaimed British artist Tracey Emin. These delicate sculptures perch on poles, above doorways and on awnings, enticing walkers along the thoroughfare.

Emin describes her work for Sydney as, ‘simple, straightforward and accessible to everybody’. In opposition to monumental and overpowering artworks, each bird was handmade by Emin at life size and then cast in bronze.

In conceiving of a work for Sydney, Emin wanted to address Australia’s distance from the rest of the world. The question she asked herself was, ‘How does one express the feeling of loneliness without words?’ Her answer was, in the form of a bird – lonely, modest in scale in the way birds are, and thoughtful-looking.

The words ‘The distance of your heart’ are inscribed on a large stone bird bath in Macquarie Place Park. Emin sees this as a place to be photographed, to let the people you love know you are missing them. She believes in today’s age of technology it is easy to send an image of where you are and what you are doing but it is very hard to send a message of how you are actually feeling.

Emin chose Macquarie Place Park because it is the site of the Obelisk of Distances designed by Francis Greenway from which the distance to various locations in New South Wales are measured, along the earliest roads developed in the colony. She saw this as ‘the perfect site to measure the distance of my heart.’

Like a treasure hunt comprised of scattered elements associated with the thrill of discovery, Emin’s work of art is one both adults and children will love.

“For my artwork I would like to make a counter site in Sydney for the young, the old, the backpackers, the tourists and the businessmen and women; somewhere else they can have their image taken to send back to the loved ones that they miss, that conveys the feelings of distance and homesickness.”

– Tracey Emin, 2014


Tracey Emin was born in Croydon, UK and lives and works in London. In 2007 Emin represented Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale, becoming the second woman artist to ever do so. That same year, Emin was made a Royal Academician and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art, a Doctor of Letters from the University of Kent and a Doctor of Philosophy from London Metropolitan University.

Her art is one of disclosure, using her life events as inspiration for works ranging from painting, drawing, video and installation, to photography, needlework and sculpture. Emin reveals her hopes, humiliations, failures and successes in candid and, at times, excoriating work that is frequently both tragic and humorous.

In 2011 she became the Royal Academy’s Professor of Drawing and in 2012 Queen Elizabeth II appointed her Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the visual arts.

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