Monday, September 17, 2007

Nan Goldin: Life and Performance

Checkout Goldin/ Rose Interview after Huston
23:16 minute mark Interview starts

Goldin moved to the Bowery in New York, subcultural ground zero in the late '70s. (The famous -- Jim Jarmusch, Warhol, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz -- begin to show up in her portraits, looking just as ordinary/fabulous as everyone else.) She began her landmark work, an ever-evolving slide show called The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. The title comes from Kurt Weill, and the 800 or so slides are accompanied by snatches of music from Weill, the Velvets ("I'll Be Your Mirror," of course), Maria Callas, James Brown, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Dionne Warwick, and other purveyors of romantic longing and agony. It works as an encapsulation of the whole exhibition, a diary of the lives of Goldin's ad hoc family.

Goldin's complicity with her subjects is astonishing. She captures them looking unselfconscious in seemingly the most private of moments: sitting on the toilet, masturbating, having sex, fighting, sobbing. Neither does her unflinching eye spare Goldin herself; an addenda to Sexual Dependency is a brief slide show of self-portraits called All By Myself, the centerpiece of which is a series of shots of her in emotional and physical anguish after being beaten by a boyfriend.

In 1988, Goldin underwent drug and alcohol rehab at McLean Hospital in Belmont. She had to learn not only to live again, but to photograph again. A heartbreaking series of photos taken during her recovery begins with three shaky, bleak shots of the hospital grounds that one can't help but read as psychological self-portraits. These give way to austere pictures of her ascetic hospital room, and finally to bright outdoor landscapes. She seemed to discover natural daylight for the first time; the newly uncluttered style, the fondness for landscapes, and the depiction of a life through the objects in an empty room have marked her work ever since.

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