“There is a popular notion, that the photographer is by nature a voyeur, the last one invited to the party. But I’m not crashing; this is my party. This is my family, my history.”
Nan Goldin is undoubtedly one of the most controversial artists in recent photography history. Her work has been accused of idealizing drug abuse and of being utterly voyeuristic. It’s true that her images let the observer enter a world he or she otherwise would have never been able to see – or didn’t know it even it existed.
It’s a world beneath the surface of widely accepted conventions and norms set by the majority of society. Cross dressers, gays, lesbians, drug-addicts: Nan Goldin’s photographs take us on an emotional roller coaster ride down into the subculture of New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. Like a kick in our guts. Images that make us want to scream out loud at times – and then again hold our breath, remain silent. Deeply moving, crawling under our skin.
“I didn’t care about good photography, I cared about complete honesty.”
Nan Goldin never put her art first. She was part of the group she photographed; her subjects were her “family”. Otherwise the extreme intimacy displayed in her images would have been impossible to achieve. Photographing her friends was an act of love; an homage to the people she loved and of whom she’s lost so many to AIDS or abusive drug consumption. “I didn’t care about good photography, I cared about complete honesty”, says Nan Goldin.
Her images may seem voyeuristic, because they show people in situations most people would prefer not to be photographed. Yet they were not taken by a voyeur, but by a deeply caring woman who expressed her honestly felt sympathy for her subjects by conserving their memory on film and paper – documenting, but never judging with her camera.
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
“Deeply destructive dualism between intimacy and autonomy that haunt human relationships.”
The slide show she put together from the images, mostly taken between 1978 and 1986, have become the career-defining work of Nan Goldin. “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” has been exhibited across the globe. Regularly re-arranged and edited by the artist.
It deals with addictions, not only to drugs, but also to sex and the relationships that may arise from them that are often deeply ambiguous – torn between love and violence. That deeply destructive dualism between intimacy and autonomy that haunt human relationships.
It’s about all these themes that make up “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” that Nan Goldin talked about in a recent interview conducted by Emma Reeves, creative director – MOCAtv.
Reeves describes her encounter with Nan Goldin as follows:
“I have known Nan Goldin for some years since my days as photo director of the publications ‘Dazed & Confused’/’Another Magazine’ and ‘Another Man’ magazine in London. When MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) hung the entire series of ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ I knew that I would ask her if I could interview her about this phenomenal body of work. Nan is rarely interviewed and is even more rarely filmed, so I was thrilled when she agreed.
“Nan has a wonderfully youthful and anarchic spirit and spending time with her is a privilege.”
It is important that the story of the creation of ‘The Ballad’ be captured on film for future generations and as MOCAtv is a YouTube channel the content will be searchable and therefore democratically available. Nan has a wonderfully youthful and anarchic spirit and spending time with her is a privilege. We filmed the interview in New York in her apartment and she oversaw the sequencing of the images that are shown in the film.”
Nan Goldin’s images will be on view as part of the exhibition “Room To Live” at MOCA, Los Angeles.