Nan Goldin, Rise and Monty on the lounge chair, NYC, 1988. From the series Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Colour print, silver dye bleach (Cibachrome) process, 39.4 x 59.7 cm. George Eastman House, Still Photograph Archive. © Nan Goldin
Nan Goldin is best known for her snapshot-like representations of subcultural explorations of gendered identity. Goldin notes, for example, that her work is ‘very political … it is about gender politics. It is about what it is to be male, what it is to be female, what are gender roles…Especially The Ballad of Sexual Dependency [which] is very much about gender politics, before there was such a word, before they taught it at the university.’ (in Mazur 2003). But perhaps the reason why she has become celebrated as a fine artist is due to the autobiographical character of her work. Goldin has lived most of her life with the gay creative community beginning in Provincetown, Massachusetts (three hours east of Boston) which was a community of gay artists in the 1970s. Goldin recalls that it was “incredibly wild” (in Mazur 2003) and it is the “wild” creative lifestyle to which Golden is attracted and which helps explain the allure of her photographs. Goldin suggests that her work is about memory and this is certainly an important facet of her practice. But one can suggest that the theme of identity is more central, in particular the theme of gender-liberated bohemian identity, and the identity of the creative personality who can find it difficult to fit into conventional society.
This is not to say that Goldin is preoccupied with the romantic vision of thecreative individual, there is too much rawness in her work for that.Nevertheless, her work is not reducible to documentation because there is a narrative element to her work and this is evident in the use of the slideshow as an exhibition medium. Few artists have managed to be successful with this medium, the clatter of the projector is off-putting and its mechanical appearance is unaesthetic. On the other hand, slide projections are of significant interest because they lie on the boundary between the still photograph and the narrative possibilities of serial and moving images.
Mazur, Adam; Skirgajllo-Krawjewska, Paulina. 2003. ‘Nan Goldin interviewed by Adam Mazur and Paulina Skirgajllo-Krajewska ‘ Fototapeta, Poland. Online resource accessed March 2007: http://fototapeta.art.pl/2003/ngie.php