Nan Goldin: Memory Lost
Memory Lost is our first exhibition in New York with Nan Goldin, who joined the gallery in September 2018.
This major exhibition, which runs through 12 June, is the first solo presentation by the artist in New York in five years and presents an important range of historical works together with two new video pieces and the debut of two new series of photographs.
Memory Lost (2019-2021), an important, new digital slideshow, recounts a life lived through a lens of drug addiction. This captivating, beautiful and haunting journey unfolds through an assemblage of intimate and personal imagery to offer a poignant reflection on memory and the darkness of addiction.
It is one of the most moving, personal and arresting works of Goldin’s career to date. It is accompanied by an emotionally charged new score commissioned from composer and instrumentalist Mica Levi, with additional music by CJ Calderwood and Soundwalk Collective. Documenting a life at once familiar and reframed, newly discovered archival images are edited to portray memory as lived and witnessed experience, altered and lost through drug addiction.
A group of stills from Memory Lost, presented here as dye sublimation prints on aluminium for the first time in Goldin’s career, gathers work from a period when the outcome of a photograph was unpredictable. Technical mistakes allowed for magic; random psychological subtexts that could not have been created intentionally could make the subconscious visible.
In conjunction with Memory Lost, another new video work, Sirens (2019–2020), will be presented in the North Gallery. This is the first work by Goldin made entirely from found footage—scenes from thirty of her favorite films—and is accompanied by a new score by Mica Levi. Echoing the enchanting call of the Sirens from Greek mythology, who lured sailors to their untimely deaths on rocky shores, this hypnotic work entrances the viewer into the sensuality and ecstasy of being high.
In an adjacent space, a new series of pictures taken entirely from her home during quarantine (2020–2021) mark a return to Goldin’s best-known work. The subject of these portraits, writer Thora Siemsen, inspired Goldin to pick up her camera and document her personal life again. During the paradigm shift between what we’ve known and a new reality still unknown, Goldin has made a timeless portrait of her friend and of her home. Amidst the terrors and limitations of the global pandemic, Goldin arrives at a place where time is crystallized by presence, stillness, and intimacy.
In the South Gallery, Goldin presents a series of large skies and landscapes taken over the last thirty years during her travels through the world. The rich tonality and subtlety of these large images convey an ethereal, abstract quality that sits in counterpoint to the rest of the exhibition. Goldin’s skies float, unframed, evoking the enormity of the sky and her desire to photograph emptiness.
A newly edited version of the slideshow, The Other Side (1992–2021), will be presented in the Third Floor Gallery as an analog piece for the first time in fourteen years. The Other Side was produced as an homage to the artist’s transgender friends whom she lived with and photographed from 1972 to 2010. The work celebrates the “gender euphoria” of her friends, in their possibilities for transcendence. In the introduction to the first edition of the book, The Other Side, published in 1992, Goldin wrote: “The people in these pictures are truly revolutionary; they are the real winners of the battle of the sexes because they have stepped out of the ring.”
In the updated version of The Other Side, published by Steidl in 2019, Goldin reaffirms it as “a record of the courage of the people who transformed that landscape to allow trans people the freedom of now. My dream since I was a kid was of a world with completely fluid gender and sexuality, which has come true as manifested by all those living publicly as gender non-conforming. The invisible has become visible.”
While acknowledging the gaps in her own understanding of the current language around gender identity, Goldin adds that, although “she can’t freely navigate the terrain without stumbling,” she recognizes the importance of bringing these images into the public consciousness again. “It’s important for them to know they’re not alone, and to know how they got here.” She dedicates both the slideshow and the book to all the trans sisters lost to violence.
Nan Goldin was born in Washington, D.C. and lives and works in New York and Berlin. Upcoming solo shows include a major touring retrospective organized by The National Portrait Gallery, London, which will open at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, in the fall of 2022, and travel to The National Portrait Gallery, London, in summer 2023, and selected venues thereafter.
Her work has been the subject of two major touring retrospectives: one organized in 1996 by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and another in 2001, by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, which subsequently traveled to London, Porto, Turin, and Warsaw.
In 2019, Goldin was commissioned to create new work for the Palace of Versailles exhibition, Versailles – Visible/Invisible. Recent solo exhibitions include Sirens, Marian Goodman Gallery, London, 2019; The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Tate Modern, London, 2019; Weekend Plans, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2017; Nan Goldin, Portland Museum of Art, Portland, 2017; The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016. Nan Goldin has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Hasselblad Award in 2007 and was named a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2006. In 2012, Goldin was awarded the prestigious Edward MacDowell Medal, for her outstanding contribution to American culture and the arts.
In 2017, Goldin started her activist group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), addressing the overdose crisis. Through direct action, they have called out museums bearing the Sackler name and fought against the family who profited from Oxycontin. In 2020 they started a group called OxyJustice who continue the fight against the Sackler family and Big Pharma, whilst P.A.I.N has expanded its focus to the fight for progressive drug policy and harm-reduction-based healthcare.
A new limited edition tote bag will be launched to coincide with the opening of the exhibition, with all profits going to P.A.I.N.
Credits: Sirens, music by Mica Levi. Memory Lost, music by Mica Levi, CJ Calderwood and Soundwalk Collective. The Other Side slideshow programmed by Richard Baim. Prints by Griffin Editions and Chroma Center.