On view at Matthew Marks, Los Angeles, are a selection of photographs from Nan Goldin’s hypnotic and haunting series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which in its original format is a 48 minute slideshow documenting Goldin’s life in over 700 photographs and 30 songs, the text of which, those songs, acting as the narrative for the “film.”
In her introduction to the book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Goldin writes:
I was eleven when my sister committed suicide. This was in 1965, when teenage suicide was a taboo subject. I was very close to my sister and aware of some of the forces that led her to choose suicide. I saw the role that her sexuality and its repression played in her destruction. Because of the times, the early sixties, women who were angry and sexual were frightening, outside the range of acceptable behavior, beyond control. By the time she was eighteen, she saw that her only way to get out was to lie down on the tracks of the commuter train outside of Washington, D.C. It was an act of immense will.
In the week of mourning that followed, I was seduced by an older man. During this period of greatest pain and loss, I was simultaneously awakened to intense sexual excitement. In spite of the guilt I suffered, I was obsessed by my desire.
It is those final two sentences that best sum up The Ballad of Sexual Dependency and essentially snapshot the heart of her entire body of work (Goldin more directly says of The Ballad that it “is about the struggle in relationships between intimacy and autonomy, and about the dependency one can get on another person that is totally inappropriate on every level, but the sex is good”).
If you are currently in Los Angeles, head over to Matthew Marks to see a select group of images from that still exhaling series of stills. If no, then the video below best captures its spirit, with the added pleasure of Goldin’s illuminating voiceover. –CH
Featured Image: Nan Goldin, “Trixie on the ladder, NYC.” 1979.
©Nan Goldin, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
©Estate of Peter Hujar, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery