n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

nan goldin & picturessss

I went to see Nan Goldin lecture today after a long day of presenting my own work, and chatting about the good-o projects of those in my class. Anyhow, I was pretty excited to see Goldin and waited in line for a good long time. Her photography is just stellar. Here's one of her photos (not my favorite picture, but my favorite subject, a woman named Cookie who died of AIDs far too young):

Anyhow, so many of her pieces are brutally raw, vibrant, seedy. The pictures I really admire are mostly document style slices of the people who were dying from AIDs in the 80s and 90s. All of the people she took pictures of were her close friends and there's that closeness, but also some kind of distance-maybe an awareness that the camera doesn't come from the same social strata. By which I don't mean that Goldin herself wasn't in the same place/space as them, but there's a pushed-up kind of wariness in the eyes of so many of those photos. And yeah, they were dying and humanity was ignoring.

Her pictures also examine sexual politics, gender issues, or "coupling" as she called it in her lecture (spurning the tidied up words as politi-speak). She rather horrifyingly documented cases of domestic violence in her own life - pictures of skull fractures bruising through the skin after her boyfriend beat the crap out of her. But also queer relationships--both male and female, very graphic, sad when added to the slow decay/death of this community-the tracing of a person from gorgeous and alive to when they're lying in a casket, well, it kills me as I imagine it happening to my friends, but it must have destroyed some part of her to be witness to so much death and violence.

Anyhow, her lecture.

When I thought about the life she puts up there for her viewers, well, I guess she was exactly as I might have imagined her. But to be honest, I feel like her pictures say more than she does. Every now and then, she said something pithy and direct, like about how she hates set-up pictures because they help reify the postmodern idea that there's no difference between nonfiction and fiction, when she feels like so much of what's nonfiction reached out and slapped her life good. Only she said it a bit more round-about and mumblatory than that.

I partially agree with her... on the ease to which we claim that nothing is true, all is fiction. But I'm sad that we can't quite get to the point when fiction and nonfiction can both be true, or false. Our fictions can bite too... look at the goddamn war we're in. So, I don't agree with her that set-up photos are always market-driven and false, but I do see that she's chosen her place in the photographic world. But I also thought her newer work, a piece she screened tonight called Sisters, Saints and Sibyls, a mixed-media installation-type piece with mostly pictures, but some video mixed in, didn't really have the power her earlier stuff does. After thinking about it a bit, I'm not sure, but it seems like she moved away from showing a brutality, a violence, a pain... into glorifying it a bit. These long shots of her drug-use and the holes it ate away into her arm, well, it seemed kind of like she let herself get trapped into something.

She said earlier in her lecture that her pieces had no story, that she wasn't selecting a narrative like some of the other artists in the Art Institute Exhibit, but rather that she was simply showing what was, regardless of whether it fit into a story. Yes, that makes a beautiful kind of sense for the hidden worlds of the AIDs epidemic and domestic violence that she was capturing, but I think the denial that she is creating a story with these pictures has gone to the point perhaps where she has internalized a story she's been through or seen too much. Maybe I'm wrong, but I felt something else was disturbing about the stuff she showed tonight than the harshness of that world, the harshness of insane sisters and heroin needles, but rather what caught me was why she would keep at this for so long? Maybe that's just the very non/fiction she knows now... not about overcoming suffering, but about leaning into it. Anyhow, the artistic aspect felt like a bit of a stretch to me.

Oh well. I still love The Ballad and her other earlier stuff. And it was great to see her off the page.

Now, I'm off... my brain is fried and I'm having a hard time actually coming up with words. ug.
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