Nan Goldin: Sirens review

4 out of 5 stars
Nan Goldin: Sirens review
Nan Golding 'Sirens' (2019) © the artist. Image courtesy artist and Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris and London

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The imperfectly beautiful and the beautifully imperfect: these are Nan Goldin’s currency. In her photographs, people are caught unawares (apparently). They are awkward, maybe squinting or gawping or sort of looking over there. Her flash is pitiless; she almost convinces you that these are everyday snaps, intimate moments taken out of time, and not the product of a minutely controlled aesthetic.

‘Sirens’ is Goldin’s first solo show in London for more than 15 years and at its core are several significant slideshows and video works. ‘Memory Lost’ is life in a mirror foxed by addiction. The photographer is currently waging war on art patrons the Sackler family and their connection to prescription pain med OxyContin, to which Goldin became addicted. To reinforce her point, there’s a cabinet on the way in full of empty OxyContin pots.

Goldin’s first foray into video, ‘Sirens’, is made entirely using found footage, it’s a properly hallucinogenic mash-up of trash-video imagery. It feels like it’s intended to evoke sensations rather than provoke reactions. Still, Goldin’s black-and-white photos of trans women from the 1970s make the more recent stuff seem kind of pallid, despite the many square feet of super-saturated flesh. Nerve-tingling in their bravado and vulnerability, these characters transcend the photographic plane, defined in a way denied to them in life. In one image, a seated line of trans women hold up numbered cards, presumably waiting to be judged. It’s delicate, it’s powerful, it’s poignant, it’s the best work in this show

Anyway, whatever you do, don’t go along thinking all this wonky glamour will make you feel better about your own lack of perfection. It won’t. These sirens are calling you to share in their damnation.


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