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Thread: Nan Goldin

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    Ian Leake's Avatar
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    Nan Goldin

    I saw Nan Goldin's Heartbeat in the Barbican Centre yesterday. If you don't know it, it's a series of slides each projected for a few seconds one after the other while something by Björk plays in the background. It explores relationships and sex.

    In the past I've only seen Goldin's work on the web or in books and have found it quite boring (and technically awful). But there was something compelling about seeing these pictures almost like a movie, albeit a slow one where you have to make up the story and fill in the gaps. I expected coarseness and crudity, but it was actually emotive and life-affirming.

    Does anyone know if this is typical of her work or just a one-off?

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    Akki14's Avatar
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    She had a similar slide show in the past but it was more up-tempo and about the gay/bi/trans person of Boston... Or at least I think I read that in the guide for that exhibition
    I still don't like Nan Goldin's work so much but, yes, the slide show with music does make it a little better. Plus you only have to look at each photo for a short amount of time, you can't overanalyse it like you do plain photographs.
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    Ian Leake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akki14 View Post
    I still don't like Nan Goldin's work so much but, yes, the slide show with music does make it a little better. Plus you only have to look at each photo for a short amount of time, you can't overanalyse it like you do plain photographs.
    I think short display time was key to this. Each slide individually was ugly, technically poor, badly composed, many were out of focus - yeuch! (Not to mention the subject matter of many which really isn't my cup of tea.) But when they're only shown for maybe 5 or 10 seconds your brain only has time to see the person/people and a bit of the context before it has to move on to the next one. It was hypnotic - a very different effect from looking at prints as you say.

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    Finally - perhaps after making the same boring photographs all her career, Goldin needed something to new. Ian - you said it correctly: ugly, technically poor, etc., etc., etc.

    Can someone find or explain ANYTHING about Goldin's "work" that is redeeming, revealing, worth consideration, etc.?

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    I have to agree as to the quality of past work. Having said that, I guess that just because I don't get it doesn't mean it's bad. The problem is, that her work is all "art" and little, if any, craft. However she has been so successful that I think many young photographers look up to her and want to emulate her. It's a case where the marketing created the market, it didn't cater to it. It's also a case where success in the marketplace in and of itself justifies the work.

    It was the work of Adams and the Westons, that inspired me and it was the craft that they perfected in order to convey their message that attracted me.

    JMO
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Rahman View Post
    Finally - perhaps after making the same boring photographs all her career, Goldin needed something to new. Ian - you said it correctly: ugly, technically poor, etc., etc., etc.

    Can someone find or explain ANYTHING about Goldin's "work" that is redeeming, revealing, worth consideration, etc.?
    It's kind of like going to the zoo, but instead of being for kids, it's for well-off art snobs who live in expensive condominiums and love the voyeuristic aspect of looking at the lives of the "other side" from the comfort of a gallery. Kind of like the function that Tom Waits serves, but trashier and nowhere near as talented.
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    I love her work.

    I think she she is quite true to her vision, and I've seen lots of her shows over the years. I'll take honesty, risk & passion over sterile, 'technically perfect' photographs any day.

    Catherine

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    Yeah - but at least Tom Waits can make me laugh!
    "Why is there always a better way?"

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    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Her breakthrough work, "The ballad of sexual dependency" was a huge slideshow played in loop, so you had that kind of linear narrative, gap-fulfilment process.

    I really like her work, but not all of it. The best is a combination of human intimacy, decisive moments, elegant composition, and color palette thinking. The worst is usually just banal. But I'm always annoyed by people who generalize her into the "craftless" category just like other people call William Eggleston's photos "pedestrian." They usually fail to see the compositional aspects I have just mentioned, and don't even try to decode the pictures because of the subject matter.
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    Big show of hers now on at Helsinki's KIASMA, museum of contemporary art. Shall go at the weekend. Which reminds me -- at the press conference in support of the show's launch a week or so ago, she was ushered in front of a throng of news photogs and journalists. A photog took a picture of her, with flash of course. At this she declared the press conference over, and stormed off saying something over her shoulder I can't remember. The flash pissed her off. People hereabouts were very confused. Sounds like a calculated publicity stunt to me: got her much more ink in the papers, which will draw many more punters to the show to see the pics of the flouncing diva bitch. I could be wrong of course, but it doesn't make any sense otherwise. On the one hand I have to think this is brilliant, and I begin to understand her success; on the other hand I have to think it's all too cynical and I don't expect much of the show.

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