To coincide with her major exhibition “Sirens” at the Marian Goodman Gallery, Nan Goldin was welcomed by a full-house audience at the National Portrait Gallery.
“I don’t have an imagination, so I tell the truth.” – Nan Goldin
The talk began with footage of one of Nan’s recent protests against the Sackler family (The feuding family blamed for the opioid crisis). After getting out of the hospital for her own addiction to opiates, she’s spent two years planning and undertaking protests.
Armed with plastic prescription bottles filled with pills and bloodstained money, she stages spontaneous protests at major Museums that are still accepting funding from the Sackler family. She is often arrested as a result and in her words, “…the Sackler family are only creating settlements which will prevent them from going to jail.”
Nan seems to have emerged a new person from what could undoubtedly have been one of the most debilitating phases of her life. She is filled with new ideas and is eager to shake off her prescription fueled past, which made her into one of the many millions of American opioid addicts.
The evening went on to focus mainly on her work as an artist. Having spent years “…living in the dark, she is in love with the sky…” and she is now enthusiastically photographing landscapes.
“We are so small,” says, Goldin
She’s now expressing a desire to make films, feeling that her slide shows which include music create a film-like narrative, underscored with illustrations of the drug experience. Nan claims not to remember anything during her period of addiction and from this, the theme of memory loss becomes a part of this new work. An audience member asked about how she uses her imagination; she replied, “I don’t have an imagination, so I tell the truth.”
Her love of ‘Colourfield’ painting has also emerged in this work. She talked about making paintings, in a ‘diary like’ fashion, documenting her thoughts as they come and continue in her prior work.
Another question was pitched to her about her interpretation of meaning in her work. She retorted with, “I make my work and let other people tell me what it’s about.” Nan opened up about how she felt about the present time “We live in dark times and all of us need to rise up and do something to make things better.”
I felt inspired by her warmth and openness, yet a little worried that she would not remember me. I was at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with her and graduated the same year 1977. I later met up with her briefly when I came to London.
When I introduced myself and she said: “I remember you!” I shared my past addiction to Ativan with her. She said, “That’s a bad one!” Taking command of my phone, I got a selfie which I found to be somewhat ironic!
I found her personable and delightful. “We’ll be back…” Referencing her tribe and protests. I may join her.
The National Portrait Gallery November 17th 2019 In Conversation: Nan Goldin and Dr Nicholas Cullinan
Words/Photos: David Buckley © Artlyst 2019