Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Nan Goldin "Chasing a Ghost"

by Jerry Saltz @ The Village Voice

Perhaps the most pitiable image in all of Dante's Inferno is the wood of suicides. Here, in hell's Seventh Circle, between a river of boiling blood and a desert of burning sand, is a dense, pathless forest where the souls of the suicides are encased within gnarled trees and fruitless bushes. Odious Harpies—monstrous birds with claws and female faces—race through the wood tearing the trees limb from limb, causing them to bleed. Cries and wails echo in the sunless, starless air.
Throughout her career, but especially in her latest and most wrenching work— Sisters, Saints, & Sibyls, the 39-minute three-screen lamentation that is a duel memoir of her sister's suicide at the age of 19 and her own mortifications of the flesh and battles with addiction—the photographer Nan Goldin has been one of the great living suicides of recent art history. Her legendary slide show of more than 700 images set to music, "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency," begun in the 1970s and carried out through the 1980s, is the great Book of the Dead of the period—a love letter to a generation caught in a disintegrating death ray, cursed and blessed, drawn like moths to a flame, first to each other, then to desire, then addiction, then stalked by AIDS and overdose.


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