Tuesday, 21 February 2023

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Laura Poitras's documentary on Nan Goldin's life, art and activism is probably one of the most poignant and brilliant documentaries I have ever watched. Extremely moving, the film interweaves Goldin's biography and personal life events (such as the suicide of her sister, who pushed the boundaries of norms and conformity, and how she feels her parents were entirely ill-equipped to have been parents in the first place, pressured too by societal expectation) with her photography and project to document her life, picturing her friends and community (LGBT+ people, sex workers, artists) in a way that presents them as beautiful, dignified, and looking like themselves. 

An activist from a young age, Goldin documented the AIDS crisis, photographing her friends dying and caring for each other as well as ACT UP protests and interventions. Goldin curated the exhibition Witnesses: Against our Vanishing in 1989 which featured artists who have been personally affected by the epidemic, making work that reflects loss, love, lust, sex, bodies, survival, mortality, illness, care, collective mourning, and the strong political call for action. 

The film takes us to the present day and Goldin's current work on raising awareness of the opioid crisis and the call to end the stigma against drug addicts. She ardently speaks out against her target—the Sackler Family—by lobbying museums (often who have her work in their collection) first to stop accepting donations from the Sacklers and then to remove their name from the buildings. The film opens with a staging of the protest at The Met where she and other members of PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) threw empty pill boxes in a fountain and posed dead on the ground. 

Goldin is devoid of narcissism and elicits immense respect, admiration and passion, bringing herself, love and humanity to all she does. She too overcame an addition to OxyContin and is clear that much more change is required to address the ongoing hourly deaths by opioid overdose and the continued stigma around addition. The Sacklers have yet to be held fully accountable - they have yet to face any criminal proceedings for the opioid epidemic and while Purdue Pharma declared bankruptcy (as they could not fund the growing number of lawsuits), this was not before the family transferred more than $1bn into overseas accounts. 

Sunday, 12 February 2023

Sigrid Nunez, What are you going through

I love Sigrid Nunez's voice - something adjacent to Deborah Levy and Rachel Cusk in terms of observer of others and of herself as she makes her way through different spaces and places. Nunez does not shy away from emotion, psychic contradiction and the unexpressable/unsayable - deeply moving and relatable. 

What are you going through (title taken from a Simone Weil essay where the original French is something quite different: Quel est ton tourment?) is a beautiful novel about friendship, love, aging, illness, loss, family, sanity and memory, agency and emotional expectation/defiance. Looking forward to reading more by Nunez. 

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Eikoh Hosoe (1933-)

Alexandra Sasha Beverly Pabst (1930-?)

I can't seem to find more information on Alexandra Sasha Beverly Pabst other than on the Musée Carnavalet website, which says she was born in 1930 in Milwaukee and that these photographs, which struck me, were taken in Paris in 1983. 

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Violaine Huisman, The Book of Mother

I adored this book, which was, in some ways, despite different lived experiences, very familiar to me. With such precision and shown through behaviour rather than description, Huisman narrates the relationship dynamics between family members and how we act according to what we need from our loved ones, including the need to confirm the narratives that keep us well and alive, whether un/reasonable, sane, destructive, passionate, excessive, violent, adoring. 

She captures the impossible task of a daughter to imagine the unknowns and unknowables of her mother's intimate thoughts, rationales and history, chronicling an imagined interiority governed by the earliest and most sticky of traumas that lead to obsessions around abandon, worthiness of love, health, wellness and pain, freedom and what we deserve or are owed to be free. Huisman's story interrogates the inheritance of our traumas by looking back across multiple generations: within her examination is the consistent tension between saving our forbears, idolising and worshipping them, holding them as ultimate judge of our goodness and accomplishments, with the need to separate from them, hate them, mould ourselves in contrast to or competition with them, needing them to die while also live indefinitely in order for us to persevere with recognisable definition and continuity.