On a recent visit to MoMA, I spent ample time on the second floor perusing the new contemporary galleries. Each of the exhibits, which opened in June and are on view through February 12th, are distinct in both their medium and content and definitely worth a visit. In addition to Tony Oursler’s film installation “Imponderable,” and Teiji Furuhashi’s Multimedia Installation “Lovers,” I thoroughly enjoyed and savored the exhibition “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” by the photographer Nan Goldin. Goldin, who is still working today and divides her time between New York, Paris, and Berlin, is known for her gritty aesthetic snapshots of drag queens and heroin addicts. Even those unfamiliar with Goldin and her work are probably well-acquainted with her aesthetic and tone. As a result of her romanticization of drug addiction and its effects, Goldin is largely responsible for the emergence of “heroin-chic,” which has since become a pervasive element of the fashion industry and pop culture. Goldin’s influence is definitely prominent in our generation with the popularity of VICE, I-D Magazine, and even Urban Outfitters catalogs. Think of the waif-like physiques and pallid faces of the models who walked the runways during Fashion week or the allure of Lana Del Rey: Goldin’s fingerprints are all over fashion and pop culture.
“The Ballad”, which features over 700 photos, was originally shown as a slideshow at the Whitney Biennial in 1985 and then compiled into a book in 1986. The current exhibit at MoMA features the photos in the original slide show format, as well as individual images and posters. The title of Goldin’s collection, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” is a reference to a song from Bertolt Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera”, which deals with themes of politics, prostitution, and violent crime. Essentially, the opera is a typical “Brechtian” piece. Like Brecht’s opera, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” features raw, candid, and often painful scenes of sex, drugs, and domestic abuse inspired by Goldin’s eclectic group of friends and her own experiences in her life in New York and Berlin. Goldin writes: “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read,The diary is my form of control over my life. It allows me to obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember.”
Additionally, MoMA will feature live performances alongside the exhibit. On October 23rd, Diana Bush will lead “Nan Goldin: The Personal is Political” which will be a discussion about the medium of photography as a critical documentary and on November 3rd, there will be a program for deaf adults. For those interested in photography, fashion, or contemporary youth culture, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” is a must-see.