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Aperture #239, Ballads
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Aperture #239, Ballads

The publication of Aperture’s summer 2020 issue coincides with Pride month, so it is fitting that it is dedicated to one particular body of work, Nan Goldin’s ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.’

“The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read,” Nan Goldin wrote. “The diary is my form of control over my life. It allows me to obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember.”

For those unfamiliar with the project, it is most easily described as a performance – it was a live slideshow of photographs set to music, originally shown in the bars and clubs of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the mid-eighties. Hugely influential for its snapshot reportage of the city’s No Wave scene, the archive is owned by Tate, where it was recently on display. The magazine’s parent organisation The Aperture Foundation has published the complementary artbook version of the piece (above), but here the magazine recontextualises it.

‘As we said in those years,’ Nan Goldin tells Darryl Pinckney ‘there was no way to see anything unless you were present.’. The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a slice of time – so unlike anything made today. Our contemporary moment is marked by the ability to record everything, but all that remains of The Ballad are the photographs themselves, and the memories.

While the crown jewel of this issue is undoubtedly Pinckney’s long and searingly honest interview with Goldin herself, my favourite spread of pages is titled ‘Feast for My Eyes’. The photographs, film stills, book covers and paintings in this feature are Goldin’s favourites, selected and described by the photographer (above). These captions, together with the images are almost more revealing than the interview – ‘David was my close friend. He taught me the language of political rage and not to compromise. Everything hurt him. He lived so close to the bone. He was the only person I ever had breakfast with.’

A whole host of familiar names are scattered across this issue – from Olivia Laing to Colin Barret, each give insightful commentary. As the introduction to this issue says ‘ballads are songs passed down from generation to generation’. New generations of artists, activists and writers are responding to the age-old themes that Goldin exposed in The Ballad – the project was about politics and violence as much as it was about celebration.

And with Pride events cancelled across the globe, this issue of Aperture provides an introspective way to celebrate. Lest we forget, Pride marks the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and both in commemoration of Pride and in light of the BLM movement gaining incredible momentum in the last few weeks, Aperture has released a special limited-edition print by Nan Goldin that can be purchased with the magazine.

From June 16–25, the signed print of the unpublished photograph, Self-portrait in blue dress, New York City, 1985 will be available to buy, with proceeds going to VOCAL-NY (Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders), P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), and Aperture. In Goldin’s own words – ‘Together, we fight to end the drug war and uplift the movement for Black lives. #AllBlackLivesMatter.’

Editor: Michale Famighetti
Art direction: A2/SW/HK

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