New York Documentarian Nan Goldin and Friends Celebrated at The Barbican

Photographer Nan Goldin is most famously associated with the post-punk No Wave music scene and the gay and transsexual subcultures of New York, which she made her reputation documenting in her 1970s and 80s work. Yet Goldin herself has always stressed the importance of cinema in her work, notably the Hollywood classics of the 1940s and 50s, and European art cinema. This series at the Barbican acknowledges her dialogue with the moving image. It brings together work by Goldin’s contemporary film makers from the downtown New York scene, all with strong connections to the artist – she appeared in cameo roles, took part in the shoots as stills photographer, or in the case of Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art (1998), which screens on 15 July, was the inspiration for the film itself.

A double bill of films by Sara Driver on 6 July stars Suzanne Fletcher, who was one of Goldin’s main photographic subjects. It brings together You Are Not I, in which a woman from a mental institution witnesses a surreal car accident, and Sleepwalk, in which Fletcher’s character tries to translate a manuscript of Chinese fairy tales, resulting in her life being invaded by sinister signs. They feature cinematography by Jim Jarmusch and scores from avant-garde composer Phil Kline, and among the cameo appearances are actor Steve Buscemi and Goldin herself. In Variety (1984), showing on 9 July, director Bette Gordon explores female erotic fantasy in the story of a young woman who takes a job in a pornographic cinema and becomes drawn into a subculture of desire, in which Goldin makes another cameo appearance. The shoot proved important to her photographic practice, as images she took during the making of the film became part of her key work The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency.

July 13 features a sequence of shorts by Irish feminist filmmaker Vivienne Dick, a friend and photographic subject for Goldin, and a director who helped define the No Wave film scene with her lo-fi approach, shot on Super-8. The films also feature some of the notable New York musicians and performers of the time, including Lydia Lunch of Teenage Jesus and The Jerks and Pat Place of the Contortions. She Had Her Gun Already sees Lunch stalking Place, ending in a showdown on Coney Island, while Beauty Becomes The Beast explores the complicated mother-daughter relationship of Lunch’s character. In Liberty’s Booty middle-class New York call girls speak frankly about their lives. Featuring stripped-down narratives and moody performances, these films are as emblematic of the time as Goldin’s own era-defining work.

Nan Goldin and Friends; Cinema 3, Barbican, London; 6-15 July;

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1. Image courtesy of the artist and Barbican Centre.