I’m approaching the end of a long process of leaving the house I’ve been inhabiting for the past 6 years and start a different life, somewhere else. The images in this post illustrate just that. Also, for the first time in many years, I’ve asked for help with taking care of my family (dogs and cat) in order to be able to deal with this final moving stage. Asking that help was hard as shit, but the friends who responded that appeal are now happily living with Balla, Nagika and Xica. I should learn something from this…
I left the new house and drove to Lisbon to meet Nan Goldin and attend her masterclass at Lusófona University, where I teach. It was a small event, where she showed two artworks: The Other Side and Memory Lost. While The Other Side follows her practice of creating slideshows that are homages to the people that she loved and lost, to the community and the values she’s been praising and empowering with her photographic work, Memory Lost is a different exercise. For once, it plays with stills and moving image (some 8mm footage made during the 70’s), alongside different samples of audio files – messages on answering machines and other voice recordings, etc. – but what really stood out is how it plays with imagery that I was almost completely unfamiliar with. Memory Lost is about withdrawal, so she says. Compiling photographs of the sky, landscape, empty spaces, animals, some portraits, etc., she dives into a more spiritual journey, abstracting from human subjects and attempting to give an aesthetic dimension to the suffering and despair that is often involved in the process of withdrawal, becoming sober, attempting or being forced into sobriety (there’s a lot of grey areas for me here). As the film reached its end and she came back into the room, commenting on how difficult it is for her to watch that particular work, and speaking about the sort of tunnel experience that accompanies the journey of a person in search of new ways to stay connected to life and the present tense, I felt depression hitting me like a bombshell. Silence, on my part. I felt unable to speak, though she asked for comments on how it was to experience such a piece.
Nan Goldin is an honest artist, vulnerable, exposed. Her life and work have been interwoven in such a way that one cannot distinguish them. She practices photography as survival mode and this film makes that pretty clear (if there was ever any doubt). At some point during the years I was falling in love with photography, Nan Goldin’s work – particularly The Ballad of Sexual Dependency – had a great impact on me. All we had to identify with, at that time, came from art, for me particularly from literature, music and cinema. But, since then, that has changed. For the past years, since sobriety, nature took front stage on that mirroring effect, so, once again, here I am identifying with her artwork, in a completely different context. Art is a place of solace and I tend to feel, more now than ever before, that great art and nature exist on a similar spiritual dimension.
Besides feeling depressed, after the masterclass ended, I felt the urge to get into an altered state of consciousness. Driving back to this almost empty house, I kept thinking about that experience and how lucky I was, now, that all the drawers in this house are empty. Though I don’t particularly enjoy many of the choices made (the way a certain group of images transitions onto another, the way sometimes the music smoothens out the violent (and, in my view, necessary) repetitive nature of the experience portrayed, etc., etc.) it hit me as truthful and authentic. What I felt was uncomfortable and, more likely than not, appropriate. I kept thinking if this was possible, meaning: not recognizing the artwork as something completely resolved (technically, morphologically, aesthetically, etc.), but still feeling its soul was completely there, whole, truthful… I also kept thinking whether I could/should talk about this, say this out load, write about this… I fucking hate that feeling. Is it me? Is it all in my head? Is it this environment of cancel culture and silencing those who “think differently”?
By the end of the masterclass, during the Q&A, Nan Goldin mentioned that some people say she is brave to expose herself in such a way, adding that she feels it is not a question of bravery, but, instead, a matter of survival, creating in order to stay alive. What else, right? What other reason is there for artists to create?
I entered this almost empty house, haunted both by the absence of my dogs echoing on the walls and that heavy journey Memory Lost trapped me into. I’m supposed to be packing all that remains in this almost empty space, disassemble the rest of the furniture and whatnot, and here I am, writing this pointless shit and smoking cigars. Maybe after writing this, the ghosts will simmer down and I’ll be able to go to sleep. Maybe…
2 replies on “Friends, Remains, Memory Lost and Nan Goldin”
Not pointless, but at a point of change, which is sharp, but what a transformative, though confronting, adventure to have joined Nan Goldin in her workshop!
Thanks for taking the time to comment James :) I definitely need to find some quality time to sit and read your blog/site. All the best, Sofia