Nan Goldin’s ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’

Penned by Riccardo Pianezzola

“It’s gonna be the umpteenth photographic exposition”; this was my thought before facing one of the most shaping photo-galleries I’ve ever seen year to date. Comprising of almost 700 snapshot-like portraits sequenced against an evocative music soundtrack, Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a deeply personal narrative, formed out of the artist’s own experiences around Boston, New York, Berlin, and elsewhere in the late 1970s, 1980s, and beyond.

The exposition is not only about Golding’s life, it’s about all of our lives. Scenes of sex and drugs, inebriation; moments of love, of happiness, kissing: all mixed together in perfect equilibrium. Surrounded by Golding’s pictures, I laughed thinking about all the alcoholic nights spent around the world, I became sad thinking about all of the people I’ve lost, mournful thinking about the many beautiful moments I’ve had in the past, crazy trying to understand what love is and if it really exists.

Titled after a song in Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, Goldin’s Ballad is itself a kind of downtown opera; its protagonists—including the artist herself—are captured in intimate moments of love and loss. They experience ecstasy and pain through sex and drug use; they revel at dance clubs and bond with their children; and they suffer from domestic violence and the ravages of AIDS.

“The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read,” 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.”

The Ballad is presented in its original 35mm format, along with photographs from the Museum’s collection that also appear as images in the slide show.


The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
MoMA: Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

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Nichelle Cole is the founder & editor-in-chief of The Fashion Plate magazine. A respected writer, stylist and influencer, she has been published in fashion magazines around the world.

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