When the photographer Nan Goldin's notorious diaristic series "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency," which documented '80s New York in all its unglamorous glory, went back on display at MoMA last year, it once again drew its fair share of attention—a far more positive type that it received in the past, like that time President Bill Clinton accused Goldin of helping invent heroin chic. Viewed in 2016, the images suddenly struck a chord that it never could have decades ago: It made the case clearer than ever that Goldin should be among the artists like Andy Warhol who are now credited with practically having invented Instagram culture, long before smart phones even existed.
This response did not please Goldin, never mind that she's said she intended for the series to "show exactly what [her] world looks like," which sounds just like what a person's social media feed is supposed to do. (At least before they become so manicured.) "I’m not responsible for anything like social media, am I? Tell me I’m not," she said to the New York Times when revisiting the series, which is typical of her raw, documentary, and seemingly candid style. "It can't be true, but if it is, I feel terrible."
A little over a year later, though, Goldin seems to have warmed up to the app. On December 14, an account with the bio "the official account of Nan Goldin's studio" made its first post: a warmly lit photo from 1992, picturing a semi-undressed couple named Andres and Joey atop a hotel bed in Berlin that has amassed its fair share of excited comments, including one welcoming her to "instaNAN." Though the account is unverified, Goldin's studio confirmed that the account indeed belongs to Goldin; it's actually in fact existed but been private for a few months now.*
"I've always been terrified of the internet," Goldin told W over email. Nonetheless, she continued, "this political climate has made it necessary to follow what's going on through social media."
Goldin is in fact working on a new political project that she'll be posting soon, which is why she's now "charting the territory." As it turns out, there's another benefit to using the app: "Meanwhile, I'm loving it," she added. That much is clear from the fact that she's already triple posting: Just two days after her first post, she uploaded a photo of the German actor Clemens Schick, whom Goldin laughingly told the Guardian last year that hooked up with in the '90s before realizing he was gay, and has been close friends with ever since. From there followed a 1996 photo of Kathleen White—Goldin's friend whom she documented extensively throughout the AIDS crisis of the '90s, as seen in her current show at Pioneer Works—and Renoir's 1868 painting of a nude man posing with a cat.
Warhol is of course long gone, but Goldin is in fact the latest contemporary artist now being credited for their pre-Instagram tendencies—often much to their chagrin—to join the app. Cindy Sherman, for example, made her Instagram public this summer—though it wasn't long before she told W that she "actually hate[s] the idea of selfies" and cringes when she hears people say she's the queen of them. (She's almost always the main star of her portraiture, but to Sherman, they don't depict herself, but rather the characters she's adopting.)
Goldin, whose self-portrait "Nan One Month After Being Battered" remains one of the most famous photos from "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency," has yet to speak up explicitly about selfies, but so far her account seems to suggest she's not averse to the concept. One of her most recent posts is simply an apparently candid photo of the artist herself, captioned "Me in Milan, September 2017"—one she immediately followed with another which she described as "from a long time ago": "Self portrait as a Dominatrix Boston 1977."
It's safe to say that Goldin already seems quite committed to the platform, but if you're getting impatient waiting for the next of her posts, you can take a look back at the fan page of her archives—one of only 17 accounts she follows—here.
*This post has been updated with Goldin's comments about the account and its more recent posts.
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