Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018: ‘Full Speed Into The World’

Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018: “If I want to take a picture, I take it no matter what.

Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018

Words: Will Ballantyne-Reid
All images courtesy of Nan Goldin and Matthew Marks Gallery

Amidst the hyper-capitalist spectacle of Frieze 2018, the political turmoil of the last year, and on the day before Brett Kavanaughs controversial and much-contested confirmation, legendary photographer Nan Goldin took to the stage with veteran arts writer Linda Yablonsky to discuss her career.

Goldin is famously one of the most fearless photographers of her generation – with work that examines the deeply nuanced relations between couplingof all degrees. From relationships that veer between fear and obsession, to individuals in a complex relationship with their own self-presentation, Goldins work has always delved into the rich tapestry of our own humanity. Her appearance forced a re-consideration of her landmark practice, in the context of a modern world that though plagued with political unrest has at least made leaps and bounds in the context of queer representation – of which Goldin was a torch-bearer, realising the vast array of aesthetic and emotional identities that could be caught on camera under the focus of her lens.

Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018

The instance of photographing, instead of creating a distance, is a moment of clarity and emotional connection for me.

This was clear in each moment of her conversation with Yablonsky, who carefully guided the conversation through a cast of characters – many of whom are now historically renowned; Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz, Cookie Mueller, and other luminaries of New York on the cusp the AIDS epidemic, which would cut short so many of their brilliant lives. Writing on the iconography and rhetoric of the AIDS epidemic — and the epidemic of significationthat occurred as result — Susan Sontag assessed that the catastrophe of AIDS suggests the immediate necessity of limitation.This accompanied, in part, the observation of multiple socio-cultural breakdowns; the conflation of medical fact and social fiction, the sensationalising impact of moral panic upon the media, the effect of hysteria upon imaging the disease — and how these were fuelled careless reporting, pre-existing homophobia, and governmental complacency. In a time of cultural confusion, fake news, and the breakdown of public discourse over multiple crises of socio-political injustice, Goldins work remains as relevant today as it has ever been.

The talk began with Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018 highlighting to the audience the presence of a striking series of medicinal bottles on the table, one for each life that would be lost to the American Opioid crisis during the course of her one-hour talk. This is her latest cri de coeur, and one through which she has suffered directly (as has always been the case with her work.) Writing of her own struggle with opioid addiction, Goldin acknowledges she narrowly escaped […] I went from the darkness and ran full speed into the world.

Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018

“I was isolated, but I realised I wasnt alone. When I got out of treatment I became absorbed in reports of addicts dropping dead from my drug, OxyContin. I decided to make the private public […] my first action is to publish personal photographs from my own history.

As such, she has led an international campaign against the Sackler family – prescription drug dynasty and noted patrons of the arts – described by the New York Times as the family that built an empire of pain.In again tying her work to an epidemic of physical injustice and its emotional consequence, Goldin continues to forge ahead with a photographic practice that is deeply entrenched in her own personal politics – and in the bravery it takes to make the personal public in the name of political progression. We should all be grateful for her fearlessness, and the humility and honesty with which she rages on.

Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018

 

To see more by Nan Goldin at Frieze 2018, visit Matthew Marks Gallery

 

FAULT Reviews: ‘And Every Day was Overcast’ – An Illustrated Novel by Paul Kwiatkowski

OVERCAST-COVER-HI

Memories of childhood humanize us as adults. With age, our version of that time is deformed then reassembled. What fragments bleed through are tailored to a narrative designed to hide vulnerability.”

-P.K., And Every Day Was Overcast

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If the absence of vulnerability is a hallmark of adult self-retrospection as the first three lines of Paul Kwiatkowski’s debut novel, And Every Day Was Overcast, suggests, then the candid recollections of book’s protagonist, P.K., certainly break the mold. The narrator’s willingness to cast aside vulnerability in the service of brute honesty is all too evident as he recounts the ten years of his youth spent in Loxahatchee, Florida during the 1990s. P.K.’s youthful exploits are told in such nerve-bearing detail that not much is left to the imagination.

Take, for example, P.K.’s account of how he willingly exposed himself to a drifter to score alcohol for him and his friends. Another section of the book describes how P.K. witnessed an acquaintance commit a random act of cruel violence against the school outcast, then abandon the victim’s unconscious body outside a 7-Eleven. The friendless, unfortunate boy, named Cobain, is never to be seen or heard from again, leaving the P.K. to ruminate in remorse through the course of his young adult life.

Worse than my guilt and fear was the relief I felt” laments P.K. “I told myself that his evaporation was a small death that had brought him to a better place.”

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Yet another passage from the book describes the 40 hours of court-ordered community service P.K. spent under the wing of an HIV-positive ex-drag queen named Cody, who introduces him to the secret lives of supposedly straight, well-to-do yuppy men who cruise for sex in drive-in theater parking lots and dingy gas station bathrooms in their off-hours away from work and home. Such are the types of memories many would try to bury as far into the depths of their psyche as possible. Instead, they are brought to light by the narrator in a graphic novel that reads like a yearbook from one of the most dysfunctional high school experiences imaginable.

Kwiatkowski’s Florida is more than just the sunny, resort-ladden getaway destination its tourism department would have one believe. Its magic and charm are certainly not lost on the author, though both take a form that is much less that of the Disney variety. The author admits it took him leaving the state to fully realize just how much Florida’s topography influenced his adolescent experiences, though he’d always had it in the back of his mind that the state functioned on a plane quite different from other places.

I grew closer to the Bahamas and Jamaica than I did Georgia” says Kwiatkowski, who is currently based in New York. “So I think when you grow up in that cultural landscape you’re aware that you’re a little bit distant from the rest of America.” Shows like America’s Most Wanted, which Kwiatkowski says never ceased to showcase Florida’s pedophiles, rapists and murders, only helped to validate the author’s suspicions about the Sunshine State.

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Narratives like the vignettes found in And Every Day Was Overcast have been told countless times. Kwiatkowski’s book calls to mind Larry Clark’s seminal film Kids (1995), which drove a slegde hammer into the whimsical, John Hughesian notions of young adulthood many had often considered the norm. The novel continues this tradition,recounting the awkward and often ill-advised exploits of listless teens, though it exchanges the New York’s skyscrapers, yellow cabs and rushed pedestrians for everglades, palm trees and alligators. Still, the novel’s presentation is quite ground-breaking in its own right. And Every Day Was Overcast blurs the lines between fiction and memoir by juxtaposing countless photos taken by Kwiatkowski (most between the ages of 13 to 18) with vivid prose. Its narrative is as much dependant on the text as it is images to fully tell P.K.’s story.

I didn’t want it to function as just a photo book where people would be like ‘Oh these photos are really pretty.’ I realize that they’re snapshots and that they’re nothing special,” says Kwiatkowski. “I’m sure a lot of people have the exact same types of pictures from their past.”

As a whole, Kwiatkowski’s novel succeeds in doing much more than simply conveying the isolated experiences of one idle teenager with a penchant for drugs, pornography and reckless sexual encounters. Through a marriage of images and words, the novel illustrates the result of adolescent malaise against Florida’s eerie, subtropical backdrop. Perhaps less noticeably, And Every Day Was Overcast is also the story of a man fortunate enough to have actually made it out.

and every day was overcast

 

Words: Carolyn Okomo
All Images: Copyright 2013 Paul Kwiatkowski/Black Balloon Publishing. andeverydaywasovercast.com

Paul Kwiatkowski: Voyeur with a “Shitty Camera” and a Love of Larry Clark

While the grunge look of the nineties may be all the rage on the runways this year, the era is also influencing the art world. With resurgence in weathered and muted photographs in fine and commercial art, it is no surprise artists inspired by the likes of neoprene, Kate Moss and a fuck you attitude are turning heads with their honest observations of seedy behavior, guilty pleasures and off kilter characters of society. Concentrating on various subcultures, this idea of this so-called “snapshot photography” has been around since the 1950’s evolving from social realistic imagery. Each decade saw artists embrace the genre as their own, putting their own contemporary twist on the aesthetic, yet sill capturing dynamic oddball subjects. From Diane Arbus and Garry Winograd to Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, the genre has evolved to include the culture of each time. In the continuous search to find new and interesting subjects, snapshot photographers are ironically finding a renewed place in society with their fringe subjects.

Following the path of these photographers, young artist Paul Kwiatkowski is blurring the lines between reality and fantasy by injecting his own voyeuristic perspective. Dabbling in fashion editorials Kwiatkowski is most known for his extremely intimate shots of subjects. Baring boobs, bum and crack habits, the young photographer allows his subjects to let go in front of the camera until he spots the perfect second to freeze frame the moment. Nothing is off limits in his photographs, creating a degree of unnerving intrigue for the viewer. Not one to shy away from shock and awe, Kwiatkowski is a photographer who clearly subscribes to the notion “the more fucked up the better.”

As most artists do, Kwiatkowski started off as just another media underling as a producer/editor for documentaries. After the company went under he lost his mind and decided to “find himself” using his unemployment checks to fund traveling around South America. After some bad twists and turns along the way, including a bus high-jacking in Ecuador, Kwiatkowski got his shit together and decided to follow the path of photography by telling his own story through images. “I love narrative work that shows a character that has gone through an event and come out altered, whether it be a bad acid trip or a formative event. Stories are the only way I can make sense of myself,” says Kwiatkowski.

At first glance, the photographer’s subject choices seem like an ironic statement on popular culture or a hot hipster with a nice ass and a coke habit, but Kwiatkowski is not your typical pervy portrait photographer. Describing his aesthetic as “refined crude,” Kwiatkowski subscribes to the Arbus and Clark school of photography, capturing his subjects in intimate and uncomfortable instances. “I like catching spontaneous moments of vulnerability or unease as much as I love connecting with the subject. As long as the resulting image comes out unexpected, I’m content,” says Kwiatkowski.

With reality shows, blogs Instagram and the further blurred line between reality and make-believe, the renewed interest in snapshot photography has moved into the digital age with people putting themselves on display. Kwiatkowski’s work may rebel against current trends and embrace the raw voyeurism in photographs of the 1960s and 1970s. The only thread that Kwiatkowski has between the two is the use of a “shitty camera.”

Using his shitty camera, Kwiatkowski has managed to create several projects chronicling fashion models to everyday people. His boldest endeavor to date is the release of And Every Day Was Overcast, a photographic essay of growing up in southern Florida. As a whole it is a reflection of Kwiatkowski’s own teenage years and his wrestle with loss, change, sex, drugs and friendships. Combining images and text, the book is Kwiatkowski’s first attempt at fusing the two in his work both technically and conceptually.  “I wasn’t interested in making an illustrated book but creating a world where photographic and literary story telling could gleam off one another to construct a narrative. We all have false memories. We only remember the last time we thought of something not the way we felt when it was actually happening. Our perceptions and realities change with hindsight,” says Kwiatkwowski of using the medium of photographic essay to tell his story.

To see more images from Paul Kwiatkowski and learn more about And Every Day Was Overcast visit http://paulkmedia.com/

 

All images by Paul Kwiatkowski