“All the Beauty and the Spilled Blood”: Nan Goldin’s Raging Crusade


Photographer Nan Goldin at a protest outside the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2018, in Laura Poitras' documentary


Made famous by his project The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1979-1986), a chronicle of romantic relationships, raw immersion in her intimacy and that of her loved ones, made up of more than eight hundred slides projected in a loop and accompanied by music, Nan Goldin never needed anyone to put herself on stage and show what the United States passed over in silence: drugs, prostitution, black eye after coitus, AIDS…

For the first time, the 69-year-old photographer entrusts a piece of her life to another: Laura Poitras. This Boston documentary filmmaker, ten years her junior, conducts a radical critique of society thanks to her undeniable qualities of investigation. My Country, my country (2006), showed life in Iraq under American occupation, The Oath (2010), Guantanamo prison, and Citizenfour (Oscar for best documentary film in 2015) retraced the genesis of the Snowden affair.

Awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in February, his latest feature film, All the beauty and the bloodshed, looks back on Nan Goldin’s last fight, launched at the end of 2017. Having become addicted to a painkiller, OxyContin, prescribed after an operation, the former icon of the 1980s has made the fight against opioids her own in the United States, where these drugs have made people addicted and claimed 500,000 lives in recent years.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The worrying success of OxyContin, a powerful opiate analgesic

The documentary follows the actions of the PAIN group (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), created by Goldin against the Sackler family, whose company Purdue manufactured OxyContin. Backstage meetings, die-ins (the crowd stretched out to mimic the mass of victims at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in 2018) and throwing of prescriptions at the Guggenheim punctuate the film through and through, according to the Goldin’s obsession: to remove the name of the Sacklers from the museums of which they are patrons, to erase the memory of these people, even if it means canceling his future exhibitions.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The Sackler family, masters of opioids and friends of the arts

Biographical documentary

At the artist’s invitation, Laura Poitras once again finds herself in the right place at the right time, but her investigative work this time consists of taking some distance to retrace the history of the rebellion of her inspiration, from an abundance of particularly interesting archives, made up of extremely rare images as well as ultra-famous photos. This family album, an intimate archeology of Nan Goldin’s sedition, gives flesh and humanity to her fight against addiction. It all begins with the portrait of his big sister, Barbara, who threw herself under a train, at 18, for loving women, a victim of the well-meaning suburbs of 1960s America.

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