As a former grungy, and slightly pretentious, fine art student I have long been a fan of Nan Goldin’s photography. Goldin’s honest, unflinching but also loving style of photography has spoken to generations of photographers and artists. Breaking conventions of photography and portraiture and serving up a real slice of New York life, particularly its glorious subcultures. Goldin’s work is the perfect balance of tenderness and grit, much like the artist herself.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed follows Goldin’s recent activism, weaving in elements of Goldin’s history, biography and works, continuously looping back to her work with activist group PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), specifically their efforts to expose and break the cycle of ‘toxic philanthropy’ of the Sackler family.
The Sackler family are synonymous with museum and gallery sponsorship throughout the world, they are also responsible for OxyContin, its aggressive and deceptive marketing and its hand in the US opioid crisis. In the film Goldin speaks honestly and unwaveringly about her own struggles with opioid addiction which brought her to form PAIN.
Laced throughout footage of current activism Goldin talks about her family, the way her sister was treated by her parents and by medical professionals at the time for not fitting the mould, she speaks about finding her people in New York, getting into the art world, drug abuse, domestic violence and sex work.
No stranger to activism, Goldin demonstrated against the lack of action during the AIDS epidemic, through her work and her words the film provides an opportunity to meet the wonderful artists and creatives tragically lost to the epidemic from Goldin’s circle.
One of the really special elements of All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is the way her work is shown as slideshows, which is how Goldin displayed her work, alongside an ever changing soundtrack. Here the artist’s gravelly but even voice, takes us through the images.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed shows Goldin’s tenacity, her unwavering belief that something is wrong, something has to be done about it and that she is willing to sacrifice for this cause. It also shows that Goldin recognises her weight as an artist, which in this fight is a weapon.
I loved this film because it reminded me that art can change the world and that individuals united can make a difference. As well as a gorgeous portrait of an incredible artist and person, it is a reminder not to accept the unacceptable.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 17th – Thursday 23rd February
Reviewed by Robyn Lawrence
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