‘The film Sirens (2019) suggests the irresistible call of intoxication. Edited from found film footage it evokes sensual and mystic experience: sex without sex, caressing floods of smoke and the sensuality of altered states.’ - Hettie Judah, I Newspaper, November 19, 2019
Sirens (2019–2021) is Nan Goldin’s first film made entirely from found footage. She conceived of the work as an homage to Donyale Luna, who is often cited as the first black supermodel. A cultural icon in 1960s New York, Luna died from a heroin overdose in 1979 at the age of 33. In Greek mythology, sirens are the nymphlike creatures whose alluring songs draw sailors to their tragic deaths on rocky island shores. Through its hypnotic progression of sumptuous images, Sirens associates the mythological creatures’ seductive song and the beauty of the female body with the sensuality and ecstasy of a drug high. Composed of short clips from thirty films – including the 1969 movie Satyricon; works by Kenneth Anger, Lynee Ramsay, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Federico Fellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni; Andy Warhol’s “Screen Tests” of Luna; and footage from a 1988 London rave – and with a score by the composer Mica Levi, Sirens creates a filmic corollary to the seductive euphoria of drugs. While the film presents a glamorous and romantic rendition of the pleasure of being high, its title alludes to the possible peril of drug use and the difficulty of escaping its grasp.
"I think what is striking for any person who has a background in artists’ film or experimental cinema, is that you open a completely new, unexpected direction of treating footage. […] The way you interpret it is somehow related to a specific idea of skin. […] Because it’s about a new layer, a different way of treating surfaces as if they were skin, the whole turns out very fragile, very sensitive, very alive, and astonishingly authentic” - From You Dance Better When You’re High: A conversation between Nan Goldin & Andrea Lissoni, published in This Will Not End Well, by Steidl and Moderna Museet, 2022
2019-2021 - Single-channel video; 16 min. 1 sec.
Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.
°1953, Washington D.C, United States
Nan Goldin is an American artist and activist, and is widely recognized as one of the most influential artists of our time. Her work often explores LGBTQ+ subcultures, moments of intimacy, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and the OVERDOSE epidemic. In her practice, she explores definitions of normality and gender, lending a sharp voice to the communities by which she is surrounded. In 2017, Goldin co-founded the advocacy group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), which addresses the crisis of the ongoing Drug War by targeting the pharmaceutical companies that have profited off the addictions and deaths of over half a million Americans.
Her work has been exhibited in prominent institutions on an international scale, such as Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (US), Museum of Modern Art in New York (US), Centre Pompidou in Paris (FR), Moderna Museet in Stockholm (SE), Tate Modern in London (UK) and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (ES). She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Kathë Kollwitz Award in 2022, the Hasselblad Award in 2007 and was named a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2006. In 2012, Goldin was awarded the prestigious Edward MacDowell Medal, for her outstanding contribution to American culture and the arts. Nan Goldin lives and works in New York City, Berlin, and Paris, and is represented by Gagosian Gallery.
Picture: Nan Goldin. Self-portrait smoking, Simon's house, Stockholm, 2013. Archival pigment print. 30 x 45 inches (76 x 114 cm). Edition of 15. © Nan Goldin. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian.