Through a Female Lens
“Nan Goldin is the impassioned historian of love in the age of fluid sexuality, glamour, beauty, violence, death, intoxication, and masquerade.”
The National Gallery of Australia exhibition The Body Electric draws together both photo-based and video work made by female-identifying artists on the subject of sex, pleasure and desire. Since its beginnings in the late 1830s, photography has played a pivotal role in the way sex and sexuality are represented, as many of photography’s attributes – its capacity to render the world still; to probe, close in on or fragment its subject; the way it makes it possible in an easy way to reproduce and share the same image multiple times – have perfectly suited a particular (patriarchal) way of seeing and depicting sex. And just as photography did, video since the 1960s has been instrumental in producing and circulating a way of seeing sex and sexuality, especially pornography. But simultaneous to this history of patriarchal image-making, and to the production of images that support masculine ideas on sex and desire, are the efforts of many women artists who have sought to reposition the ways that photo and video have engaged with our experience of intimacy and sexuality.
Without a doubt one of the most important contributors to this project has been the American photographer Nan Goldin. Examples of her intensely autobiographical, intimate photographic record of her life and loves are displayed in The Body Electric. The images are from The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1982-95), a photographic diary made over a number of years featuring Goldin’s friends and lovers – her “tribe”, as she calls them. The series records Goldin’s immersion in the subcultures that made . .. Subscribe to read this article in full