Category Archives: Sensation

Contemporary Art (7) – Marlene Dumas

“My best works are erotic displays of mental confusions (with intrusions of irrelevant information).”

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Marlene Dumas (b. 1953, Cape Town) – one of the most important, influential figurative painters working today.

With Dumas one may easy get into a trap of ‘an infatuated viewer’. Trap she has crafted herself – deliberately or not- it is working well, and blinding all those moths that had dared to approach these paintings too close, well beyond the line of their personal zones…

They are there to seduce, to spit at taboo, to provoke, to lit the flames of all sorts of powerful emotions… Embodied femmes fatales, dark and alluring, doomed and the born survivors…

To form any theoretical apparatus for Dumas’ work is a waste of time. Yet, it doesn’t mean the paintings are irrational. Quite opposite is true – to experience them means to approach them with some sort of a keen intelligence, yet it’s a special kind of intelligence; even not the emotional one – more sensual, passionate one… And some deeply fleshly logic has to be put to hard work… Painted with brooding, intense sensations they reveal themselves under the touch of a viewer’s neurological stir…

As paintings-artworks they are deliciously painterly and ardent in execution. Paint is being laid (poured) loosely and in a number of visceral, beautifully transparent layers; highly expressive marks co-exist with a smooth, detailed finish in one part or another. The overall impression is that of a juicy, bitter-sweet forbidden fruit – to be taken of left behind….

Mmmm…


Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Sam Brownback with Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009.


This legislation works to ensure that our society recognizes the dignity and sacredness of human life.

Creating human-animal hybrids, which permanently alter the genetic makeup of an organism, will challenge the very definition of what it means to be human and is a violation of human dignity and a grave injustice.

This legislation is both philosophical and practical as it has a direct bearing upon the very essence of what it means to be human, and it draws a bright line with respect to how far we can go in attempting to create new creatures made with genes from both humans and animals.(Brownback)


The Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act would ban the creation of human-animal hybrids. Human-animal hybrids are defined as those part-human, part-animal creatures, which are created in laboratories, and blur the line between species. The bill is modest in scope and only affects efforts to blur the genetic lines between animals and humans. It does not preclude the use of animals or humans in legitimate research or health care where genetic material is not passed on to future generations, such as the use of a porcine heart valve in a human patient or the use of a lab rat with human diseases to develop treatments.

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The question is:

What is there exactly, that those politicians are so scared of?

What is that protected and inalienable: dignity and sacredness of human life – that human dignity – they are ready to fight for?

Just take away all the religious and – yes – philosophical life-jacket out of their reasoning…what we are left with?

A common, yet never -to -be -admitted fear of a pandemonium of being truly ‘human’ with the messed-up animal DNA?…


How is it then – are we so frail in our human identity, are we so insecure in it that we have to ban all the attempts of disturbing that ‘sacred’ purity of the dominating species?

But – if there is any system, any reality which knows only one ‘correct’ answer, only one possible scenario – is it not yet another case (or possibility, at least) of an intellectual, spiritual and – factual – dictatorship?

To dictate one and only solution to a highly intricate problem/phenomenon – this is all what this sort of politics are about…

What are they so scared of? What are we so scared of?

Ourselves?…



Human World – Sensation (1)

SENSATION
A term commonly used to refer to the subjective experience resulting from stimulation of a sense organ, for instance, a sensation of warm, sour, or green. As a general scientific category, the study of sensation is the study of the operation of the senses. Sense receptors are the means by which information presented as one form of energy, for example, light, is converted to information in the form used by the nervous system, that is, impulses traveling along nerve fibers.

Each sense has mechanisms and characteristics peculiar to itself, but all display the phenomena of absolute threshold, differential threshold, and adaptation. Not until sufficient stimulation impinges on a receptor can the presence of a stimulus be detected. The quantity of stimulation required is known as the absolute threshold. Not until a sufficient change occurs in some aspect of a stimulus can the change be detected. The magnitude of the change required is called the differential threshold. Under steady stimulation there is a decrease in sensitivity of the corresponding sense, as indicated by a shift in the absolute threshold and in the magnitude of sensation. After the stimulation ceases, sensitivity increases. An obvious example of visual adaptation occurs when one goes from bright to dim surroundings or vice versa.

With fairly good accuracy humans can localize visual objects, sounds, and cutaneous contacts and can discriminate the spatial orientation of the body and its members. With rather poor accuracy humans can localize many of the stimuli originating within the body.

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World of human sensation popularized.

Discovery documentaries: 1st  part of 48 series. Double click to access all the material.


New toys of a dirty boy – Eric Fischl

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A gifted boy with dirty imagination is back.

Eric Fischl (b. 1948, NY) has apparently abandoned his flamboyant yuppies and bad boys lost in their hedonistic activities on daddies’ yachts and in flashy apartments. Or rather – he grew up with them, since the new characters of his painted stories are middle- aged couples, lost again, yet in thoughts more than in purely sensual stimulants.

In 2002 the painter has staged and directed few episodes of a very contemporary drama, he hired actors and then extensively photographed them in a home-like setting; then he painted a series of works based on their performance there. So-called “Krefeld Project” (from then name of a place in Germany) has been accomplished.

As the portrayed relationship goes deeper and stranger, so the paint on the surface of canvas dissolves and disintegrates. Identity of the examined individuals goes to pieces (or rather – layers) with it. They are every-and-any-of-us, white, heterosexual, ‘normal’, inhabiting a modern-looking, comfortable space.

Yet, there is that unsettling, heavy air that lingers, much like in D. Lynch’s movies. Sexually charged atmosphere is rendered beautifully in peachy, golden light; a viewer is faced with everyday scenes of great intimacy… But it’s hardly yet another “Casablanca” – nobody is going to make a life-saving sacrifice here. A couple plays enjoyable roles in their cushy world, just like many of us do. They may stay this way for years or leave each other next day, to find another apartment with fresh towels and soft robes, to create a new illusion of communication and sense with another human being. Like many of us – middle-class, Caucasian, modern – would do…

Leaving all these complex (always highly individualized) readings of Fischl’s work, there is no way to miss his technical mastery (best appreciated, obviously, in details), which he had managed to gain over the years and displays in his recent paintings. He virtually doesn’t ‘paint’ mechanically speaking – he seems to project his thoughts seamlessly on canvas, like dreams project upon consciousness without any conscious effort or even a will. Fluid yet fractured, complex yet straightforward, intimate yet sunk in itself – the life, the world, the people of our age. We – our – selves… A lesson from a grown-up dirty boy?

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One can appreciate E. Fischl paintings from the “Krefeld Project” in the National Museum of Krakow, Poland till the end of August 2009. To see my article on the exhibition there: here. To see more detailed photos and descriptions: here.


“Floating Culture” and the Thickness of things…

Check out these two last posts on Henri Art Magazine:

In Hyperaesthetics – 19 sixty he describes our culture – POMO (Postmodernism) of an unacceptable lightness:

We are somnambulists and voyeurs, lost in the hallucinatory world of light-speed and lenses. We are no longer grounded. We float in the digital subjective, our voices not quite our own, because we have merged into the great electronic collective. (…) We lack depth and heft. We are light as a feather on the breeze – a world of Forrest Gumps. (…) We signify rather than converse. We develop games rather than create poetics. We program applications rather than create mythologies. Our vision determines nothing in the free floating vacuum of space.

Hm, interesting… It reminds me about Japanese Ukyio-efloating world, floating culture from 19th. century, which Hokusai captured in his great woodcuts. That was the world of hedonism, light-weight and extravagance, ‘unbearably light’ as M. Kundera would say. In Hokusai’s ” Great Wave” a disaster strikes dwarfing the frantic efforts of men in boats, who are about to perish. A big metaphor and vision at the same time?

Then, Jerry Saltz is being quoted as commenting on the “Generational: Younger than Jesus” (what an awkward title, after all) exhibition:These young artists show us that the sublime has moved into us, that we are the sublime; life, not art, has become so real that it’s almost unreal. I would disagree – that “Man is the measure of all things” – that’s nothing new; in fact, it has been said in 5th B.C. (Protagoras) and has been repeated endlessly in different forms from then till now. But, hardly ever before man was less ‘sublime’, if one takes traditional/dictionary meaning of the word as : elevated, noble, lofty, awe-inspiring, majestic and out-of-this-world… Well, one could agree on the last adjective Floating in today’s cyber-space, creating avatars and entire parallel worlds/lives online, living in the complex, globalized, absolutely commercialized spacethe contemporary man is, indeed, out-of-this-world. But, if the world he inhabits belongs to the ‘sublime’ experience is rather a questionable point…

Another post: Rough Trade – Thick is a logical consequence of the first one. We are too light, our art is too light… Solution? We have to become thicker… Actually, I find it fascinating – this author from another continent, another generation expresses, in slightly different terms, what I defined as: painting independent ‘living organisms’,  rather than just another image/representation. We echo each other intuitions, as if this mood and a need of a change was in the air:

It is not the “fresh air…around the painting” that we need to be looking at. We’ve had fresh air around painting for FAR TOO LONG. We need fecund, thick air in the painting itself. We need to be panting, gasping for air, in front of the painting. And it’s here that we get to the thickness of things. It’s like when one holds a thing in one’s hand – it has heft and weight, volume and form. It has temperature and texture, it asserts its existence. These are exactly the same things that happen when we look at things without the critical play, when we look at things straight away and it should happen when we look at art. We should see the Thickness of things and by seeing it, we should feel it…

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Henri – Mark Stone – is an American painter. To see his personal site click here.


Chaos Theory, Fractals and the complexity of existence…

I’ve promised you few notes on “Fractal Ontology”. Well, here they go…

The term bridges philosophical notion of ‘ontology’ -(Greek meaning: ‘theory/science of being’) with the phenomenon of ‘fractals’ taken from the natural sciences and maths. Going deeper – ‘fractals’ originate from the Chaos Theory, and this is where one probably should start all the explanations.

Chaos Theory is a dark horse of contemporary science. Two hundred years ago  it would be unthinkable – Newtonian perfectly organized world-view, with its deliciously logical mechanics, was too strong to allow any serious benefit of a doubt.  A hundred years ago Einstein’s genius abolished the rule of determinism, reductionism and objective knowledge in science – his contribution was so revolutionary and complex that it hasn’t been fully digested yet; practically, one can easy predict, that our 21st century would be a completely different fairy-tale if it wasn’t for that one man and his theories…

The ‘scandal’ of Chaos in science had started to develop in maths (with regular experiments being conducted in 1920s onwards), then had been followed by physics, chemistry and biology  – where scientists observed irregularities, even randomness in the dynamics of systems considered as ‘ordered’ by the traditional views. From various chemical reactions in micro and macro-cosmos to weather and climate – universe has started to display itself as – in fact – infinite chaos, rather than the absolute order, as humankind was keen to believe for ages.

In natural world, there have always existed structures and phenomena, which proved to be impossible to describe by traditional Euclidean geometry or Newtonian dynamics… Mountains ranges, clouds, coastlines, crystals, lightning, blood vessels –  boundless, captivatingly beautiful, unpredictable in its evolution though fairly self-similar, they generate themselves forever expanding accordingly to the rules, which cannot be completely captured or explained, simply because they’re no definite rules… Epitomes of Life per se – the face of Nature in its most primordial, creative and self-sustaining structure… These are FRACTALS – children of the organized chaos of the Universe. Yet “chaos” here doesn’t simply mean ‘anarchy’ but ‘a higher order’ – out of confusion and complexity life emerges as a functioning organism, it may be unpredictable and extremely sensitive to any stimulants – yet – it displays that innate tendency to form into patterns and structures – it fosters and commands order despite of all forces that act against it.

Fragmented, ‘broken’, complex, inexhaustible – this is the ‘fractal’ theory of existence (transplanting scientific concepts on the philosophical field). One of those very few examples where the nature of the human thought and the nature of the physical world interweave so closely and creatively.

Focusing on the creativity- ‘fractal’ world-view belongs to the oldest, most pre-thought, deeply spiritual as the example from the ancient “Book of Kells” (above) shows. There are many symbols and primitive art images created by ancient civilizations, which show their intuitive reading of nature as fragmented, ‘fractured’.

Picasso’s portrait of A. Vollard (above), just like many cubists works from its analytical period picture the fractal vision of reality – looks like art preceded science in its practical applications of the Chaos and Fractal Theory (though calling it with different names)… In many abstract and abstract expressionist works, from P. Klee and J. Pollock to postmodern works (look above -work from the “Fractal Gallery”), often digitally generated one can easily noticed how that chaotic, ‘broken’, non-linear (as opposed to ‘classical’ ordered) representation of reality prevails presenting itself with innovative spirit, confidence and haunting beauty.

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Note: Due to the immense complexity of the issues presented and the brief nature of blogging, one cannot consider this article as ‘informative’ in a scientific sense (due to simplifications and the fragmented outlook). Its intent is mainly that of promoting science and its theories. Care will be taken in my further research to develop this, here introduced, art-science affinity concept. Extended information on fractals can be found online – here are some of the links: FractalOntologyWikipedia, Chaos Intro, EnchantedMind and many more…


Liminal Theatre – Antonin Artaud


~ The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of everything — gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness — rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations. To break through language in order to touch life is to create or recreate the theatre.

~ All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth.

~ No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.

~ When we speak the word ”life’,’ it must be understood we are not referring to life as we know it from its surface of fact, but to that fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach.

~ You are outside life, you are above life, you have miseries which the ordinary man does not know, you exceed the normal level, and it is for this that men refuse to forgive you, you poison their peace of mind, you undermine their stability. You have irrepressible pains whose essence is to be inadaptable to any known state, indescribable in words. You have repeated and shifting pains, incurable pains, pains beyond imagining, pains which are neither of the body nor of the soul, but which partake of both. And I share your suffering, and I ask you: who dares to ration our relief? We are not going to kill ourselves just yet. In the meantime, leave us the hell alone.

~ The race of prophets is extinct. Europe is becoming set in its ways, slowly embalming itself beneath the wrappings of its borders, its factories, its law-courts and its universities. The frozen Mind cracks between the mineral staves which close upon it. The fault lies with your moldy systems, your logic of 2 + 2 = 4. The fault lies with you, Chancellors, caught in the net of syllogisms. You manufacture engineers, magistrates, doctors, who know nothing of the true mysteries of the body or the cosmic laws of existence. False scholars blind outside this world, philosophers who pretend to reconstruct the mind. The least act of spontaneous creation is a more complex and revealing world than any metaphysics.

A. Artaud

The ‘sacred theatre of absurd’, the ‘theatre of cruelty’, theatre of non-identity, non-existence – mind-blowing, weirdo, genius, in parts completely nuts…

Beckett-sque, Kafka-sque… Sartre, Camus, Dada, Surreal…

Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Tadeusz Kantor…

Creating void in thought, a gap between words and thoughts, language and ideas, a silent beyond-ness hovering between a creator and the creation, ‘me’ and ‘them’…

Stage drama and the very personal drama, sacred and profane, opening wounds as spaces of healing and the risk of even deeper harm… No retreat from life, no cheap escapism, no straight-faced moralism, no mere subversion…

But one huge effort, experiment, ferment, fever, game, challenge – to make sense of life here and now – by the most nonsensical means there have been invented yet…

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Troubled Art – Chaim Soutine

He was that kind of a difficult snotty kid, who appeared from nowhere as if fully formed, then, like a meteor glowing with dark, perpetual fire he flashed through life fulfilled with struggles, suffering, torment and passions. He left one of the most compelling collections of paintings in the Modern Art; despite of the quite ferocious competition from Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and many others…

Chaim Soutine was a painter of his own obsessions. Only. Buying his place in the art world at a high price of the family rejection, exile, extreme poverty, illness and the life-long emotional disturbance he remained an outsider in Paris of Modernists; moody, clumsy Jewish oddball from funny-sounding village (Smilovitchy) in Belarus.

He painted like a man possessed, staining canvasses with his own guts and each time risking that he won’t survive his own probe. He handled paint like one handles a chunk of meat – he penetrated it deeply as if with a knife in order to spread it thickly across the canvas in violent patterns. An ultimate, genius painting animal – no real training, no theory or concepts behind, no alternations or preparations – only the creative act, urgent, necessary, exhausting and virtuoso at the same time.

He was often called ‘the painter of death’ due to his eccentric fancies for smelly carcasses and hanged turkeys; yet – I cannot agree with that. For Soutine’s perpetual greed and hunger for life is much more stronger than his apparent melancholic flirting with the extinction forces… His forests and fields, dead birds and fish seemed to be endowed with life simply because they  breathe with Soutine’s own fever, intensity, complexity and beauty of the character. His admired master – Rembrandt has taught him that – that reality is there to be respected; the materiality, sensuality of things is at the foundation of a spiritual strength. That’s why Soutine was probably the only major painter in Fauvists and Cubists’ Paris having painting only from life and with no interest at all in participating in the revolution going on in art at that moment.

I have a strange fondness for that dirty Jewish kid, I envy his purest, unadulterated ‘gut feeling’ of paint and creative experience; and when I was looking for his grave at Montparnasse Cemetery (it took me a bit – the grave itself is a very simple, horizontal tombstone in a small, Jewish part of the place) I had in mind the words of a distinguished Polish art historian (Waldemar Lysiak) – that Chaim Soutine was forever a banished child – the one thrown out of a nest, who has never fully managed to exorcise his childhood and to grant the world his absolution… And he painted, again an again, the most poignant images of little children (just like the one featured above) – alone on a road, with ominous, stormy world towering over them… Little exiles, at home in no place; so sad yet so truthful – and with no sentiment or self-pity at all…

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The Face – a short story of existence and annihilation.

Human face. The Face. What is there what our conscience claims as ‘real’ that is more exposed and more impenetrable, more familiar and more uncanny, more loved and more despised?

At the beginning there was a Chaos and…

For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals
Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination
We learned to talk
(S.Hawkins quoted by Pink Floyd in “Keep Talking”)

When first cavemen put images of their world on the walls of their mind and space they occupied art had been born, yet something much more had came into existence – man set afire his own genius of distracting the act of being, the Existence from itself, of putting a symbolic Name, the Face on physical, actual Self.

Through ages and generations we have been inventing our humanity cutting through its surface to reach the depths just like a surgeon cuts a mother’s womb to reach the reluctant baby. We’ve created gods and mythologies, in wild yet far from being scare moments of a pure narcissism we gave our own, specifically Human Face to those deities and universes. Asserting and fighting our own being we’ve condemned them to our pitiful and formidable passions, to an imaginable suffering and cruel death, neither curses of perfectness nor blessings of daemons have been spared to those creations of human mind and imagination.

Modern times brought a challenge of extending the limits of our neurological systems and sensual perception through a development of electronics and virtual realities – the old dream of the Multiverse – multi-reality with parallel worlds and alternative time-lines, in which one could exist in multiple incarnations and at various points in his/hers lifespan seems to be closer than ever.

Our grand-grand parents gazed with a somehow stupefied expression on their photographic and/or painterly portrait both admiring and hating its power to capture the being by mocking it in never-accurate renditions. Our fathers made a ritual and a sexual-like act out of having a picture taken – probably more images of the human simulacrum, more Faces has been constructed in the last hundred years than in the whole history of the humankind put together and the technology has been perfected to serve that need – to multiply, duplicate, transplant, construct and deconstruct, perfect and finally – to destroy human Self in its appearance and essence.

Our humanity has been and is still our obsession, my humanity is my obsession.

It’s impossible to imagine a different scenario except that of a madness and other forms of escapism. The most surprising thing I consider to hear today (even though “to be surprised’ is even more surprising than to be alive) is when a creative person paints an abstract shapes or builds an esoteric looking structures and claims that they have nothing to do with her/him – that it’s only an ironic play with concepts, a homage to masters or an activity hanging somewhere between a void and a boredom. There is no art outside you being you, outside your guts and what is the most Sublime in you, outside the trauma and beauty of self-discovery. Art of today acts as an exorcism, a self-hypnosis, a self-therapy. Sartre’s, Freud’s, Baudrillard’s and other post-modern elements are mixed with our blood, no serious alternative has been attempted yet. To dismiss it is to be deluded.

But where to go from this bloody battlefield where dozens of conceptual corpses still seem to breathe (brrr, that sounds scary) and millions of images that have nothing to do with the real, actual being look completely legitimate, even necessary? Humanism seems to be put in fairy tales or at least it is in a serious identity crisis… Is our era is that of ‘post-human’ ? . We make our own avatars, humanoids, we attribute animals and objects with human-like qualities, we know very little about emotions and how to really communicate with each other, we attempt to cheat death – that only equal enemy still anchoring us to our fleshy, “bloody”, so called ‘human’ existence… But maybe I’m going too far after all… Maybe we only lost our Face being blinded by flashes of the contemporary challenge… Maybe…

P.s.

Images above feature Loretta Lux’s work (“Dorothea”), Rembrandt’s self-portrait, Martin Parr’s work (from the “Common Sense” series) and my own snapshot taken just a while ago to incorporate my own Face (or what can pass for it) in the ‘story’.


Nan Goldin’s photos – because truth liberates…

La literature m’assura que les hommes existaient depuis longtemps.
La musique m’apprit que leur melancolie les precedait.
La peinture me precisa que les hurlements peuvent etre silencieux.
(…)
Le jour se leve, gris bleu et m’envahit.
Tes yeux aussi e levent et me rencontrant me sortent de l’obscurite.
Ce qui est inter-dit, entre reel and imaginaire, entre ombre et lumiere, cet
espace inoui et regnant, la, dans le creux, dans mon creux, dans ton creux
qui, se rejoignant, forment ce plein qui nous tient.

Je t’aime

Bruno Renou

Literature assures that humans have existed for a long time.
Music teaches that their melancholy precedes them.
Painting makes it clear that screams can be silent.
(…)
Day has risen, grayish blue, and it has flooded me.
Your eyes have risen too to encounter me and release me from darkness.
What cannot be said enters reality and imagination, night and light, it
Expands incredibly and takes a reign, over a void, over my void, over your void
Those hollows, when united compose a wholeness that keeps us together.

Nan Goldin (b. 1953, American) – fine-art and documentary photographer, widely recognized as one of the most influencing and important photographers working today.

Goldin’s work is a class in itself, at the same time – intensely private but with an universal appeal, shamelessly exhibitionist yet fulfilled with tenderness, almost casual in its visual simplicity yet easily betraying its complex, spiritual content.

The artist lives in New York and Paris and it’s there where she has been dancing her boldly personal and miraculous dance of translating ordinary lives of her close friends – passionate homo and heterosexual couples, HIV and abuse victims, bohemian artists and writers into an ultra modern mythological tales of love, passion, sex, death, sorrow, loneliness.

There is a formidable honesty and – because of that – a huge blow of freedom which her photos pulsate with. Couples make love ignoring us completely, then they sink into themselves – and again, we are invited and ignored, naked modern Madonnas with all the imperfections of their bodies gaze towards the viewer with self-assurance which no male photographer was ever able to capture … and so on, and so on…

These images are mesmerizing in their power to convey humanity – that uncanny quality of being-as-a-human (what, on Earth, does it mean actually?), they obey no tabu or cultural savoir vivre , they cross borders and make any conventions, ‘social contracts’, all sort of ‘polite’ , moral rubbish etc. look so ridiculous, that one can wonder – why does it still control our lives?…

They are so beautifully truthful – they will be still in a hundred years… Tales of souls devoured by passions, abandoning themselves for each other yet always alone, completely exposed and completely concealed, courageous and fragile…

P.S.

“Je t’aime” poem written by Goldin’s friend and ‘model’ Bruno Renou appears in fragments, translated by K.S., all photos featured by Nan Goldin.


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