Nan Goldin brings her empathy and activism to London

Pain protestors throw dollar signs over the Sackler courtyard at the V&A Gareth Harris

Last week Nan Goldin made a triumphant, emotional and tumultuous return to London. Critics— including this correspondent—were unable to stem their tears before a pair of stunning new film works unveiled in her debut with Marian Goodman Gallery. It is also Goldins first exhibition in the UK for nearly two decades. Sirens, from which the show takes its title, uses found footage to convey the seductive experience of being high. Theres wooziness, euphoria and sometimes excruciating details of self-harm as Goldin edits together obscure 60s sci-fi, clips from Kenneth Anger and Antonioni and crowds of pulsating ravers, as well as a field of prone bodies coming slowly back life and an agonising closeup of someone picking at a wound with a safety pin.

Pain rather than pleasure, as well as the consequences of the quest for intoxication, underpin Memory Lost, which Goldin only finished a few weeks ago. Raw and redemptive it weaves together a narrative of good as well as desperately bad times. Memory Lost unflinchingly charts Goldins life through the prism of addiction. It stands both as a memorial and an emotive chronicle of the heroin years of 80s New York and Goldins subsequent addiction to the opioid Oxycontin after wrist surgery in 2014. Like Sirens, it is set to a swelling emotive score commissioned from the brilliant young composer Mica Levi. But here it is punctuated by the intimate immediacy of voiceovers and fragments from answerphone recordings. Tender but never mawkish, Memory Lost is undoubtedly one of Goldins all-time great works and forms a powerful coda to the slide show and book The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, with which she first made her name in 1985.

Since kicking her addiction, Goldin has also become a conspicuous activist around the opiod crisis. Two years ago she founded the campaign group P.A.I.N (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and now stages direct-action protests against the international art worlds unquestioning acceptance of patronage from the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of Oxycontin. Last weekend, London had direct experience of this campaigning when Goldin and P.A.I.N members occupied the Sackler Courtyard of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and mounted a mass die in, lying on the ground, strewing (fake) blood-soaked dollar bills and raising a banner in the demand that, as well as refusing their funds, the V&A "Abandon the Sackler name".

This protest was P.A.I.Ns first in the UK, but Goldins activism has alRead More – Source