Touring the new hood

I set up my Mastodon account: @thebasil.c.im. Before I start posting, I’ll be looking around the place to see how the online culture there operates (back in the Usenet days we called that “lurking”). Staying on Twitter until the last of my friends and faves shut the door behind themselves on the way out.

“My kids didn’t get any Fentanyl-laced Halloween candy. So why does it feel like they did?”

Doug J. Balloon’s New York Times Pitchbot twitter feed is my favourite short-form serial satire these days.

I don’t save the day.

The day saves me.

God bless Nan Goldin

I revere no artist who has worked in my lifetime more than Nan Goldin, a woman whose photographs of her friends and herself opened up the world, it seemed. I am keenly awaiting to see the recent film “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” a documentary that weaves together the emergence of her art with the story of her fervent, perfectly pitched attacks on Purdue Pharma – manufacturer and distributer of Oxycontin – and the Sackler family that ran the company for decades. Variety has an enticing description:

Half a million people in the U.S. have died of opioids addiction, but it wasn’t until Goldin herself became addicted to OxyContin, in 2017, that she grasped the danger and learned about the multi-layered, calculating ways that Purdue Pharma had orchestrated the crisis for the sake of profit.

This outraged Goldin. But what she also learned is that the Sacklers were among the last half century’s most venerated art-world donors, giving millions and millions of dollars to the world’s most famous museums, in no small part to distract from their business practices by cultivating and polishing their image as philanthropists.

Many of these institutions, like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, had a Sackler Wing. And since the art world was Goldin’s world, she was filled with disgust, in a searing personal way, at the hypocrisy of the Sacklers’ image-laundering. As she says in the film, “They have washed their blood money through the halls of museums and universities around the world.” …

… Goldin, who is now 68, [has become] something unlikely and inspiring: an *artist* of activism. We see the events she orchestrated to spotlight the Sacklers’ pedestal in the art world, and some of them are ingenious, like dropping hundreds of opioid prescriptions as confetti from the top of the Guggenheim Museum during an opening there. Early on, the museums ignore her; they don’t want to risk the loss of funding.

But she keeps up the drumbeat, and when the National Portrait Gallery in London agrees, after a protest, to turn down a million-dollar donation from the Sacklers, the dominos began to fall, as other fabled institutions — the Tate, the Louvre — follow suit. Goldin’s goal was to have the Sacklers’ name removed from museum galleries. And by the end of the documentary, the Met, setting a seismic precedent, does just that.

It’s a moment of triumph, even as the true subject of “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” — and, in a way, of Goldin’s art — remains the lacerating cost of trauma.

Luke Melvin Basil