On the Cover: Aperture’s “Ballads” Issue

Poster for Ballads of Sexual Dependency, by Nan Goldin, Collective for Living Cinema, New York, May 9, 1983
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, London, and Paris

Before Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency was screened at museums around the world and published by Aperture as a now-classic photobook, there was the live event, announced on posters on the streets of Manhattan and Berlin. “As we said in those years,” Nan Goldin tells Darryl Pinckney in “Ballads,” Aperture’s Summer 2020 issue, “in the ’80s and ’90s, there was no way to see anything unless you were present.”

The Ballad was a performance, often staged in crowded, downtown bars. These were underground happenings, slideshows of almost seven hundred pictures set to music, edited and re-edited, sometimes minutes before. It could be chaotic: slides would get stuck, or projector bulbs would break. The poster on the cover of Aperture, which includes Goldin’s photograph The Hug (1980), was for a screening at Collective for Living Cinema, an artist-run cooperative in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood that showed experimental films.

In the years since Aperture published The Ballad of Sexual Dependency in 1986, Goldin’s tour de force has become an enduring model for photographers across ages and geographies, from Tokyo to New Delhi to Prague. Aperture’s summer issue takes a measure of that dynamic influence, like a song endlessly revised but always recognizable. “Everyone’s obsessed with the ’80s,” says Goldin. “But it must mean more to the kids than just that. They must be able to see themselves in The Ballad. Not just the clothes, but on some emotional level.”

Pre-order Aperture, issue 239, “Ballads,” available June 4, and subscribe to Aperture to never miss an issue.

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