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The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

Color photograph, people in dark room watching projected image of woman in bathroom doorway.
© Nan Goldin

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  • Color photograph, people in dark room watching projected image of woman in bathroom doorway.




Nan Goldin
American, born 1953

About this artwork

For thirty-five years Nan Goldin has obsessively recorded her life experiences, and her slide installation The Ballad of Sexual Dependency represents the zenith of this endeavor. A hybrid of photography, film, and installation art, the work projects hundreds of Goldin’s photographs in a unique sequence, accompanied by a specified soundtrack. Images representing couples, gender roles, dependency, and alienation are paired with evocative songs such as Dean Martin’s “Memories Are Made of This.” It is appropriate that images of her subjects’ fantasies and sorrows should be realized as short-lived projections. The slide projector was adopted as an artistic vehicle in the 1960s and 1970s for public performance-based work, and The Ballad codifies more performative presentations by the artist in the clubs and cinemas of 1980s New York’s artistic demimonde.

Goldin’s pictures, like images of family vacations or holidays, embrace photography’s potential for immediacy, emotion, and anecdote. Unlike such snapshots, however, they capture Goldin, her friends, and her family in moments of intimacy—lovemaking, violence, addiction, hospitalization—and depict the rollercoaster of human emotions that accompanies these moments. In this way, The Ballad offers a more exposed, and potentially more honest, version of the traditional domestic slideshow.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Nan Goldin


The Ballad of Sexual Dependency


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1979–2001


Multimedia installation (720 color slides and programmed soundtrack)


7 of 10


Running time: 43 min.

Credit Line

Through prior bequest of Marguerita S. Ritman; purchased with funds provided by Dorie Sternberg, the Photography Associates, Mary L. and Leigh B. Block Endowment, Robert and Joan Feitler, Anstiss and Ronald Krueck, Karen and Jim Frank, Martin and Danielle Zimmerman

Reference Number



© Nan Goldin

Extended information about this artwork

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