“It is 27 years since the original version of this book was published,” Goldin continues. “So much has changed. The language has shifted and suddenly I can’t freely navigate the terrain without stumbling. It is a minefield.…At The Other Side there wasn’t space for political correctness, because the community was living on the edge of a society that didn’t care if they lived or died.” In the context of Goldin’s activism, The Other Side now takes a different tone, more mournful than celebratory.
The dichotomy between freedom and addiction has been a continuous theme of Goldin’s practice since her breakthrough slideshow and book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1985). And this theme is unmistakably at the center of the trio of new works—her most unflinching and direct appeal about the impact of addiction yet. “Sirens” is at once a doleful memorial, a tribute to lives lost, and an urgent call to arms. The veneer of the glamour and hedonism that Goldin herself is enthralled with—as much as her audiences were in the 1970s and ’80s—is worn thin as the truth of drug abuse is peeled back, as brutally as the broken skin that’s picked at with a safety pin at the start of Sirens. Goldin has never shied away from difficult subjects, from domestic violence to death and sex; “Sirens,” as the title suggests, feels more like a warning than a demand for recognition.