Nan Goldin has never been one for the conventional and her latest show is no different. Paying tribute to Reading Prison’s most notorious inmate, Oscar Wilde – who was incarcerated due to homosexual offences in 1895 and sentenced to two years’ hard labour – Goldin is showing new work within the gaol for the group exhibition Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison.
The show has seen the Victorian prison transformed as the New York artist alongside Marlene Dumas, Robert Gober, Roni Horn, Steve McQueen and Wolfgang Tillmans responded to the late literary legend, the prison’s architecture and themes of imprisonment and separation.
Goldin, inspired by Jean Genet’s only film Un Chant d’Amour (A Song of Love) which focuses on the relationship between two gay prisoners in adjacent cells and was directed soon after Genet was released from a French prison, explores homosexuality across a series of films and photography. Encouraging viewers to survey the work through a peephole, Goldin includes sequences from an early hand-tinted film of Wilde’s 1893 tragedy Saloméa, alongside a film of a young boy discussing the dangers of being gay in Kiev and a 91-year-old man who was convicted of the same offences that Wilde was. However, Goldin’s most intimate work comes via one of her long-term muses, German actor Clemens Schick, who takes the focus in The Boy, by having his photograph collaged across the walls of a cell.