Dear Nan Goldin: a literary response to 'Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC, 1982'

Dear Nan Goldin: a literary response to 'Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC, 1982'

Photograph: 'Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC, 1982', © Nan Goldin, Tate Collection.

Liana Maher responds to Goldin's shot of a blurred, young couple on a desheveled 1980s bed. As part of a series which explores how art can inspire narratives (in a quite literal sense), Maher starts with this photograph from 'The Ballad of Sexual Dependency' (1986) and does the (arguably) unspeakable - she creates a new narrative for them. Like Chinese whispers, her writing builds upon and re-envisages the art we know; she moves from the spectator to the spectacle.


Self-Portrait on the train, Germany, 1992, © Nan Goldin, Tate Collection.

Self-Portrait on the train, Germany, 1992, © Nan Goldin, Tate Collection.

I’m really interested by how a visual piece can be interpreted so uniquely by an individual, even if it seems quite explicit in subject manner or visual tableaux. I’m interested in the impression that art leaves on you, and how it can trigger a long and perhaps convoluted tangent in your imagination.
— Liana Maher

Greer and Robert on the Bed
Words: Liana Maher


She lay where she fell, temporal in body yet suspended in remembrance, remembering it all.

He did not look at her but I watched the colour fall out as fuck gave way to lack, and he looked for life in the chips and concertinaed cigarettes that collected around the bedposts.

They lay uncoupled, yet half-framed in last night’s dance where they moved through a motorway pile-up of writhing bodies and carcinogens, of red lights and warning signs,
and she danced the Coyote towards him with her body,
and he stood, unthinking, instinctive, unbuttoned, a knee preparatorily crooked,
and a face of obligation.

His hand snagged her hair but they carried on and they pretended it wasn’t,
making C’s and S’s against hip and groin,
desperate to write, but only managed only a trace.

They lay mute. Illiterate. Strange to each other, and stranger to themselves.

Last night’s memories – memories of the living – preserved in reflection
but mirrors are glass to a waxen audience.

Salty smells of sweat and liquor, of reactions and biology now behold
The Nature Of Man.
The acid rot that the nose won’t follow. The squeamish
recoils pulling stomach and groin inwards and away,
pulse keeps the salty, sweaty beat.

Has the egg begun to float?

Bobbing egg follows a rising sun,
following inherited rhythms,
bed springs,
bended knees,
bated breath.

The lone crow calls outside looking for murder, and he stretched his jaw, neck curling and chin rising in mutual ritual.

The Mocking bird mocks blindly, following form.

I watch the glass and feathers fall.

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