I WAS JACK GOLDSTEIN
“In a way I ruined my life but I did a body of work and for that body of work it was worth ruining my life.” —Jack Goldstein
The artist Jack Goldstein managed to be many things to many people during his troubled life. A member of the 1970s notorious CalArts mafia, he was briefly an art star with eight assistants, owned a collection of classic cars and was muse and lover to major art dealers in the New York scene, but with an appetite for hard drugs, his reputation as an artist’s artist was succeeded by one of a burnout, a junkie, a disappearing act. Then Jack became a legend, a myth, and finally, suicidal, when he hanged himself just as his reputation was seemingly on its way to being restored.
I knew Goldstein. In the years since the artist’s suicide in 2003, I have created a series of dangerous site-specific performances in which I play Goldstein. Using elements of the original archival material shot during those performances, I then made a short film set to a soundtrack of original music by Thurston Moore. I have decided to return to the subject and to explore it in deeper focus within a performance space.
I wanted to go back to Jack Goldstein because the memories I have of him are at once haunting and enlightening. Suicide is the great silencer. I ask myself, what’s on the other side of all of that eternal silence? Finding a way to represent the darkness at the end of life is the goal of the piece. What those final days, hours and minutes look like before taking that ultimate step is what the performance examines, rather than trying to dissect the reasons for arriving at the final destination. Goldstein, who talked about a fear of disappearing while continually using it in his work, finally made it his life’s central focus and its defining action.
I wanted to find a way to tell the story without telling the story. I decided to use music as a set of annotations which cannot be read literally. Finally reflecting on my relationship with Goldstein years ago, I came away wanting to know if it could have been me hanging from that rope, and the work I’m doing on and about Goldstein are further steps toward answering that lingering question.