Moyra Davey @ Tramway
Switching between autobiography and historical inquiry, the work of New York-based artist Moyra Davey was last seen in Glasgow at 2010's Glasgow International Festival. Her film My Necropolis (2009) was screened at The Long Loch: How Do We Go On From Here? – a symposium held by artists Kate Davis and Faith Wilding on art in relation to a feminist heritage. The symposium identified a relationship between feminism and reading that creates an imagined community in which inspiration may be taken from conversations with the living and the dead.
This was an apt context for Davey’s film, which records her wandering Parisian cemeteries to visit the tombs of celebrated intellectuals. Intervening footage shows her family and friends pondering on the meaning of a cryptic letter written by philosopher Walter Benjamin, a long-time muse of Davey’s. The muse is central to her work – a roll call of historic persons of letters who act as a catalyst for her to weave together the characters of her inner and external worlds.
In her latest film Les Goddesses (2011) – screening at Tramway for GI 2012 – she recounts the lives of eighteenth-century writer and women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughters, whose nickname lends the film its title. As Davey narrates the tale, narrative associations begin to emerge between the characters and her own past – leading us to suspect that it is Davey who is the true subject.
With such a dense thicket of source material, it seems as though her work could easily have remained a research practice. But quoting others is not the sum total of Davey's practice: rather – as one reviewer put it – she converts the sources into the lighting of the work. [Jac Mantle]