Moyra Davey: I Confess

Copublished with the National Gallery of Canada in 2020
With text by Text by Moyra Davey, Dalie Giroux, Andrea Kunard
Design by Santiago da Silva
168 pages, 90 color images, softcover with flaps, 6 ¾ x 9 ½ inches
ISBN: 978-0-8888499-6-0


Over the last forty years, Moyra Davey’s work in photography, film, and text presents a wide-ranging model of engagement with the world: reflections on producing and consuming, writing and reading, and novelty and obsolescence. Based on Davey’s eponymous 2019 film, I Confess triangulates the lives and work of three writers: the American novelist and essayist James Baldwin, the Québécois revolutionary Pierre Vallières, and Ottawa-based political philosopher Dalie Giroux. With Baldwin’s 1962 novel Another Country as its point of departure, the narrative arrives at the work of each figure in succession, threading themes of race and poverty, language, and nationalism into Davey’s personal chronicle of the 1960s and 1970s—a turbulent period of Québécois history marked by separatism and violence, unresolved to this day.


That the furious complexities of this history may coexist with the textural richness and wry poetics of Davey’s work—this is one of her mysterious achievements. It’s all done according to the drifting logic of the essay, with a style of reflection and reference that is only partly indebted to her literary and cinematic exemplars. The rest is supreme attention to her own modes of attention. 

—Brian Dillon, Art Agenda

Vehicle is a crucial word, as Davey explained in a 2018 correspondence with Ben Lerner: “At first I inserted myself (into Fifty Minutes, 2006) because I needed a delivery system for my written texts, and my own body was the most convenient vehicle.” In her brilliantly perceptive essay for I Confess, Dalie Giroux describes “a surpassing of the medium” of photography or film “through which the artist becomes the medium” and the work “a thing of desire.” In related captions to images of intruding animals from Davey’s film, Giroux writes “for me it’s this idea of wherever, whenever, whomever—to insert yourself, wherever you happen to be. . . . Life is a process of learning—in situ.”

—Guy Mannes-Abbott, Third Text

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