Mike Chavez-Dawson makes a Rorschach by writing the name of a dead poet in wet paint and then folding the paper in on itself so that it becomes an abstract blot.
These blots are suggestive things – they might be butterflies, or ectoplasm, or skeleton parts.
Using very simple means, he conjures a complexity of ideas about scribblers from the past. How appropriate that he commemorates a writer by turning writing itself into ghost portraits. It’s a mediumystic piece, that builds another corridor onto Mike’s ongoing fascination with mirror realms, othered states.
This video work that documents his making process brings into play another layering of ideas in its soundtrack. Here we have the voices of the dead chatting amongst one another – not only poets, though here’s Ginsberg, there Rimbaud. Entwined into this thread are the paired voices of the philosopher Heidegger and holocaust poet Celan, forever stuck in their mythic secret conversation. Then more comically, Serge Gainsbourg is on the bass and JM Coetzee (the one writer still alive in this crop) gives us a fruity voiceover. All of these individual pasts resonate and sing as Mike liberates their names one by one.
words Philip Davenport
You can see more of Mike Chavez Dawson’s work at the Dark Would exhibition at Summerhall Edinburgh