Moira 2013

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.

Albert Einstein

Moira is about the mystery of destiny. A bejeweled music box with an invisible crank-handle that turns her melody over and over and over, she came into being through weaving together elements of ancient Greek literature and myth, classical architecture, and the Chinese symbols of good fortune - red and gold.

The word Moira is ancient Greek for destiny or fate, literally that which is apportioned or allotted to us. Homer makes early reference to Moira in The Odyssey and The Illiad,where she is predominantly linked to death, to the moment when one’s allotted period of life must come to an end. But Moira is not just about the final moment, she controls the entirety of one’s life. Her plural is Moirae, when she transforms into three goddesses who appear at the birth of each child and spin the thread of its life, right through until its final breath. So Moira is there both at the beginning and at the end. Lawson tells us in his study of the concept of fate, ‘Moira can then be seen as a force which stands alongside the gods, is a god herself and, perhaps most importantly, is a power which is itself above the gods.” So not even the deities can tamper with what Moira has decreed - even they are unable to unravel the thread she has woven.

Commissioned by MONA for The Red Queen exhibition


Timber and plywood, gold leaf, red stain, HD video and soundtrack, 00:12:56, looped
185 x 150 x 100 cm

Construction: Gerard Willems
Simon Ozolins
Graphic design: Tracey Allen

Images of work in situ: Scott Cotterell & MONA


Filmed by Simon Ozolins

Moira is also inspired by Pandora, the first woman on earth in ancient Greek mythology. Pandora defies strict instructions not to open a beautiful container given to her husband for safekeeping by Zeus. When curiosity gets the better of her, she opens the lid and to her horror, releases all the ills of humanity into the world. But one thing remains in the bottom of the container - elpis, or hope.

Drawing on these ideas from classical antiquity, Moira is built around an impossible desire – the ability to take control of destiny, to turn back the clock, to reverse that which has already been written in the book of fate. Pandora let everything escape from within the beautiful container, but inside the bejeweled red and gold box, a masked woman slowly and deliberately gathers together that which has already been released. Pages fly towards her from all directions and she reaches out, almost summoning them towards herself, reclaiming a history that has already been decreed. Her task, driven by the remnants of elpis, is never-ending. 

It is worth noting that Moira is also an Anglo Saxon word that means bitter.  And, of course, she is a rather old fashioned name for a girl. 


* Lawson, J. (1994) The concept of fate in the ancient Mesopotamia of the first millennium: toward and understanding of Simtu, Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, p 8

© Brigita Ozolins 2020