City of Women

Jaki Irvine


In 2008 The LAB and Draíocht invited Jaki Irvine to think about William Hogarth’s 1732 series of prints, A Harlot’s Progress. City of Women is the work developed by Irvine in response to this invitation. Irvine’s short film, City of Women, was shot on Foley Street, formerly Montgomery Street and now the site of The LAB, in June 2009. (Sourced from on August 15th 2016). ‘Evaluating the lithe proximity of narrative and remonstration, Jaki Irvine’s short film City of Women was shot on one long night in Foley Street. A diverse range of women volunteered to meet and stay together in the darkness enacting twenty-nine gestures with intimate precision. Clustered together like that in the sodium penumbra, it’s difficult to tell how well the women know each other: the camera moves carefully through their uneven groupings: half-watching, half-observed itself… Irvine extracted the twenty-nine gestures from William Hogarth’s The Harlot’s Progress – a series of six etchings produced for financial profit in 1732, concerned with exploring, as Hogarth writes in his Autobiographical Notes (circa 1764), “modern moral subjects”. The opposite it would seem of our own contemporary interpretation of ‘progress’. The original etchings track the demise of Moll Hackabout, an archetypal eighteenth century ingénue who arrives in London only to be speedily corrupted by an older scheming woman. Moll’s physical attractiveness marks her fate and demise into common prostitution, with the inevitable finitude of death from a venereal disease, aged just twenty three. There are no redeemable characters in The Harlot’s Progress, no one may be trusted or respected, and even in the last etching Moll’s coffin is being used by her mourners simply as a place to put their booze on. Irvine invited her participants to rethink Hogarth’s twenty-nine gestures obliquely, concentrating on making a selection of the small yet significant movements their own. This extraction of gesture has a redemptive function, transforming the hackneyed archetype of the misguided harlot and her depraved consorts into direct action, shot through with the considered repetition of the participants in City of Women’ (Sourced from on August 15th 2016)


City of Women




Jaki Irvine


Moving Image




Feminist, Lyrical


Gesture, Prostitution, Dublin (Ireland), Hogarth, William, 1697-1764


English (eng)


10 minutes

Original format

Digitial (HD)

Aspect ratio







Copyright holder: Jaki Irvine

Artist website

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