Ancient Ground, Invisible violence. Headlights, Border Road at Dusk. Some of the titles of Willie Doherty previous 72 exhibitions or art pieces should give us some clue to its contents.
He currently has a retrospective on at the Ulster Museum. I remember coming across his work many years ago in Dublin or London. I recall the visceral experience of watching something captured in art that tapped into an incident that was in the collective consciousness. It was unnerving.
A Derry native, he is currently a Professor at Belfast School of Art from which he graduated. I’ve heard his contemporaries who trained alongside him ponder why didn’t they think of making art like that. The exhibition recommends coming two or three times to see all the 140 minutes of video pieces. While I took this recommendation lightly, the content billed as “work that explores areas where our perceptions are conflicted and sometimes difficult to confront” ensured that on my second visit the work had percolated differently.
Those involved in the #stopattacks lobby should consider bringing people to see the video piece with no humans involved which focuses on the experience of being taken for a punishment beating, once, twice and three times.
In another piece, Stephen Rea drives through a forest to search for a body, buried earlier. The first piece, Blackspot, gives you a 30-minute view, perhaps from a military surveillance point, of watching the sun go down over Derry.
Watching people's lights go on in their houses. Is that a fight or a dance I notice from the corner of my eye, I find myself asking while watching different movements play out before me.
Remains, Willie Doherty, Harvard Art Museums, 2019. A career retrospective exhibition of the Derry audiovisual artist, Willie Doherty WHERE, runs at the @UlsterMuseum— IrishArtBeat (@IrishArtsBeat) June 19, 2021
until 12 September:https://t.co/bMbXrs66Kh. pic.twitter.com/DCLcxgXNJD
There is a very physiological maleness about the exhibition pieces such as Non–Specific Threat which explores that notion of feeling or perceiving a non-specific threat. Young male homelessness also rears its head.
The static photographs in different rooms have titles such as Protecting/Invading, Incident, and At The Border. In contemporary Belfast society, shifting people from violence to peacemakers, the exhibition creates a space for new thoughts about this process.
'Where' is a phenomenal overview of the work of an artist who has gained an international reputation for capturing in an unsettling way part of our recent past. The images bounce against our inner experience and memory bu, as with all art, the reaction to it is left up to the viewer. With a focus on borders for over four decades, it seems a pertinent time for Willie Doherty to show this body of work.
As I walked out of the exhibition to view the Museum Centenary exhibition, ‘Collecting the Past, Making the Future', two young men pushed past me saying: “where's the rocket launcher, I just want to see the rocket launcher”. A rocket launcher, of course, being a feature of the eighties 'room' in the exhibition.
Willie Dohery’s 'Where' runs until 12 September. There is limited capacity at the Museum but walk-ins are welcome if there is space. Booking online is a good idea.
BLACK BOX GREEN ROOM
The Black box Green room has been keen to exhibit creatives since its inception. I remember looking through the window and seeing a live horse at a poetry reading. It was not clear if the horse was reading the poetry or if in fact it had written it but it made me consider that, "yes, the Black Box has potential".
Today's adventures pic.twitter.com/WIJlJsKRM2— FGB (@Francgotbuffed) June 19, 2021
They have continued to make callouts to the city's creatives for exhibitions and the current spotlight is on FGB.
You may have seen his paste-ups around town. From Spread the Love to, the gentrified loafers and in a world of homogenised images his quirky ideas bring a smile.
Belfast Film Festival continues until 30 June. If you don't feel happy being out and about yet, or cannot go out, there are plenty of events online. On Wednesday 23 June at 6pm you can see 'Uncanny Reality: Defining ‘Alive’ in the age of Androids'.
Belfast Photo Festival have outdone themselves this year & I keep discovering new favourites. In love with this image by Anouchka Renaud-Eck in the beautiful Botantic Gardens. @BelfastPhotoFes #BelfastPhotoFestival #Belfast pic.twitter.com/bV0ODEVD6X— Katrina Taggart Photographer (@katrinataggart2) June 15, 2021
l wonder if they are Unionist or Republican Androids, or how might we tell? Their series of talks on environmental concerns are now online.
The cool wide open spaces of The Mac have three exhibitions running. Ambera Wellman is a Canadian-born, New York-based artist and this is her first exhibition in UK or Ireland.
Her subject is living in a hetro-normative society where bodies seem to merge into each other. Think lots of merging limbs where it is unclear how they are joining.
Maya Blacioglu is on the first floor and is doing an artist’s talk on 30 June and Jaap Pieters is in the Sunken Gallery. The Mac is open Wednesday–Sunday, 9.30am-4pm. Galleries open from 10am.