Willie Doherty (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

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Exhibition at Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich of Home , 2016 and other connected photographic works

In Home Doherty addresses the problem of migration which in recent years has become very topical in Europe, and worldwide. On a double-sided video screen the viewer is displaced from two sides into a remote transit zone. Hearing an intensive hissing sound that is reminiscent of wind or flowing traffic, attention is drawn to the aimless rambling of a young man who cannot be categorised at first glance. The drab colours and the bluish twilight put the viewer in an uncomfortable mood. The fact is, the young man appears suspicious. His dark clothing, his black backpack, his hood that half covers his face, his strange physiognomy and his dark facial expression make us tend to classify him — even if unconsciously — as threatening. Familiar images from current media come to mind and we involuntarily see this person as a migrant. But Doherty does not make it that easy for us. The figure he depicts here is far more dense and complex than the familiar picture of a refugee shaped by the media and could be likewise a young man in a conflict situation. As if he wanted to free himself from the burden of the past, the young man takes his backpack off, takes a small bottle from it and begins painstakingly to wash his hands. He then unpacks stones from it (see the invitation card) and arranges them in a pile beside him on the concrete floor as if in a ritualistic act. Then, with an almost fragile gesture he lies down next to the stones, which perhaps signify a memory of his lost home or the burden that this memory brings with it. The young man becomes an individual person who appears vulnerable in his search for protection and safety.

At the same time we become aware of a very special focus in the film which, besides the protagonist, also draws our attention to the landscape. Our view jumps back and forth between the figure of the young man and individual characteristic elements of the surroundings: a bleak lattice fence, a grey concrete road bridge, the leaves and twigs caught in the fence moving in the wind. Streaks reminiscent of dirty oil float on the surface of puddles under a bridge where the protagonist then settles. They are carefully composed images that lend something poetic to the scene with their optical and acoustic impressiveness.

The installation is accompanied by six photographic works in various formats which were created in connection with the video work. These stand-alone photographic works reinforce this impression as they take up individual moments of the film in extremely sharp focus.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 Nov 2017
Event"HOME": Home, 2016, video installation and related photographic works - Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Switzerland
Duration: 4 Nov 201722 Dec 2017


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