Video, Landscape and Memory

Submitting Institution

University of Ulster

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Law and Legal Studies: Other Law and Legal Studies
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

This body of research has generated impact in two distinct ways.

  • It has initiated fresh debate among creative practitioners nationally and internationally and has informed the production and understanding of video works that challenge the formerly mutually exclusive spaces of the gallery and the cinema.
  • The research has made a contribution to public discourse by informing and enhancing the understanding of the connections between landscape and memory in post-conflict Northern Ireland and elsewhere. In doing so, it has enhanced national and international understanding of the central role of art in contributing to processes of commemoration, memorialisation and reconciliation.

Underpinning research

Professor of Video Art, Willie Doherty's research has been at the centre of the unit's work exploring the relationship between art and conflict for over 15 years. The underpinning research is a series of video works exhibited between 2002 and 2013. These video works extend concepts he first explored in the video installation The Only Good One Is A Dead One, 1993 that addressed the simplification of the roles of perpetrator and victim in representations of the Northern Irish conflict. That work was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1994 and was the first video work ever exhibited as part of the Turner Prize.

The subsequent development of a working methodology that used multiple projections coupled with the human voice and other ambient sounds within the gallery space gave rise to key research insights into how these means could be used to interrogate the restricted language used to describe conflict and allow a fuller exploration of the complexities of character and motivation. This in turn led to the creation of additional outputs that stemmed from an engagement with specific locations within the contested landscape of Northern Ireland. This research has evolved and been developed within the Landscapes and Contested Spaces strand of the Art and Conflict Research Cluster at Ulster.

In 2002, Doherty was selected by the British Council to represent Great Britain at the XXV Bienal de Sao Paulo. This resulted in the production of Re-Run, 2002, shot on the contested Craigavon Bridge in Derry, and for which Doherty was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2003. Non-Specific Threat, 2004 interrogated the language used to construct the stereotype of `the terrorist' in the wake of 9/11 and the build up to the war in Iraq. It positions Doherty's research within a broader international discourse around the images used to represent and understand the global impact of "the war on terror". In 2007 Doherty was selected to represent Northern Ireland at the 52nd Venice Biennale and produced Ghost Story. This research posited the landscape of post-conflict Northern Ireland as a site of unresolved trauma where the past is re-imagined through the ambivalence of memory. During the REF period this research was expanded to produce a number of related works The Visitor, 2008, Buried, 2009, Ancient Ground, 2011 and Remains, 2013. The development of more narrative driven, single-screen outputs since 2008 has allowed the research to reach additional non-gallery audiences through public screenings at a number of national and international film festivals and to build new interactions through public talks, Q&A sessions and other outreach activities. This has produced greater opportunities to participate in a wider public discourse about processes of commemoration and reconciliation in a post-conflict society.

The research produced since 2008 directly resulted in an invitation to participate in dOCUMENTA(13), held every five years in Kassel, Germany. After a period of investigation, Doherty filmed Secretion in and around the city of Kassel. Building on existing research findings Secretion imagines a dystopian landscape somewhere between recent history and a near future and engages with the contemporary German landscape as a repository of memories of the past.

References to the research

1. Being & time: The Emergence of Video Projection, Ed. Spaulding, K.L, (1996), the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, NY, ISBN 0-914782-94-0

Published on the occasion of an exhibition of video works by Willie Doherty, Gary Hill, Bruce Nauman, Tony Oursler, Diana Thater and Bill Viola at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

2. Doherty, W. Eds. Dziewior, Yilmaz, Muhling, Matthias, (2007) Willie Doherty. Anthology Of Time- Based Works, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, ISBN 978-3-7757-1929-2

Monograph published on the occasions of major exhibitions of video installations at Kunstverein in Hamburg and Lenbachaus und Kunstbau München, Germany.

3. Turner Prize: Twenty Years, Button, Virginia, (2004), Tate Publishing, ISBN 978-185437-512-4

Doherty was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1994 and in 2003, the twentieth year of the award. This book covers all of the artists who were shortlisted over the first twenty years.

4. Connolly, Maeve, The Place of Artists' Cinema: Space, Site and Screen, Intellect, Bristol, 2009, ISBN: 9781841502465


The Place of Artists' Cinema: Space, Site and Screen examines the relationship between place, site and cinema within contemporary art, focusing on a selection of multi-screen installations, site- specific projects and feature-length films produced over the past decade.

5. Doherty, W., Long D. Jewesbury. D, Ed. Mulholland, Hugh (2007) Willie Doherty. Ghost Story, ACNI, British Council, Belfast, ISBN 978-086355-590-9

Monograph published on the occasion of Doherty's representation of Northern Ireland at the 52nd Venice Biennale, 1997.

6. dOCUMENTA (13) Catalog 3/3, The Guidebook, (2012) Eds. Hrsg. documenta und Museum Fridericianum Veranstaltungs-GmbH, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, ISBN 978-3-7757-2954-3.

One of three catalogues to dOCUMENTA (13) gives details of Doherty's project, Secretion.

Details of the impact

Doherty's research has created impact through a body of outputs that has contributed to the emergence of video installation within contemporary art, while also engaging with the dissemination of these works into the public realm in a manner that contributes to their wider cultural meaning and understanding.

The significance and reach of these impacts have been achieved through national and international public exhibitions and installations, exhibition catalogues and monographs, broadcast and web-based media, screenings and other public events. Doherty's video works have been acquired by national and international public collections including Tate, Imperial War Museum, London, IMMA, Dublin and MOMA, New York, ensuring that these works will remain accessible in the public sphere and that the aspiration of the research to contribute to the representation of landscape and the understanding of conflict will be supported.

Since 2008 Doherty's research has generated impact among creative practitioners and scholars by initiating fresh debate and informing the production of video works that challenge the mutually exclusive spaces of the cinema and the gallery. Doherty's distinctive use of voiceover aligned with his careful use of locations of historical or political significance have informed and stimulated other artists' methods for producing artworks that address issues of conflict. Doherty's research has been cited in several prominent surveys on video art including Film and Video Art, Stuart Comer, Tate Publishing, 2008 and The Place of Artists' Cinema: Space, Site and Screen, Maeve Connolly, Intellect, 2009. It has been the subject of numerous one-person and group exhibitions including Buried, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 2009, Requisite Distance, Dallas Museum of Art, 2009, Manifesta 8, Murcia, 2010 and Traces, The Speed Art Museum Kentucky, 2011. In 2010 Doherty was invited to participate in dOCUMENTA (13). Doherty engaged with one of the strands of dOCUMENTA (13) addressing history and place and produced a new video installation, Secretion. dOCUMENTA(13) attracted more than 860,000 visitors and 12,500 accredited journalists over 100 days. 5,300 professionals were also accredited for the preview. Secretion was one of five artworks commissioned for dOCUMENTA(13) that were acquired for the permanent collection of the city of Kassel by the government of the state of Hesse. Secretion was installed in Neue Galerie, Kassel in January 2013 where it will remain on display for two years as part of the city's permanent collection. Secretion has also been exhibited at SMK Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, 2012 and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2013.

The reach and significance of the impact has been further enhanced beyond the academy by Doherty's engagement in outreach programmes that expand the diversity of communities, organisations and individuals who engage with the research outputs. This activity contributes to enhancing understanding of the centrality of landscape and memory to processes of memorialization and reconciliation in post-conflict Northern Ireland and elsewhere. The supporting programme of events and talks surrounding Doherty's 2009 exhibition Buried at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh is representative of this approach. The programme included a collaboration with the Edinburgh International Film Festival to screen Ghost Story followed by a discussion and audience Q&A with Doherty and the cinematographer Seamus McGarvey. Doherty has further explored the potential of the crossover between artists' video works and cinema by actively engaging with a number of film festivals in order to expand the reach and significance of his research to new audiences. These include Kunst Film Biennale, Cologne, 2007 and Berlin and Paris, 2009, the Prince Charles Cinema, London, 2008, followed by a discussion with the broadcaster, Tim Marlow, and the Foyle Film Festival, Derry, 2008. Following the inclusion of Secretion in dOCUMENTA(13) Doherty also accepted invitations to screen this work to a wider audience in CPH:DOX 2012. Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, 2012, the 42nd International Film Festival Rotterdam and the 51st Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2013.

Doherty has sought further ways in which to expand the reach and significance of this impact by contributing to public understanding of processes of commemoration and reconciliation in Derry, the place where much of his research has been produced. Doherty's most recent video installation Remains, 2013 addressed the issue of punishment shootings, an unresolved matter in post-conflict Northern Ireland, and engaged with the UK City of Culture 2013 core theme of `purposeful inquiry'. Remains was exhibited in Doherty's solo exhibition, UNSEEN, part of the programme of Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013. Remains evolved from `Lost Boys', a collaboration with the journalist and author Susan McKay commissioned for a special City of Culture edition of the literary publication Field Day Review.

Sources to corroborate the impact

The following have provided letters (affidavit) that provides factual evidence in support of the impact described above:

  1. Director, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. Provides evidence of impact through a gallery education programme, press coverage, visitor numbers and links with Edinburgh International Film Festival; supports claim of impact among other practitioners and of contribution to public discourse.
  2. Director, IMMA, Dublin. Provides details of impact among practitioners in Ireland for two decades and of contribution to enhancing public discourse.
  3. Neue Galerie, Museumlandschaft Hessen, Kassel. Supports claim of impact among practitioners and of contribution to public discourse in the context of work being acquired for inclusion in permanent collection following dOCUMENTA(13).
  4. Head of Exhibitions, Visual Arts, The British Council, London. Supports claim of impact among practitioners and of contribution to public discourse.
  5. Senior Researcher and Chief Curator, SMK, National Gallery of Denmark. Provides details of impact through details of visitor numbers, press coverage and collaboration with CPH:DOX, Copenhagen International Documentary Film festival; supports claim of impact among other practitioners and of contribution to public discourse.
  6. Director, The Culture Company, Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013. Provides evidence of contribution to enhancing the quality of public discourse and of contribution to `purposeful inquiry' strand of UK City of Culture 2013.

Sources to corroborate the impact in public domain:

  1. Frankel, David, Swamp Thing, Artforum, Vol.52, No.1, September, 2013, p. 348-349. David Frankel is editorial director at The Museum of Modern Art, NY and a contributing editor of Artforum. He discusses Doherty's Secretion, 2012 within the context of the feature; High Risk: Art, Environment, Crisis.
  2. Leach Hughes, Cristín, Haunted by the Past, The Sunday Times, June 2, 2013 Leach Hughes discusses Doherty's Secretion, 2012 at IMMA, Dublin
  3. Lack, Jessica, Artist of the week 38: Willie Doherty, The Guardian, April 22, 2009
  4. Higgins, Charlotte, Derry stages its first Willie Doherty retrospective, The Guardian, September 29, 2013. Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer, discusses the context of Willie Doherty: UNSEEN at the City Factory Gallery, Derry.