Willie Doherty’s The Other Side is a part of The New School for Public Engagement (NSPE) exhibit on the third floor of 66 West 12th Street—the result of a student curatorial collaboration with The New School Art Collection and NSPE.
I first saw Doherty’s work at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland. I liked the intimacy and emotive quality of his photography and film exploring political identity-based conflicts situated in the geography of his homeland, Northern Ireland. The sense of the uncanny that films like Ghost Story (2007) evoke is powerful, even foreboding. The shadows, recesses, and atmosphere that Doherty depicts are placeholders for the traumatic collective memory of The Troubles.
Yet, it always seemed to me that Doherty’s oeuvre has resonance well beyond the particulars of place. The Other Side, a much earlier work in print, takes a wider metaphorical lens. Geography and landscape—so ubiquitous, so often the container of national mythologies and the cause of geo-political disputes—is in this instance strangely idyllic. Actors are removed and the viewer is invited into the frame. Simple, directional text upends preconceived notions and suggests the arbitrary relativity of the borders that define us.
How do the directional coordinates of The Other Side—East is North; West is South—map on to our experiences at The New School? How would we use such directions to navigate the institution
Is our campus community, like Doherty’s Northern Ireland, created by the collective construction of the other in relation to the self?
What constitutes us? What role do we play in determining the inclusion or exclusion of others around us?
Student, The New School for Public Engagement