Willie Doherty, Without Trace, De Pont Museum
2 March – 5 September 2021
De Pont Museum, Tilburg, The Netherlands
In Without Trace, the new presentation of the collection, photographs of impressive Canadian forests and hazy expanses in Ireland hang alongside photographs of railroad tracks in North America and the rippling surface of the Thames. Not only are these seductive or intriguing views; above all, they silently attest to events that once occurred at these sites. In the recent past, or long ago, they were marked by war, colonialism or acts of violence. And even though no trace of such history remains visible, the memory of it lies rooted in the landscape forever.
Without Trace refers to a work (2013) from the Northern Irish artist Willy Doherty. ‘What cannot be seen cannot be photographed either,’ says Doherty about the way in which he refers, in his work, to the fierce conflict that erupted in Northern Ireland during the 1960s. Although the violence remains unseen in his photographs and films of dark and desolate country roads, barbed wire and blocked streets, there is indeed a sense that it can strike at any moment.