The Irish Times
Willie Doherty’s Loose Ends was a commission by, among others, Donegal County Council, and is part of the Arts Council’s programme commemorating 1916. It was a key piece in the Earagail Arts Festival.
The Donegal connection centres on Gola Island off the coast. Two fishermen from Gola played an unwitting role in the Easter Rising when they were crewmen on the Asgard, which landed guns at Howth in 1914. Loose Ends is a two-screen video installation that counterpoints footage shot at two locations, Gola and Dublin’s Moore Street, to which the 1916 rebels retreated and where they surrendered.
The videos are accompanied by a lugubrious voiceover. Two other strong video installations by him are currently showing: Remains, from 2013, is at IMMA and Ghost Story, made for the Venice Biennale in 2007, is at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
In Loose Ends, the voice is Seán McGinley’s. The free-verse text delivers fragmentary snippets, with references to the passing of time, home, violent events. Doherty evokes and links two complementary places and ideas, the hard political reality of the urban east and the mythologised view of the west as an idealised Ireland.
In both cases the camera zooms slowly in on or back from a surface detail. The surfaces, be they urban bricks and mortar or the “pink granite stones” of Gola, are scarred, battered and worn by time. “In the end a fine dust is all that’s left . . . blown away . . . to nothing.” The implication is that both the practical political aspirations and the larger dream underlying them remain unrealised. They are still, presumably, loose ends. A tone of brooding, depressed introspection is considerably ameliorated by the rich visual textures and instances of beauty, however unlikely they may seem.
The Irish Times, 20 September 2016