The Road Ahead, title of photography by Derry artist Willie Doherty, featured as part of group exhibition Opened Ground at Void Gallery, 2019

Opened Ground

£ 0.00 Needed Donation Donate Now

Opened Ground is an exhibition featuring the work of artists Willie Doherty, Aslan Gaisumov, and Amar Kanwar.


The title Opened Ground is taken from a collection of poems by Seamus Heaney; written between 1966 and 1996. The poems span a turbulent time in Northern Ireland and delve into both the physical and psychic landscape of that period. The presence of the border is part of the complex narrative of Northern Ireland creating divisions and divides. Since the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998 the infrastructures of the military checkpoints have been decommissioned and have become part of the past. With the approaching deadline of Brexit, and the lack of clarity on how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will manifest, it gives rise to the tension of the possibility of the re-emergence of a ‘hard border’.


Borders are a contentious issue locally, nationally, and internationally. The idea of territorial markings has historically been a constantly shifting ground. The invited artists in this exhibition, Opened Ground, have a shared history as each have a unique relationship with the landscape they reflect on; there is a biographical element to each, bearing witness to the lived experience of both past and present borders, and their effect on society as a whole.


Willie Doherty

Willie Doherty’s early photographic work from the 80’s and 90’s is a powerful reminder of how borders, primarily a political agenda, dislocates culture and the shape of people’s identities and histories. The photographs document how history can mark a terrain and how memory is marked in the landscape. The series of photographs of the border document empty roads reaching into the landscapes laden with overtones of what came before. The poignant photograph The Road Ahead (1997) carries new meaning with the uncertainty of what is to come.


Willie Doherty Biography

Since the 1980s, Willie Doherty has been a pioneering figure in contemporary art film and photography. At once highly seductive and visually disorientating, Doherty’s artworks tend to begin as responses to specific terrains (most often mysterious isolated settings; places, we suspect, with a troubled past) and evolve as complex reflections on how we look at such locations – or on what stories might be told about their hidden histories.

For more about Willie Doherty’s work please visit his website.


Aslan Gaisumov

Aslan Gaisumov’s piece People of No Consequence (2016) explores the effect of displacement of Chechens from what was known as the Soviet Union to Central Asia in 1944. The people gathered in the work represent the collective memory and narrative of the effects of territorial shifts. It is a reminder of the human consequence of political manoeuvring.


Aslan Gaisumov Biography

Aslan Gaisumov (b. 1991 in Grozny, Chechnya) lives and works in Grozny and Amsterdam, NL. He is currently enrolled at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Current and recent exhibitions include: If No One Asks, CAG Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver, CA, 2019); Crystals and Shards, Kohta Kunsthalle, (Helsinki, FI, 2018); Beautiful world, where are you?, Liverpool Biennial (Liverpool, UK, 2018); Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More, 1st Riga Biennale (Riga, LV, 2018); All That You See Here, Forget, Emalin (London, UK, 2018); I Am a Native Foreigner, Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, NL, 2017); How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna, AT, 2017); and People of No Consequence, Museum of Contemporary Art M HKA (Antwerp, BE, 2016).


Amar Kanwar

Amar Kanwar’s piece A Season Outside (1997) explores the demarcation line between India and Pakistan. The film narrated by the artist reveals the anxiety that surrounds the militarised border between India and Pakistan. Partition, the British government’s 1947 division of the Indian subcontinent into two nations—Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan—left millions of people on the wrong side of a border, causing violence that has since escalated into an arms race. Kanwar, through his narration and imagery, lays bare the violence that erupts from this dispossession.


With the instability of global politics and economic precarity, we have witnessed the rise of nationalism and identity politics. The border crisis in Northern Ireland is one signifier of global anxiety. The border currently exists as an imaginary line; a change in texture of road surfaces, a representation of an historical point within our history. The unknown outcome of our political situation turns our attention once more to the border.


Amar Kanwar Biography

Amar Kanwar has distinguished himself through films and multi‐media works, which explore the politics of power, violence and justice. His multi‐layered installations originate in narratives often drawn from zones of conflict and are characterized by a unique poetic approach to the personal, social and political. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including most recently the Prince Claus Award (2017).


Kanwar’s solo exhibitions of the last two years include: Luma Arles; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota; and Tate Modern, London (2018); Bildmuseet, Umea (2017); Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai (2016); Earlier solo exhibitions include the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008); the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2007); and the Renaissance Society, Chicago (2004), among others. He also participated in the first Lahore Biennale (2018), documenta 11, 12, 13, and 14 in Kassel, Germany (2002, 2007, 2012, 2017).




Void Gallery is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City and Strabane District Council, with event sponsored by Northbound Brewery.

Void Gallery funders 2020


Void Engage Events

Thank you to everyone who attended Opened Ground. The show was a huge success, with over 1,300 participants, including visitors for guided tours from local schools and Belfast School of Art and Belfast School of Architecture as well as community groups such as Hillcrest Trust.


One of the main highlights of the exhibition was a symposium titled ‘Fault Lines’ that we ran in collaboration with Paper Visual Art Journal.

This event brought together writers, artists, and researchers whose work investigates the uses, impacts, and cultural repercussions of borders in everyday life. The contested border in Ireland served as one major starting point for a discussion with deep pre-historical as well as wide global parameters, exploring how borders divide and how they connect.

This event was kindly funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.


Darran Anderson is the author of Imaginary Cities and the forthcoming Inventory. He has written on the intersection of urbanism with politics, culture and technology for the likes of The Atlantic, The Guardian, Wired, as well as art and photography for Frieze and Magnum. He has given talks at the Venice Biennale, the London School of Economics, and the V&A among others. He is based in London and grew up on the Derry-Donegal border.

Gareth Doherty is Director of the Master in Landscape Architecture program at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His research and teaching focus on the intersections between landscape architecture and anthropology.

Doherty has written extensively. His monograph, Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State, was published in 2017 by the University of California Press. His most recent book Roberto Burle Marx Lectures, was published in 2018 by Lars Müller Publishers. Previous publications include Is Landscape…? Essays on the Identity of Landscape, edited with Charles Waldheim (Routledge, 2016); and Ecological Urbanism, edited with Mohsen Mostafavi. Doherty is a founding editor of the New Geographies journal and editor-in-chief of New Geographies 3: Urbanisms of Colour.

Willie Doherty, since the 1980s, has been a pioneering figure in contemporary art, film and photography. At once highly seductive and visually disorientating, Doherty’s artworks tend to begin as responses to specific terrains (most often mysterious isolated settings; places, we suspect, with a troubled past) and evolve as complex reflections on how we look at such locations – or what stories might be told about their hidden histories.

Siobhan McDonald is an artist in residence in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin (2017-2019), working with world-leading research facilities such as The European Space Agency (ESA); NASA; The JRC European Commission and The European Research Council, to explore ecology in light of current ecological concerns.  She holds a Masters in Visual Arts Practices from IADT. In 2018 she received the Trinity Creative Challenge Award from Trinity College Dublin. In 2017 she received a Bursary from The Arts Council of Ireland and was the recipient of a Creative Ireland Award and a Culture Ireland GB18 2018 award. Recent shows include Hidden Monuments: Shine on Me The Sun and Us, Limerick City Art Gallery (2019); Volta: Basel 2019; Shine-on-meWhen plants remember (2018) The Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden; The National Trust-Fox Talbot Museum, UK (2018); Disappearing Worlds, Taylor Galleries (2018); and Crystalline, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris (2017).

Panel Chair

Mary Cremin is currently the Director of Void Gallery, Derry. She is the commissioner and curator of the Irish Pavilion with artist Eva Rothschild at the Venice Biennale, 2019. Prior to this, she was Programme Curator at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Co-Artistic Director of The Treeline Project and Project Curator at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. She has worked with artists such as Douglas Gordon, Rosa Barba, Johan Grimonprez, Kader Attia, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Helen Cammock, Alex Cecchetti, Camille Norment and Hilary Lloyd.  She was curator of TULCA Festival of Visual Art, Seachange (2015), which included over 30 national and international artists. She holds a degree in Art History and Geography from University College Cork and graduated with a Masters in Visual Art Practices from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dublin (2007). Cremin has written for exhibition catalogues and artists books, and is a member of the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art.

Artikelly, Co. Derry. Photo:
Garrett Carr.