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EXHIBITIONS Willie Doherty: Somewhere Else

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At the Tate Gallery, Albert Dock, Liverpool until 4 October

At the recent historic meeting between Gerry Adams and David Trimble, the main topic of debate in the media was whether or not the two politicians would shake hands, writes Claire Price. This intense focus on what would be a mundane occurrence elsewhere in the world highlighted the fundamental divisions at the heart of the Northern Ireland.

The constancy of these divisions, and the way in which they are reinforced and exaggerated by the media, is central to the work of the Irish artist Willie Doherty, currently on show at the Liverpool Tate. Doherty combines video and photography, the conventions of film-noir and reportage, to make the viewer aware that stereotypes obscure any real appreciation of the human experience of the Troubles.

Doherty continually calls on the urban and rural landscape of Derry, the city where he lives and works, to complicate the media's representation and play on viewers' preconceptions. Early photographs portray a fractured city: an architecture of flyovers, wire fences and high walls separating Protestant and Catholic residential areas. Superimposed on the stark black- and-white images are even starker words (sever/isolate, protecting/invading), which further implicate the architecture in this divisive process.

In recent years Doherty's approach has become more ambiguous, with colour photographs or video installations which subtly highlight both the normality of his environment and the everyday presence of physical traces of conflict. There is a constant duality to them: for example, the darkly compelling images of a burnt-out flat can either be read as a scene of sectarian violence or as a more ordinary tragedy found anywhere on the mainland.

As Doherty knows only too well, it is merely our preconceptions about Northern Ireland that privilege one reading over the other.

Claire Price is an architect and writer in London

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