Manchester Central Library has hosted some fantastic exhibitions since it reopened after renovation a few years ago. We particularly loved the Oasis DNA photography event in 2016, but even the building itself is worth a visit as the architecture is gorgeous. The current exhibition is The Danger Tree, which is an augmented reality (AR) art event in conjunction with Castle Galleries and is free to enter.
The Danger Tree tells a series of stories behind World War One through paintings and AR technology by artists Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot. Film set designer Kave Quin has transformed the library’s first floor exhibition hall into the devastated scene of a blown out building on the French and Belgian border during WWI. Scattered among the sombre surroundings are a set of beautiful oil paintings that are clustered around the ‘danger tree’, which was the only tree left standing on the battlefield in No Man’s Land halfway between the British and German front lines.
As you enter the exhibition you are given a pair of headphones and an iPad. The idea is that you stand in front of each painting and hold the iPad in front of the frame for a second or two, after which the painting comes to life on your screen to tell various stories of the war. The first one that I visited revealed a letter from a dying soldier to his wife, telling her of the horrors he witnessed on the fields that were so beautifully depicted in the oil painting before me. If you visited the exhibition without the augmented reality you might find the paintings quite upbeat, thanks to their vibrant colours and lively techniques. But as soon as the AR kicks in, the images are brought to life with overlays of battles, trauma and original photography depicting the true horrors of that time.
The Danger Tree was unlike any art exhibition I’ve been to before and I’d definitely recommend it for people who might find ordinary galleries static and one-dimensional. It was the perfect balance of being educational and engaging. 2018 marks one hundred years since the end of WWI, and the modern AR technology is an inspiring way to bring these decades-old stories to life.
The Danger Tree is free to enter and will be at Manchester Central Library until 31st March 2018. Opening hours are 10am-6pm Monday to Thursday, and 9am-4pm Friday and Saturday. Visit www.librarylive.co.uk for more information.