Wednesday, 21 February 2018


 Review of The Danger Tree at Manchester Library by Steve Watson
(Eastern Correspondent)

BILL Drummond is a former art student, musician with the KLF, one of two blokes who burned a £million quid on the Isle of Jura in 1994, and has steadfastly refused to explain why ever since.  

Bill has an affinity with the North, and has a long relationship with Liverpool having worked at the Everyman Theatre in the 1980s!   In one of his recent books on the nature of art he states that 'all galleries should charge at the point of entry.  And they should be proud to do so.  Because they should be putting on works that people are willing to pay to see.'

Drummond was back in Liverpool last year and several hundred people had paid £100 to attend a few of his events, one involved ripping pages out of a book, the other dressing up in yellow capes, wandering round Toxteth and finishing up by the docks watching a stack of pallets being burnt. Art at its best?

For those that 
a) didn’t have £100 to spend 
and b) if they had would have spent it elsewhere in Liverpool then a random stroll may have taken them into one of them deplorable free exhibitions or installations as they call them these days down near the Pierhead!  

The Danger Tree, with its promotional leaflet saying 'Free to Enter' was making its second visit to the City!   And the exhibition following a stint in Birmingham is now in Manchester. 

The Danger Tree is described as an augmented reality art exhibition by impressionist landscape painter Scarlett Raven, and digital artist story teller Marc Marot and within seconds of entering through the front door visitors find themselves somewhere between a shelled out French farm building and the No Mans Land of The Somme.   Just over a hundred years ago in the real life fields of carnage thousands of French, English and Commonwealth troops faced a barrage of shells to the point where on 1st July 2016 some 57,000 were killed, seriously wounded or missing to the point where their remains would never be found.  

The one place of shelter if you can call it that was a large gnarled tree capable of providing both a point of refuge and an easy target for enemy fire.  Earning itself its 'Danger Tree' name it became the spot where many soldiers from Canada fighting for the Commonwealth would depart this world and at this conjuncture stories diverge.  Some sources say the dead tree still remains others that its spot sports a replacement and there may well have been many different Danger Trees across the jagged landscape but regardless it remains a point of thought and respect. 
A good hour session in the exhibit (which I will remind you is free Mr. Drummond) and you may or may not be aware that art can sometimes be powerfully challenging and dragging you out of your comfort zone.  Such exhibitions can be very subjective but rather than a line of static paintings or objects the trick with the Danger Tree is the use of electric wizardry to transform the illusion of the bombed out farmhouse in a war zone into a place where the sheer horror of the Somme literally surrounds you.  Using something called Blipper technology which is best appreciated than understood visitors are given an Ipod which when scanned across Raven’s stunning landscapes bursts into sound and movement with the war poems of Sassoon, Owen and Brooke as well as contemporary poets and voiced by Christopher Ecclestone, Sean Bean and Sophie Okonedo.  Individual soundtracks and moving images make the words augmented reality into one hell (in every sense) of an experience. 
This isn’t art to visit and feel warm.  This is art where you come out into the day light and feel slightly humbled shaken and subdued, this is the reality of the Accrington Pals and other local battalions marching off to France and returning as just names on cenotaphs.  This isn’t highbrow art, no its shock tactics of a part of history in the anniversary of its final end.  Our fathers, grandfathers and more brought back to life for a short period by a skeletal tree amongst a field of poppies.

Take shelter beneath The Danger Tree if you will at Manchester Central Library’s Exhibition Hall (First floor) daily except Sunday until March 31st. Mon -Thurs 10.00am 6.00pm, Fri & Sat 9.00am to 4.00pm. 
And its free Mr Drummond! 

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