Manchester City Council

Changing the landscape

Ambitious visual arts installation by British artist Sarah Kogan using First World War archives

This is a profoundly personal and deeply poignant exploration of the cataclysmic destruction: physical, emotional and psychological wrought by the Battle of the Somme, 1916. Supported by public funding from The National Lottery through Arts Council England, it was the first contemporary exhibition held at The National Archives, UK.

The project follows Sarah's great uncle Barney Griew’s first hand account of his journey from Hackney, London to Yiddish Street trench in northern France, training to become a mapmaker and scout in the five months preceding his death on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

During this journey, Barney sent home over 180 illustrated letters, photographs and photographic postcards, often writing more than three times a day for five months, leaving us a unique, multifaceted, three dimensional view of the run up to the Battle of the Somme. Unusually this unpublished archive is interpreted by Barney’s great niece, Kogan, who was originally read the letters as a child by her grandmother, Barney’s sister Fanny.

The exhibition consists of an installation of twelve purpose-built display tables in the Wolfson Reading Room which include items and extracts of text from Barney’s archive, artworks generated by Kogan in response to his archive, material from The National Archives and a specially commissioned video installation, Palimpsest, by Jeremy Bubb.

You can follow Changing the landscape on Twitter @BarneyGriew.

Changing the landscape is complemented with a display of local First World War archives and periodicals from the library’s collections.

Check Central Library's opening hours before you visit - as the library closes at 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.

Back to search results