AR-assisted art on the doorstep

A community project at Nanjing Road W.'s Zhangyuan Garden.offers free access to high quality art
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A woman scans the Buddhist statue of the Longmen Grottoes to gain access to a video clip telling their story.

A high quality art show is usually considered the preserve of museums or paid exhibitions. But the Nanjing Road W. Community breaks up that stereotype.

Over the weekend, an art show, enlivened by the trendy augmented reality technology, or AR, opened to residents free of charge at the historical Zhangyuan Garden.

Nearly 20 photographs, from the Buddhist masterpiece Longmen Grottoes to the beautiful landscape of Snow Town, from a dedicate handmade paper umbrella to the traditional art form of inner painting, were among the items exhibited.

By scanning a photo via an app, visitors were able to see a video clip telling the history and story behind the picture.

“It’s common that people scan QR codes to have access to the videos. We replaced QR with photos, and visitors can directly see which works interest them,” said Su Xiaoyi, organizer of the event.

“Now, a variety of art activities are being introduced to the community to offer easy access for grass-roots groups. It’s a trend,” she added.

Displaying the exhibition in Zhangyuan is particularly apt as it was once a hub of all things modern and foreign.

The garden was built in 1872 by a British merchant and later fell into the hands of Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Shuhe, who made it a public gathering spot. The park's Arcadia Hall was the tallest building in Shanghai at that time.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Chinese operas, magic shows, gambling and dining were on offer here. It shrank from importance as competition from newer indoor entertainment complexes such as cinemas sprang up.

In 1919, the hall was turned into a private residence. Today, it is gaining back its past glory.

“Zhangyuan is always so modern and fashionable, It is a great place to introduce new things,” Su said.

Ti Gong

The filming crew

Ti Gong

The crew films the process of making traditional Chinese ware.

The art show is part of a cross-straits art project. A group of more than 20 cameramen from China’s mainland and Taiwan spent two years touring 150,000 kilometers across the country, visiting 70 natural and historical relics and interviewing 150 craftsmen. They finished their trek last year.

Besides the AR-added art show, the group also made a 3D film, called Bright Torch 3D. It was shown to residents over the weekend.

By the end of 2016, the show was awarded the 3D kiff Feature Film Best Picture. Director Chuan Lee Chu, from Taiwan, said they not only recorded precious traditional art and natural landscapes, but also opened a window for people to perceive the beauty of Chinese culture and  tradition.


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