How much has technology changed our lives so far? The answer is evident: without relatively recent technology, you wouldn't be reading this article now. Digital Revolution at the Barbican Centre— the first exhibition of its kind staged in the UK — explores the development of technology over the years and its connections with the arts.
The exhibition takes over the entire ground floor of the Barbican and expands outside as well, thanks to Marshmallow Laser Forest at Bloomberg SPACE, Moorgate. Digital Revolution is divided into fourteen sections: the first seven comprise the main hub of the exhibition, and focus on digital archaeology, special effects for the film industry, and contemporary artists' high-tech creations.
Stepping into the first room is like entering a massive games arcade. All the ancestors of the modern computer are displayed, alongside high-volume music and dark blue lighting. Making your way past the first example of a home computer, synthesisers used for pop tunes and a Pac-Man arcade machine (we tried that and loved it), you realise how transforming the impact of technology has been in our lives and habits.
The Barbican's geeky heaven continues with examples of digital technology used for the film industry. One such exhibit is the reconstruction of the animation used for the 2010 film Inception, where you can explore the 'parallel city' by using movements of your hand. The thrills continue when you enter a room hosting musical artwork created by will.i.am. Here, a high-definition animation accompanies the artist's latest tune, which is played by instruments contained inside glass pyramids.
One of our favourite attractions is the 2012 Treachery of Sanctuary, by innovative artist Chris Milk (see image above). The work consists of three 30-foot-high white panel frames suspended from the ceiling, on which digitally-captured shadows are re-projected. A shallow reflecting pool sits between the viewers and the screens. In the background, a digital application that utilises Microsoft Kinect SDK for Windows captures the shadows of the viewer, which interact with articulated 3D models of birds. By raising your arms, you find your shadow has sprouted wings.
Digital Revolution is a one-off, both for the extent of the topics covered, and the richness of digital artworks and creations exposed. The Barbican has organised a rich programme of related themed events which will accompany the exhibition throughout its duration.
Tweet #DigitalRevolution and share your experience on the web — an appropriate thing to do after viewing such an exhibition.
Digital Revolution is at the Barbican, EC2Y 8DS (nearest Tube stations: Barbican, Moorgate), until 14 September 2014. Tickets are £12.50/£10.5o. For more art exhibitions in London, check out our July listings.