Special effects, LED lighting, and computational code might sound more technology fair than art exhibition but Decode: Digital Design Sensations at the V&A totally disproves the idea that art and science have to be mutually exclusive.
While the opening pieces just inside the entrance aren't terribly provoking to anyone not too interested in programming or open-source code, the installations get exponentially better as one shuffles through the Porter Gallery. In retrospect, this is probably a strategic part of the exhibition's intent — it lures you in by filling you with the false sense of reassurance that you know what it's all about, only to jump out and surprise you with a shout upon turning the corner.
Decode inspires by reaffirming the relevance of art, its exhilarance and absurdity, in our ever more digitalized, technologized, informational-ized world. Highlights include 'Flight Patterns' by Google digital design heavyweight Aaron Koblin, a beautiful, simplistic visual stylization of flight data recorded from aeroplane journeys over North America throughout a 24-hour period, and 'Tree', an interactive projection piece with branches blowing in response to wind directly outside the museum and shedding leaves that move along the ground as visitors walk amidst them, by Dutch artist Simon Heijdens.
One of our favourites was a London original, created by UK design collective rAndom International. 'Study for a Mirror' is a temporary portrait activated by standing still in front of a plate of glass which scans the viewer's reflection using ultraviolet light. It offers some deeper meanings to brood over, like self-reflection and the impermanence of life. And you can't beat having an artsy, distorted portrait of yourself on display in the V&A museum, even just for five minutes.
Decode is a collaboration between the V&A and onedotzero. It runs at the V&A until 11 April. Tickets £5.90, adults; £4.90 concessions. And watch out for Friday Lates on 26 February, when the V&A goes digital into the evening.
By Lillian He