This summer, London's Barbican Centre plays host to Digital Revolution, a major new exhibition that explores the impact of technology on art over the past four decades. It's a show high on visuals and low on exposition, aiming to entertain children more than enlighten adults.
The exhibition begins with a gallery called "Digital Archaeology" that highlights key moments in the UK's technological awakening. It features row upon row of ancient machines such as the Magnavox Odyssey, the Speak & Spell, an original Pong cabinet, and a Linn LM-1 Drum Machine. From there, a small section focuses on how computers have changed filmmaking with looks at Inception, Gravity, and How To Train Your Dragon 2.
With the history of "technology changing art" established, Digital Revolution then showcases a number of new works from contemporary artists and entertainers, culminating in a spectacular interactive laser exhibit from Umbrellium. Included in the exhibit is a new collaboration between Japanese designer Yuri Suzuki and will.i.am, four interactive pieces from Google's DevArt project, and a small area showing indie games.
"The show is really artist-led, but also looks at technology, and the technology stories that are very important to the show as it progresses," curator Conrad Bodman tells The Verge. "It's the first show of its kind in the UK that explores the idea of digital creativity quite holistically."
Digital Revolution opens today and runs through to September 14th, and the Barbican will also be running one-off events linked to art and technology, such as the world premiere performance of a new audio-visual collaboration between The Velvet Underground's John Cale, architect Liam Young, and an orchestra comprised of drones.
All images copyright Matthew G Lloyd / Getty Images.
- The exhibition opens with a gallery full of historic technology. A Magnavox Odyssey, Apple II computer, Nintendo Entertainment System, and ZX Spectrum are all present.
- An interactive exhibit lets visitors wave their arms to explore how Inception's physics-defying special effects were created.
- Pyramidi is the work of Japanese designer Yuri Suzuki and will.i.am. It features a trio of robotic instruments: deconstructed versions of a piano, a guitar, and a drum. Visually mesmerizing, the exhibit is accompanied by a visualization of will.i.am that appears to follow you around the room. "This is Mona Lisa times a trillion," remarks will.i.am.
- The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk uses Kinect cameras and 3D graphics to form a modern take on shadow play. Broken into three sections, it explores birth, death, and transfiguration — the third section augments giant wings onto your silhouette.
- Google's ambitious DevArt project invited creatives around the world to create art using code, with the prize being a spot at Digital Revolution. A trio of exhibits from established names is accompanied by an interactive installation by Cyril Diagne and Béatrice Lartigue, who won the competition.
- New York-based artist Zach Lieberman's contribution to DevArt is a keyboard that samples sounds in real-time from hundreds of radio stations around the world.
- Vavara + Mar's enchanting exhibit Wishing Wall, also part of Google's DevArt, turns whispered wishes into digital butterflies.
- The Petting Zoo entices visitors to interact with playful robotic arms .
- Located deep in the Barbican's basement, Umbrellium's exhibit is perhaps the star of the show. Set in a pitch black room, it uses lasers to turn the entire floor into a canvas. Visitors can "grab" the lasers with their hands and use them to draw their own artwork on the floor.