We are living in a digital age where artists, designers, film-makers, musicians and game developers are pushing the boundaries of their fields of technology. But technology is no longer the preserve of the elite, instead the democratisation of technology has played a major facilitating role in allowing equality across professional fields.
The Barbicans 'Digital Revolution' exhibition is the most comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK. This immersive and interactive exhibition brings together, for the first time, a range of disciplines and shows how they are pushing the boundaries of their fields using digital media. It also looks at vintage computer games and music hardware, visual effects in films, art made with code, artificial intelligence, wearable technology and 3D printing.
I was very excited about the exhibition as I am very interested in the evolution of technology and digital media. I have a vast retro game and media collection and so this appealed to me on all levels and I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed!
The exhibition was sprawling over many sections. The first space, 'Digital Archeology', looked into digital cultures past, from rare games and vintage music hardware to classic systems such as Game as Watch, ZX Spectrum and the Magnavox Odyssey. The biggest attraction for me was playing classic arcade game machines like Pong and Pac-Man. I was happy to see parents and children alike engaging with the different games, the waves of nostalgia for me were great but for the parents and their children to play together on systems they used to play in their youth must have been wonderful.
The exhibition then went onto 'We Create,' a space dedicated to user-created content and interactive web art. This contained the mighty Minecraft as well as a web-based Johnny Cash Project, where users submitted a single art frame which would form a section of a Johnny Cash music video which would constantly evolve.
'Creative Spaces' looked at the special effects of blockbuster films such as Jurassic Park, Inception and Gravity. The interactive walkthroughs of Gravity and Inception were fascinating, providing lots of insight and in the case of Inception motion control to see how the effects were created step by step.
'Sound and Vision' showed the ways that technology was used to create interesting videos and music, it featured artists such as Bjork, Radiohead and Brian Eno. However my highlight was the artwork by will.i.am, of Black Eyed Peas fame, his work features an Egyptian style polygonal head and 3 musical pyramids which were mechanical and played music in real time to the singing. It had to be experienced to be believed!
My standout for the entire exhibition was Chris Milk's piece The Treasury Of The Sanctuary. The piece is an interactive triptych that allows participants to be broken up into birds, then to being consumed by birds and finally embodying the bird in the final frame. It was the most uplifting and exhilarating experience I had in the exhibition, it was great seeing people waving the arms and legs like loons in such an austere place... great art should do that, take you out of yourself.
The 'DevArt' place was next and to be honest this part left me cold. It looked at how interactive artists used code as their canvas. Apart from the wonderful butterfly Wishing Wall nothing really engaged me. This piece had you whispering a wish into a trumpet and seeing your wish slowly glow into a line and turn into a butterfly, before flying away to join the other butterflies on the wall. a simple idea beautifully executed I thought.
'Indie Games Space' has lots of games from the independent computer games scene, featuring games such as Nidhogg, The Unfinished Swan, Antichamber, Proteus, Journey, Thomas Was Alone and Papers, Please. I had played all the games before so didn't spend much time here but this area was packed with children and adults.
Finally I went to the Umbrellium Assemblance, this was an atmospheric and unique three-dimensional light field which you could manipulate through touch. I enjoyed this room a lot as there were lots of people here moving in strange ways to manipulate the light. It felt peaceful, calm and in this fast paced always connected world it felt... cathartic. To be away from all the noise and distractions. Manipulating and controlling the light took some skill and concentration.
Digital Revolution is an excellent exhibition, it has something for everyone and in breadth and scope it is a remarkable achievement. There are only 3 weeks left until the exhibition ends and I would highly recommend this to everyone- go see it and experience it for yourself.