Barbican Centre 2014: digital or artistic revolution?

By | Art & Design
Digital Revolution, ISAM, Photo credit Calder Wilson copy

From the “House of the Future” (1956) to “The Future is Here” plenty of shows from the post-war to present times have explored the potential and predictive effects of new technologies on postmodern culture and lifestyle. Nowadays when even the digital era is becoming historicized and the future of science fiction has turned into a fact, an upcoming event at the Barbican Centre celebrates more than 40 years of experiments and achievements of digital technology in art and design.

We would wonder why, if the topic of the digital has been at the centre of cultural debates already for years, the Barbican Centre wants to realize another event on the subject. And especially keeping in mind the recent success the gallery has achieved, do we have to consider this program as a merely commercial operation to consolidate its audience or is there more behind that?

“Digital Revolution: an immersive exhibition of Art, Design, Film, Music and Video Games” – current working title for the show – explores digital creativity. In other words the show will focus on the creative potential of new technologies on a large spectrum and especially on the interactive aspects emerged as a consequence of the use of digital techniques of production.

The Exhibition – which will be showcased in summer 2014 (3 July – 14 September) to further tour internationally from September, will be organized in seven sections: “digital archaeologies”, “the game we play”, “creative spaces”, “we create”, one section about artists and designers’ work, “digital music” and finally “our digital future”.

Digital Revolution, Broken Age, Image courtesy of Nathan Bagel Stapley.

Digital Revolution, Broken Age, Image courtesy of Nathan Bagel Stapley.

Along this path of seven steps it guides the visitor through a both historical and interactive platform where the crowd sits alongside the artist-creator. In fact one of the important aspects that the exhibition program will highlight is the fact that digital technologies have involved the public – or the unskilled individual – in creative experiences even more than the industrial revolution of the first machine age. The section “we create” for instance, will display videogames like Minecraft and other projects where the visitor is fully involved.

Along this line the show will include several interactive art works and installations. Amongst the most attractive will be the commissions from artists like Umbrellium who will produce a work to be performed in The Pit Theatre and Universal Everything who will produce a piece for the Barbican’s Silk Street entrance . Additionally a collaboration with Google with a digital art installation called DevArt and a competition for creative coders will promote the idea of coding as a new art form.

Same space will be given to video-games developers, such as Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy, than to big productions and names in the field of design and music biz such as the digital films realized by the superstar architect Zaha Hadid or the work of Kraftwerk and Daft Punk. In addition the exhibition will reveal how digital technologies have allowed contamination between different forms of art (an architect becomes filmmaker and more). It will also show how digital technologies have reinvented music experience like in the case of the app-based installation by Philip Glass with music and interactive visualization.

However, more than just a geeky collection of gadgets or gathering for science fiction nostalgists, Digital Revolution seems to be focused on the creative effect that new technologies possess for people in and outside the art business and how the boundaries of the art field get redefined by these technical means. The show might also have the benefit, and it wouldn’t be the first time for events at the Barbican, of bringing together high and low brow; but more than just being a popular show or bringing people close to less-known artistic projects, it will celebrate the opening of the institution towards new interpretations of what creativity means in the contemporary scenario.


If the show is more than a reflection of the current art market what sort of inspiring impact will have on digital art and design?



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