19.11.12

A Celebration of Precipitation - Random International's "Rain Room" at the Barbican Centre - London

Random International: Rain Room
4th November 2012 - 3rd March 2013
The Curve, Barbican, London

  

The Curve Gallery at the Barbican Centre currently plays host to Random International’s monumental installation “Rain Room”. In a very literal sense, the exhibition is exactly that: a Room of Rain, a 100 square metre area of continuously falling water. The natural element we are so familiar with is subverted into an audience dictated digital spectacle whereby you are invited to control the rain.

Entering The Curve, you are plunged into darkness, and your senses erupt. Before the presentation of "artifical" rain becomes apparent, the sound can be heard instantly; this, accompanied by a distant wavering light, guides you in the direction of this magical indoor display which goes against all logic.  

The sound of the rain is relaxing in itself, yet the idea that physical nature occurring on its own terms within a controlled space is far beyond human understanding, it leaves you lingering in a sort of limbo, considering what is real and what is not. Pursuing this crescendo of noise eventually unites you with a mammoth choreographed downpour, leaving you faced with what feels like the result of a shamanistic ritual.

How unnatural it feels to experience a downpour indoors. The success of this alone is spectacular. This experimental artwork comes alive through audience interaction and as the field of rain pours onto a raised platform, a stage for the viewer’s experience is created. Yet, you are given the choice whether to forcibly engage with the piece or observe and move around the barrier of water droplets. The allure is that you must put your trust into Random Internationals’ innovative creation in order to be entirely in control.

In keeping with their distinctive approach to digital contemporary art, tracking cameras, sensors and custom software are all used by Random International as the means to allow the audience to enter, walk around and leave without getting thoroughly drenched. The showers immediately cease wherever a person chooses to walk. Tentatively I walked through with my head bowed ready to take full responsibility for my actions whilst children defiantly chased around through the rain, determined to get wet and taunt technology.