Digital Revolution at the Barbican

This summer, the Barbican is declaring a Digital Revolution. 

This new exhibition, which focuses on immersive, interactive works and exclusive commissions, promises to be ‘the most comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK’. We went along to experience this unique display of art’s transformation by technology.

Beginning in the Barbican’s Curve gallery, we were introduced to the history of digital creativity since the 1970s.

The space was filled with out-dated computer monitors, each representing an advance in digital technology.

Paul Brown, ‘Builder Eater’, 1977

These exhibits were displayed side by side, regardless of whether they came from the realm of art, film, design, music or computer games. 

The Sims, 2000

It was strange to feel nostalgic for technology that seemed cutting-edge only a decade ago. 

The rest of the exhibition concentrated on more recent technological breakthroughs, and showed how these contributed to the development of creative projects.

An interactive screen demonstrated how visual effects artists produced the spectacular scenes in Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010).

In fact, the interactive installations were the standout feature of Digital Revolution: they allowed the viewer to feel closer to the exhibits, and, as we watched our actions affect the artworks, we were reminded of the two-way exchange between technology and the creative fields.

Daniel Rozin, Mirror No. 10, 2009

The highlight of the exhibition was the final section, tucked away in the basement of the Barbican theatre. This was a specially commissioned installation by Umbrellium (Usman Haque and Nitipak ‘Dot’ Samsen) called ‘Assemblance’.

We were led into a dark room and prompted to interact with laser beams that were the only form of light. Discovering that we could manipulate and move these light beams, we gradually learnt how to make shapes and patterns. The experience was so immersive it was impossible to photograph!

Digital Revolution is at the Barbican until 14 September 2014.