Barbican Digital Revolution Exhibition

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Recent years have seen a series of drastic transformations in the way we perceive and consume art, design and culture. Art and design have recently taken a drastic tangent toward the somehow uncharted realities at the intersection between technology, engineering, computer science, programming and electronics. The open source movement, the DIY culture, the democratization of hardware as well as the development of cheap, easy to use micro-boards that allows artists to quickly prototype their ideas are amongst the key factors that made this revolution in the art world possible.

As a result of the democratization of mediums, accessibility of knowledge, the rise incomputational literacy, the virtually unlimited possibilities and the artist’s perpetual search for new, engaging and conceptual ways to create and express themselves it now is incredibly difficult to keep track and make sense of contemporary artistic practice in the digital age.

Four years after the game changing Decode exhibition at V&A, it is now time for Barbican to attempt describing the nature of this cultural transformation. Digital Revolution brings together la-crème-de-la-crème of contemporary, artists, filmmakers,  architects, designers, musicians, and game developers.

Digital Revolution brings together la-crème-de-la-crème of contemporary, artists, filmmakers,  architects, designers, musicians, and game developers.

We happily attended the media preview to bring back to our readers the spirit of this exhibition trying not to ruin the serendipity and surprise of a possible future visit.


The exhibition curated by Conrad Bodman is cleverly subdivided in sections describing different historical stages of the revolution from the 70s onward. The welcoming section, Digital Archaeology, is a thorough description of key inventions that laid the foundation for the dramatic pace of technological change we have experience in the past 30 years. This interactive space allows the audience to travel back in time and re-experience iconic inventions, experiments and computer games that changed our existence forever. In this space, amongst others, you’ll be able to appreciate the ever-awesome Lara Croft playing Tomb Raider on Playstation with a bit of nostalgia, play the iconic Pong, (1972), discover the first home assembly computer ALTAIR 8800 (1975), remember Space Invader (1978) and Pac-Man (1980), discover the first drawing tablet, Quaintel Paintbox (1981), see the ever-present first Mac (1984), spend hours playing SuperMario (1985), check the first drum machine Linn LM-1 (1980) and first digital synthesizer, Farlight CM-1 (1979) as well as going back to the origins of the internet with the first experiments on the world wide web (early 90s).







We Create

We Create explores opensource projects that allow the audience itself to become creator of the project. This section explores crowd-sourced projects from Chris Milk, the incredible Aaron Koblin as well as the unique Johnny Cash Project.


Creative Spaces

Creative Spaces is an eye opening section that presents the audience with innovative techniques and visual effects (VFX) behind movies. From the early experiments of computer graphics applied to cinema like Terminator and Jurassic Park all the way to Inception and Oscar winning Gravity with its cutting edge techniques.

Sound and Vision

Sound and Vision looks at how musician have experimented with digital technology. The highlight of this section is Pyramidi, the result of a prolific collaboration between and computational genius Yuri Suzuki exploring the interface between analogue and digital music. In this section are also featured Bjork, Arcade Fire and Squarepusher.



The final section of the famous Curve Gallery is DevArt, a project commissioned by Google that explores art made with code. Speaking with Steve Vranakis, Google Creative Lab Executive Creative Director he explained me how the main objective of DevArt is to show the general public the inherently creative nature of coding with its beautiful and interactive creationscontrasting the commonly held view of the programmer. This section includes works from Karsten Smidth, Zach Lieberman and duo Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet.



Of particular interest was also the newly commissioned installation by Umbrellium, Assemblance. This immersive and interactive work takes over a whole room creating a threedimensional light field in which people can shape, manipulate and create light forms. It really feltlike touching light itself, the immersive environment is both relaxing and engaging.



03 Jul-14 Sep 2014

If you’re in London in the next three months make sure you pay a visit to this exhibition that will give you both an historical account of key technological development that led to your latest phone app in your pocket as well as an insightful overview of the current status of the art in the digital age.

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About the author

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This post is written by Mattia, Designer & Writer & Maker trying to make the web a bit more human. Founder of Who Said That, he is responsible for TAH live reportage from design conferences, festivals & exhibitions around the world.

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