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Digital Revolution

3 July 2014 | Jessica Johnston

Artists, designers, filmmakers and tech-heads push the boundaries of digital technology in a groundbreaking exploration of virtual creativity

This summer the Barbican hosts Digital Revolution, a unique and ambitious foray into the world of digital creativity. Tech savvy or not, we are all affected by the dramatic pace and evolution of technology. With an estimated 1.75 billion Smartphone users worldwide and 40% of the global population surfing the Internet, the digital world has become seamlessly embedded into the very fabric of our lives.

Taking place across the Barbican this impressive exhibition, curated by Conrad Bodman, gives visitors the opportunity to explore the latest in digital technology. A new and dynamic generation of artists, designers, musicians, architects, video game developers and filmmakers are pushing the boundaries of their art using cutting-edge digital media. 

Appealing across the board to gamers and geeks, movie goers, art lovers and creatives alike, Digital Revolution invites visitors to discover, experience and interact with groundbreaking technology in what will be the largest presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK.

The first of seven exhibition spaces within The Curve celebrates the milestones of the digital age. Beginning in the 1970’s, Digital Archaeology documents the rapid development of technology through the decades, providing visitors with an overview of key creative moments from the birth of the World Wide Web to the best-selling paid app of all time, Angry Birds.

Nostalgia percolates through the room as we journey back in time. Various items on display include cumbersome incarnations of home computers, the vintage arcade videogame Pac-Man, Nintendo Game Boys with Tetris, a Speak & Spell speech synthesizer (the machine E.T hacked to phone home) as well as early digital graphics experiments by Edwin Catmull who later became the co-founder of Pixar.

Having taken visitors from the digitally pre-historic up to the present day, the remainder of the exhibition is largely devoted to the work of digital pioneers.

The We Create section looks at DIY culture through projects such as Adam Ben-Dror and Shanshan Zhou’s Pinokio. A seemingly ordinary lamp will charm visitors when it comes to life with the flick of a switch. Programmed to emulate human emotions through its movement, the lamp is designed to evoke emotional empathy in those who meet it.

Creative Spaces focuses on the use of revolutionary digital technology in Hollywood cinema. Visitors can immerse themselves in the blockbuster films Inception and Gravity both of which feature mesmerizing computer-generated visual effects by Oscar award winners Paul Franklin and Tim Webber.

With a selection of intriguing works by Bjork, Radiohead and Arcade Fire, Sound and Vision explores the digital possibilities presented to musicians through this emerging technology. 

In a new art commission entitled Pyramidi, global recording artist Will.i.am and artist Yuri Suzi present a live gallery experience. Visitors are confronted with a giant 3D projection of Will.i.am’s head adorned with an ancient Egyptian headdress, under which three robotic instruments in the shape of pyramids play the music for a specially written song Dreamin’ About the Future.

Exploring the idea of gesture State of Play presents Chris Milk’s spellbinding shadow play installation The Treachery of Sanctuary, in which visitor’s silhouettes undergo a dramatic transformation.

In the penultimate Dev Art section, our hopes and dreams are magically coded into unique butterflies in Wishing Wall, an enchanting new installation commissioned by Google and the Barbican Centre. Visitors can watch their wish transform from spoken words into a cocoon, which then undergoes a state of metamorphosis and transforms into a beautiful butterfly.

Finally the exhibition delves into Our Digital Future, exploring some of the most experimental technologies used today in works such as CuteCircuit’s iMiniskirt, a piece of clothing that allows the wearer to express themselves through a display of videos, animations and live tweets. Highlights also include a flying dress by Lady Gaga’s TechHaus and Mick Ebeling’s fascinating technology that can read people’s thoughts.

Elsewhere in the Barbican, visitors can pet giant snakes in Minimaforms exhibit Petting Zoo. This playful installation features animalistic creatures in the form of robotic arms that interact with users and unsuspecting passers by.

In the depths of the Pit Theatre awaits an atmospheric three-dimensional light installation by artists Umbrellium. Entitled Assemblance this participatory artwork encourages visitors to work together and collaborate with strangers to shape and manipulate colourful laser beams into fantastical patterns across the floor.

Within the space of a few short hours one travels from the real to the surreal, exploring the captivating world of today’s digital giants. It becomes increasingly apparent that what was just fantasy a few years ago is fast becoming a reality of everyday life.  Hold tight, you’re in for a digital white-knuckle ride!

Digital Revolution is on at the Barbican Centre from 3rd July - 14th September. For further information and to book tickets, please click here.

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