On Monday September 1st, we were lucky enough to win a pair of tickets to an exclusive private viewing of the Digital Revolution exhibition at the Barbican (courtesy of Time Out).

After a champagne reception, the exhibition’s curator Conrad Bodman and Time Out’s deputy visual arts editor Freire Barnes gave a short talk on the inspiration for the exhibition and its layout, as well as detailing key pieces not to miss.

will.i.am and Yuri Suzuki collaboration

will.i.am and Yuri Suzuki collaboration

The first section, titled Digital Archaeology, was a treasure trove of computing ‘firsts’, from the first World Wide Web page to early CGI animation, vintage music and videogame classics. The Pac-Man arcade game proved especially popular; we weren’t the only ones who would have been quite happy playing all night..!

The exhibition then moved through to explore the consumer-creator relationship, and how in some cases (such as Minecraft), those lines are being increasingly blurred. One highlight was an immersive display of how the CGI effects of Inception were created, but it put control of this display in the hand of the viewer. By moving our hands around, we could control the unfurling of a digital city in a breathtaking cross-section of conceptual structures and reality. Similarly, the special effects of blockbuster Gravity were explored in a mass of screens detailing its production breakdown, as well as the new software used in How to train your Dragon 2 and other cinematic innovations.

Another key piece was a collaboration between global recording artist will.i.am and artist Yuri Suzuki. Cutting edge technology helped fuse sound and sight to give the impression we were in the presence of the Wizard of Oz himself. Yes, you read correctly – although the whole feature projected will.i.am as a god-like presence, he is nonetheless a visionary in the field of sound and vision technology.

The Treachery of Sanctuary; an exhibit in the State of Play section undoubtedly stole the show for most of the visitors, demonstrating that revolution is sometimes beautiful in its sheer simplicity. We were invited to stand in front of white screens, upon which our shadow was projected, before we undertook a dramatic transformation and grew digital wings, allowing experimentation with gesture and movement. This stunning experience moved some to tears, and was certainly humbling to be part of. See a video of it in action here.

Pac-Man arcade game

Pac-Man arcade game

Other features included pieces by artists commissioned by Google which celebrates art made with code. The Wishing Wall invited us to make a wish and watch it transform into a digital butterfly, while large 3D printed structures hinted at untold possibilities for interactivity.

The final part of the exhibition, Our Digital Futures, showcased the cutting edge of up-and-coming technology, including a tweetable iMiniskirt, presentations on the cyborg-human fusion, and a game played through brainwave-sensing technology (yes, really!).

For those of you planning a visit, try and research when the quietest times to go are. It’s an exhibition which is best enjoyed at a slow pace, really taking time to absorb what you’re seeing, and we found that a little difficult with some of the queues. Unfortunately by the time Time Out’s event started, the Marshmallow Laser Feast Forest was already closed (open 11am-6pm) and we felt we could have easily stayed for another hour or two had all the exhibits been open.

With over 200 pieces and numerous opportunities to interact with cutting-edge technology, Digital Revolution is one experience not to miss. If you’ve been already, or are planning to go, tweet us your favourite exhibit!

Digital Revolution runs until Sun 14th September at the Barbican. Tickets range from £5-£12.50 and are limited to specific time-slots. Click here to book tickets, or visit the exhibition website for more details.


Images © Esther Kezia Harding & Daisy Ware-Jarrett 2014. Cover image with thanks to Londonvisitors.wordpress.com 
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