Digital Revolution

barbican01Squeezed in just in time in the Barbican Arts Centre in London to see the Digital Revolution exhibition. According to the website “this immersive and interactive exhibition brings together for the first time a range of artists, filmmakers, architects, designers, musicians and game developers, all pushing the boundaries of their fields using digital media.” The show comprised a few pieces commissioned by Google (as part of their Dev-art initiative which generated some direct-action controversy).

Altair 8800, 1970

Independently of Google’s possibly evil takeover, the show was interesting as it featured a large collection of artworks and artefacts related to creative technology from gaming, visuals, audio, interactive, fashion… I spent around three hours in Barbican’s packed Curve Gallery, trying to get a sense of electronic art history and future directions. All in all I was not struck by much originality, but it was nice to see old kit like an Altair 8800 and a Commodore PET as well as classic work by Paul Brown or Joshua Davies’ orignal Praystation (not as good version here).

As for more recent work, I enjoyed playing with Zach Lieberman Play the World audio installation (2014) where keys on a standard music keyboard trigger feeds from a worldwide selection of web radios. The keyboard is located in the middle of a circle of speakers, which provide the radios with a spatial direction. I liked the feeling of instant global connection and the sense of variety, a slick use of the resources offered by contemporary data that would be worth exploring further.

Also of interest:
Exquisite Clock, by João Wilbert and Andy Cameron (2008), an online clock made of photographs supplied by visitors to the website. Excellent use of crowdsourcing, simple, elegant and always changing clock.

Assemblance, an interactive laser show by Umbrellium. High-tech mobile lasers linked to a 3D vision system play tricks with visitors in a dark misty room. Very effective and playable, well programmed elusive beams.

Treachery of Sanctuary, by Chris Milk (2014). An interactive installation capturing the viewer’s silhouette and fitting it with wings, or getting it pecked at by birds. Effective display linked to some mythological elements, clearly endebted to Philip Worthington’s Shadow Monsters (2006).
More original was Milk’s other piece, an online music video for Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown that can be personalised to the viewer’s birthplace (or whatever google map’s destination). A bit clumsy but promising.

– The Year’s Midnight by Rafael Lozano Hemmer (2011), a slick augmented reality mirror where the viewer’s eyes start spewing smoke. Reminded me of Jim Campbell’s pioneer piece Hallucination (1988).