Not that England needs much more of it, but the “Rain Room” (above), a digitally engineered installation that just debuted at London’s Barbican Centre, is well worth the drench. Even though visitors don’t get in the least bit wet.
An opportunity to get to feel much like a certain biblical character did when he parted the waters, “Rain Room” is a 100-square-meter space of cascading showers (falling at 1,000 liters per minute), where sensors identify visitors as they navigate inside the room, setting off magnetic signals that allow them to remain high and dry as they wander through the deluge. Stepping into the darkened corridor that anchors the installation, “the rain closes around you, enveloping each silhouetted figure in a perfect cylindrical void,” wrote The Guardian earlier this week. “It is a startlingly surreal experience.”
Interest in the exhibition, which runs through March 3, has been noteworthy, with extended “queue” times being reported after its launch on October 4.
Conceived by a group called Random International, founded in 2005 by a trio of Royal College of Design graduates, it’s the latest venture by a collaborative that unites groundbreaking interactive technologies with artistic purpose in creative settings, while employing cognitive research that analyzes why people behave as they do under unexpected circumstances. They came to attention with a 2008 project called “Audience,” which consisted of a series of digitized mirrors that tracked individual visitors after detecting their presence, subsequently following their every move like a bunch of curious eyes — blurring the lines between viewer and participant.
With “Rain Room,” one of the artist/founders of Random, Hannes Koch, said he hoped the experience would give people a sense of “playful empowerment.” To be a master of the natural universe, if even for a few minutes.
(Photo / top: Christopher Pledger)