The first time I heard about Random International´s new exhibition at the Barbican I thought: why would people want to see more rain in London? But, as soon as I saw it with my own eyes, I got it. These days, the Barbican’s Curve gallery has been transformed into a Rain Room. After a long dark aisle, you arrive at a square installation of cascading water. Watching the rain fall, you might wonder why you left your umbrella at home and that maybe it´s best to get out of there. But the only way to escape is through the rain. The surprise comes when you walk into the water and you realise that you’re still dry. The installation is programmed to control the rain, ensuring that the visitors won’t get wet. The system detects your movements and halts the rain on your way. The sound, the smell and the vision are real, you are walking around in the rainfall. At the other side of the room, a bright light illuminates the drops making everything seem magical. You can feel like Moses, standing under the rain, stopping the water at every step you take. However, even though the system is highly precise, some drops can fall on you if you move fast.
According to the Random International artists behind the piece, this installation is a social experiment, a way to explore human behaviour and interactive processes. It is not the first time that Random International have created artworks and installations that explore human reaction through light and movement. Their first piece was Audience (2008), a series of disconcerting mirrors that responded to movement and the human activity. Also, two years ago, they presented Swarm, a light work emulating the behaviour of birds in flight.
The only downside of the artwork is that there’s a limited capacity of five people at a time under the rain, in order that visitors can make the most of the experience. But word of mouth has aroused the curiosity of many, and currently the queuing time is around two hours.
It would be perfect if we could export this experiment to our streets and control the weather… but in the meantime you can visit the Rain Room, a totally amazing experience that allows you to enjoy the rain without an umbrella.
The Rain Room will be running until 3rd of March. For more info check the Barbican’s website