You don't just see The Barbican's recently opened Digital Revolution exhibition in London, you live it, breathe it, even make it. Including contributions from artists, musicians, video game developers and fashion designers alike, the whole experience is very diverse, and results in a genre defying exhibition that is more playground than art exhibition.
Umbrellium are responsible for one of the exhibits in which the viewer is no longer an onlooker, but a key component of the whole installation. 'Assemblance', created by Umbrellium's Usman Haque and Nitipak 'Dot' Samsen is totally interactive. A light show, the viewer can form shapes out of the light via their gestures and movements. The shapes created remain so that as a new participant in the form of an exhibition goer enters the installation they can add to, or change the shapes that visitors before them have created. Haque himself says in our interview that Umbrellium 'like a challenge' which seems something of an understatement. The drifting, constantly changing lights create an otherworldly, ethereal, almost whimsical sensation that really is an assault on the senses.
Audience participation is a theme continued by the Japanese sound artist Yuri Suzuki, in his installation 'The Art of Sound'. Suzuki is working with Will.i.am to make noise fun. Utilising Colour Chasers - small devises that are programmed to follow a black line and to translate the colours that they encounter into sound. The fun of this installation is that, just like Umbrellium's piece, it relies upon visitor interaction. The visitor actively contributes to the development and process of the installation, as he or she colours over the black line which determines the sound that the Colour Chaser will emit. He takes pride in the enjoyment that children take in his work and almost the highest compliment that you can pay him is the assurance that a child would appreciate his installation. He makes sounds from colour, from a screwdriver, and, trust me, a banana. Suzuki continues the theme across the exhibition of surprise, interaction, and that art is something that crosses boundaries.
We caught up with the duo behind Cute Circuit. Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz design their clothes around the concept of 'designing advanced fashion that uses wearable technology'. Rosella and Genz create clothes that are 'first and foremost a piece of fashion' ensuring that people want to wear the clothing, and secondary to the fashion (but still key to it) is the technology that sets Cute Circuit apart. The duo combine traditional textiles and technology, and even write the software for the technology themselves. Many of the clothes on display at the Barbican are connected to the internet and are therefore interactive. Some of the clothes, for example, will display the tweets of visitors almost instantly, alongside a series of animations. Rosella speaks frankly about the duo's ambitions: not satisfied by dressing the first lady of pop, she has set her sights on dressing the First Lady of the United States. Michelle Obama, no less.
This hugely varied and diverse exhibition is, in short, all-encompassing.
(The Barbican's Digital Revolution exhibition, 3rd July - 14th September)
Text by Imogen Taylor for Crane.tv