Digital Revolution explores and celebrates the transformation of the arts through digital technology since the 1970s. The exhibition brings together for the first time a range of artists, filmmakers, architects, designers, musicians and game developers pushing the boundaries of their fields using digital media. It also looks to the future considering the impact of creative coding, DIY culture, digital communities and the creative possibilities offered by technologies including augmented reality, artificial intelligence, wearables and 3D printing.
Curated by Conrad Bodman, the exhibition includes new commissions from artists Umbrellium (Usman Haque and Nitipak 'Dot' Samsen); Universal Everything; will.i.am, Yuri Suzuki, Pasha Shapiro and Ernst Weber; and a collaboration with Google in the form of digital art commissions called DevArt, pushing the possibilities of coding as a creative art form, featuring four new gallery commissions, an online inspiration hub and a competition for undiscovered creative coders. It also presents work by Oscar®-winning Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisor Paul Franklin and his team at Double Negative for Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking film Inception; artists and performers including Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin, Björk and Amon Tobin.
Digital Revolution comprises immersive and interactive art works alongside exhibition-based displays. Usman Haque and Dot Samsen from Umbrellium, known for their large scale mass participatory interactive outdoor events, are producing their first artwork for an indoor space, Assemblance. This immersive experience takes over the Pit, creating a three-dimensional light field in which people can shape, manipulate and interact with luminous forms, blurring the distinction between the physical and the virtual.
Universal Everything, one of the UK's leading media art studios, is producing a new multi-screen work called Together for the Barbican’s Silk Street entrance. Taking digital drawing as its theme, visitors are able to contribute to the work both in the venue and online. Filmmaker and artist Chris Milk’s major interactive work The Treachery of Sanctuary is presented for the first time in the UK. This three-screen shadow play installation explores life, death and rebirth through a moving onscreen narrative which visitors can interact with.
Neil McConnon, Head of Barbican International Enterprises and project commissioner, said: Showcasing a new generation of artists, designers, filmmakers and musicians, Digital Revolution celebrates creatives who are pushing artistic boundaries across the arts using digital media. Through a series of gallery based work and public interventions the exhibition works to transform the Barbican into an animated canvas - inspiring digital natives, gamers, movie fans, retro geeks, family groups and art fans alike.
Digital Revolution is the most comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK. A festival-style exhibition, Digital Revolution takes place across the Barbican with ticketed and non-ticketed elements. It is accompanied by a talks and events programme and a dedicated publication.
The exhibition builds on the Barbican’s rich history of championing pioneering artists across all art forms that use digital technology within their work – including Merce Cunningham, Robert Lepage, Brian Eno, Aphex Twin and Rain Room by Random International.
The first section of seven exhibition spaces within the Curve opens by juxtaposing creative software projects from the 1970s to the present day, shown on their original hardware platforms. Showcasing work across art, design, games, music and film, the interactive Digital Archaeology section creates an overview of key creative moments during this period of rapid change. Pieces range from the classic videogame Pong; the first website by Tim Berners-Lee; vintage music hardware such as the Linn LM-1 drum machine (used in the production of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me); a rarely seen transparent casing version of the Sinclair ZX80 – one of the first mass market home computers, net art such as Olia Lialina’s My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, as well as early digital graphics experiments by Edwin Catmull – who went on to become the co-founder of Pixar.
We Create explores projects that allow people to become the creators. A highlight of this section is Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin’s crowd-sourced tribute website, the Johnny Cash Project, which allows people to contribute a frame to an online filmic tribute to Cash. It also explores DIY culture through projects such as Adam Ben-Dror and Shanshan Zhou’s Pinokio and Martin Bircher’s Type Case, developed using the programmable Arduino. Online communities are featured such as Minecraft (Mojang) and the Kickstarter project Broken Age (Double Fine), where fans are directly involved in influencing the game development process.
Creative Spaces examines how digital technology is allowing rapid creative change in film and online, contrasting blockbuster Hollywood visual effects with the work of a new generation of independent artists and filmmakers. It explores the innovative visual effects (VFX) created by Oscar®-winning VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin and his team at Double Negative for Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking science fiction film Inception. London’s Double Negative is one of the world’s leading VFX houses with recent and current projects including Man of Steel, Dark Knight Rises, Rush, Thor 2, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Godzilla and Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming film Interstellar. It also features Oscar®-winning visual effects studio Framestore, with a particular focus on their innovative digital techniques and the work of Tim Webber on the landmark VFX feature film Gravity which has won an Oscar® and BAFTA award for best visual effects. Framestore’s recent film work includes 47 Ronin, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Inside Llewyn Davis.
In addition Creative Spaces features the work of young digital filmmakers such as Kibwe Tavares (Factory Fifteen), who has used his experience as an architecture graduate to make the innovative short films Robots of Brixton (2011) and Jonah (2013). This section also explores digital storytelling by artists such as James Bridle’s Dronestagram (2012-ongiong), FIELD's Energy Flow (2012) and James George and Jonathan Minard’s documentary Clouds (2013).
Sound and Vision looks at how musicians have experimented with digital technology. Pieces include Pyramidi, a new commission by global music artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist will.i.am and artists Yuri Suzuki, Pasha Shapiro and Ernst Weber exploring the interface between analogue and digital music in a live gallery experience. will.i.am is well-known as a technology advocate and enthusiast. The section also features Arcade Fire's interactive video The Wilderness Downtown and a series of app-based projects in which artists have worked to visualise music, including the app Biophilia ( Björk ) by Scott Snibbe Studio and Peter Chilvers and Brian Eno’s app SCAPE (2012).
The exhibition moves into State of Play, which focuses on the ways in which we are able to engage and interact with digital projects using camera based systems such as the Kinect, featuring interactive works by artists Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Daniel Rozin.
The next section is dedicated to DevArt. This major project by Google with the Barbican explores art made with code, by developers using technology as their canvas, and code as their raw materials to create innovative, interactive digital art installations. Karsten Schmidt, Zach Lieberman and duo Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet, some of the world’s most progressive interactive artists, have been commissioned by Google and the Barbican Centre to create three new installations for Digital Revolution. Alongside these three commissions is a fourth, by Cyril Diagne and Béatrice Lartigue, who were handpicked as a result of DevArt’s global initiative to discover the interactive artists of tomorrow. The project is designed to inspire the next generation of developers and artists by highlighting coding as a creative art form. It seeks to push the boundaries of what is possible when art and technology come together. Google have created an online platform where you can follow the creative process, and watch their journey unfold—from concept and early sketches to the finished piece at g.co/devart .
Finally, the exhibition delves into what the future might look like in Our Digital Futures presenting a selection of some of today’s most experimental and future-focused artists, architects and designers. With particular reference to the body and our environment, the projects span the worlds of cyborg and wearable technologies, drones and big data. Highlights include fashion technology with London-based Studio XO for TechHaus, the technical division of Lady Gaga's Haus of Gaga; and Pauline van Dongen’s W earable Solar (2013) a project that explores the possibilities of photovoltaic fashion. CuteCircuit’s present iMiniskirt (2013), worn by Katy Perry at the iTunes Festival, a piece of clothing that lets you express yourself and share emotions in an instant by displaying videos, active animations and live tweets; and THEUNSEEN exhibit a new work – ÆTHER (2014) – a technical garment that responds to the shifting weather patterns in outer space.
Experimental architecture and design practice Minimaforms exhibit Petting Zoo (2012), an interactive installation featuring three animalistic creatures in the form of robotic arms which interact and stimulate participation with users through kinetic, sound, touch and illumination. Gibson/Martelli present Man A (2013) - a ‘dazzle’ camouflage installation that reveals a hidden animated world through an augmented reality app; and The Not Impossible Foundation debut their latest project BrainWriter (2014), a technology that allows people to communicate with the outside world using just their brainwaves. Visitors are guided by a specially commissioned videogame.
The exhibition continues through the Barbican foyers where visitors can explore Indie Games Space, devoted to the independent videogames movement. Featuring the work of a range of contemporary international indie developers, all in fully playable format, this section also showcases explorations in different games genres, game art and distribution. Games such as Antichamber by Alexander Bruce; Proteus by Ed Key and David Kanaga; Journey by Jenova Chen; as well as the BAFTA award winning Thomas Was Alone by Mike Bithell; and Papers, Please by Lucas Pope look at how an individual (or independent team) can now arm themselves with the latest creative tools to take risks and forge innovative experiences.