Digital Revolution is the new blockbuster at Barbican – it is a story about digital creativity across the arts, showcasing technology-driven projects from a wide range of media. Rich on immersive experience, but somewhat lacking depth and critical core, it make us think of William Gibson’s famous quote “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet”. (all our photos are on Flickr)
The show starts with a range of early hardware, computer games and other digital paraphernalia and takes you slowly into more and more immersive experiences such as will.i.am‘s collaboration with sound artist Yuri Suzuki or a three-dimensional laser light field from the Umbrellium design group. It’s fun, interactive and eye-catching. But for an exhibition that promises to show you the best in digital creativity there’s an evident lack of a real artistic discourse. Instead, what we get is an evolution of technology and a demonstration of Moore’s law. During the hour we spent in the exhibition, we never felt stimulated to think about the impact of digital innovation on our lives and there were few works that challenged the meaning of digital, addressed the potential risks of it, or tried uncovering the commercial and political forces that drive some of these technologies.
We also missed a theoretical framework to put this digital revolution into perspective. We agree that shows can be fun and playful but staging an overview of digital transformation without referring to the authors of The Golden Age of SciFi or linking the work on display to more contemporary concepts such as William Gibson’s Cyberpunk or Chris Anderson’s Makers movement is a missed opportunity.
Final verdict: don’t expect to be deeply intellectually challenged, but if you don’t mind some waiting time, go and see it. It has iconic digital design projects, an impressive collection of technological artefacts and a coin-less Pac-Man arcade!