Barbican's Rain Room: it's raining, but you won't get wet Link to this video
Ever wondered how Moses felt as he divided the waters of the Red Sea?
Well, wonder no longer, as you too can now control the elements and part a deluge of torrential rain in the Barbican's Curve gallery. The latest work by a young experimental practice, Random International, Rain Room invites brave visitors to enter a hundred-square-metre downpour, without getting in the slightest bit wet.
on a raised plinth at the end of the dark, curving corridor space,
powerfully backlit by a glaring spotlight, the perfectly rectangular
chunk of rain appears transposed from a parallel place, with the
precision of a carefully staged experiment.
As visitors step up on
to the stage, these identical vertical lines of driving rain begin to
be repelled, as if each body is giving off a kind of invisible magnetic
field. As you step further in, the rain closes around you, enveloping
each silhouetted figure in a perfect cylindrical void. It is a
startlingly surreal experience.
The apparently simple trick is the
result of a lengthy period of development, which came out of playing
with large-format printing.
"We started three years ago, testing
temporary 'printing' with water, spraying droplets from above, like a
long-distance ink-jet printer," says Florian Ortkrass, who founded
Random International with fellow Royal College of Art design graduates
Stuart Wood and Hannes Koch in 2005.
"But we became much more
interested in how people would react to the piece," he explains. "It's
the same with all of our work: it doesn't make sense without anyone
Their first piece involving participation was Audience
(2008), a disconcerting field of mirrors that eerily turned to follow
visitors as they walked between them, making the viewer both the active
agent and subject of the piece. Two years later, their Swarm
installation translated the collective behaviour of a flock of birds
into moving light. The sound of visitors stimulated the "collective
consciousness" of a network of suspended LEDs, causing dynamic waves of
light to ripple through the space.
The group treats each project
as part of an ongoing process of research into the relationship between
people and new intelligent technologies, and has been working with the
cognitive scientist Philip Barnard to analyse people's behaviour.
best bit is watching what people do," says Ortkrass. "It's either
totally crazy, or utterly banal, but never what we're expecting."
the magic of each piece is a highly refined piece of technology. The
Rain Room is controlled by a series of cameras that 3D-map the location
of bodies on the plinth, translating this to a pixelated grid of 25cm x
25cm panels, each of which controls nine outlets – and a total of 2,500
litres of water, falling at a rate of 1,000 litres per minute, which is
filtered, treated and recycled.
The piece will play host to performances choreographed by Wayne McGregor, with music scored by Max Richter, to be premiered during the Frieze Art Fair.