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Digital Revolution at The Barbican

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Last month, with Movement’s fifth birthday dancing on the horizon, we thought it’d be only right to celebrate with a company day out.

Avoiding the temptation to head straight to the pub, we bought a bunch of tickets for Digital Revolution at The Barbican.

Billed as ‘An immersive exhibition of art, design, film, music and videogames’ and claiming to be ‘the most comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK’, we trotted off with a spring in our step and high expectations.

Suffice to say we were not disappointed.

The exhibition began with some nostalgic time travel back to the days of the first Apple Macs and retro games of our youth. There was a constant queue for Space Invaders and Pac Man, interestingly made up of school kids who can’t even have been a twinkle in their parents’ eye at the time of production. The simplicity of gaming back then was beautiful, and whilst laying the foundations for the sophisticated and expansive world gaming now inhabits, it was great to see that the fundamentals still resonate with kids today.

Mark was peculiarly gratified to see games such as Manic Miner on the ZX Spectrum and early examples of web art (many of which he used to muck about with in his first office job) on display in a museum, anointed with importance. A sure sign he wasn’t wasting his time back then after all.

The birth of the World Wide Web stood out for tech director Dave, a sobering an impressive reminder of how far the internet’s come in such a small space of time. There was a mutual recognition felt by all for how fortunate we are to be witnessing this evolution, and how it points to an exciting future should we continue to develop at the same speed.

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The exhibition had been carefully thought through and we were catapulted from the pixelated screens of days gone by straight into outer space with an epic documentary on how Gravity was filmed. A multi stage process involving countless mind-blowing techniques opened our eyes to the complex world of film and the digital processes involved in making such a groundbreaking movie. It certainly paves the way for some seriously exciting cinematic experiences.

Something particularly encouraging was the breadth of industries experimenting with technologies and really raising the bar. The music industry is pushing boundaries and a project by will. i. am combined sound and visual tech to create an amazing immersive experience (where will. i. am.’s face followed us around the room in a somewhat intimidating manner). There were also several examples of interactive music videos by the likes of Arcade Fire and Light Light, an exciting sign of the forward thinking relationship between music and digital tech.

A quick office poll revealed that there were two artworks in particular that left an impression on the Movement team; a flying bird installation and the laser room. Surreal audio and visual footage projected people’s shadows onto large screens. The raising and lowering of arms in a flapping motion resulted in wings sprouting and we witnessed our bird-like selves take flight. An experience not done justice to through words alone so hopefully this video does a better job.

The laser room ended Digital Revolution in style. Led by ushers into a darkened room, we were surprised and delighted by a plethora of laser beams that reacted to our movements. The rainbow of colours enchanted all age groups and we spent a good five minutes playing laser swing-ball with an enthusiastic ten-year-old boy. Another charmingly organic display of how technology has the power to build bridges. Maybe it’s not Man vs Machine after all.

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