This morning I headed for the Barbican to stand in the rain.
Installations that engage the public directly are all the rage, and Random International’s Rain Room at the Curve in the Barbican art gallery is attracting huge attention. They’re the techheads who put together the room of mirrors that turned to face you as you walked around them, and now they’ve turned their electronic skills to the thorny problem of rainfall.
It’s a very theatrical experience. After approaching via a long dark tunnel wherein you listen to the sound of torrential rainfall, you walk through a tall room of drenching rain without getting wet. It works by sensing your body mass and mapping it, turning off the appropriate water jets as you block the grid-mapped space. The installation is free to visit, but only five people are allowed in at one time, otherwise the effectiveness of the display is reduced.
It’s a very comforting feeling, to be able to step into torrential rain and not get wet, although I did manage to get a couple of tiny splashes after darting about, trying to trick it. You feel as if you can finally control the weather.
I love stuff like this; the Weather Project, the strange pagan giant sun that hung in the sky of the Tate Modern a few years back, was thrilling as much for the way the public reacted (lying down as if in worship), and this is the same – I found it hard to stop grinning. Given the interest in it, there’ll be long queues at weekends, but it’s on until March. And it might be the one place in London where you can guarantee staying dry.
That’s assuming anyone can find the art gallery inside the Barbican. The fastest way is to exit the tube, cross the road and go through to the end of the long tunnel, turning sharp right before ‘The Jugged Hare’ pub. Go on, try and get wet.