Entering the dramatic perpetual gloom of the Barbican’s Curve – a space named after its shape – the thunderous sound of a torrential downpour hits you before you round the corner, waking your inner child who’s just dying to see it rain indoors, and, jeez-louise, you can walk in it and not get wet!
This is the central conceit of the Rain Room, an installation that comes to life through audience participation, as the art lies in the experience of walking through a shower that dries up only over your head, brought to us by Random International, a collective specialising in immersive and interactive projects.
When I read the rave reviews garnered by the work, I did feel a little skeptical – it’s just walking through water that’s controlled by sensors, innit? I quickly realised that was my boring adult self at work, reasoning away the magic.
The spotlight highlights the raindrops as you enter, thousands of diamonds falling in lines and shattering at your feet. If you look up as you walk back, the light turns the drops into tiny kaleidoscopes, like a downfall of gems. How often do you get to look up into the rain (without goggles)?
Of course the real magic lies in staying dry. It sounds so simple, and it is – literally elementary. Yet the illusion of control over our – or my – least favourite element is powerful. I saw participants, including myself, raising their hands in the air and twirling around, making the most of the god-like ability to part waters.
I was lucky enough to be the last one out on my visit, so I got a few moments alone, without the annoying flash of I-phones or other people’s dry patches getting all up in my space. Surrounded by the shape and sound of precipitation in the semi-darkness, without having to make a run for shelter, was quite something; not enough to make me love rain, but enough to experience a fraction of its power, the full force of which our friends in other parts of the country are all too familiar with.
Go, by all means, and enjoy it. But take a pack of patience. With only 5 people allowed in at a time, expect to wait. And wait. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Rain Room runs at the Barbican till 3rd March 2013
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