Some people get a lot of joy out of running in the rain or jumping in puddles. I’m not one of them. I love everything about storms—the smells, the noises, the excuse for staying in and puttering around the house—except for the whole bit where you get wet. Rain Room, a recent installation by the digital art collective Random International, is right up my alley; it’s an indoor room in which rain continuously falls everywhere except the spot where you happen to be standing.
For the project, the group turned the Curve gallery in the Barbican in London into a hundred-square-meter rainstorm. Real water, real droplets, real potential for getting drenched. But thanks to an array of 3-D cameras, daring visitors can pass through the rain without getting dumped on; as people walk through the space, the cameras track their movements and momentarily suspend the downpour overhead.
The collective says the piece is about "playing with intuition" and "pushing people outside their comfort zones." That much is clear—charging into an artificial downpour without umbrella nor mac definitely takes some chutzpah on the part of the visitor. But it’s not just their audience the artists needed to worry about soaking; the gallery itself is situated above a BBC recording studio, and the London Symphony Orchestra performs elsewhere in the building. Thankfully, an elegant hydraulic management system keeps all that water where it’s supposed to be; the rain falls through a grid on the floor where it’s treated, sent back to the top, and poured down again.
Rain Room will be open to the public through March of next year. Let’s just hope the pipes don’t freeze over this winter.
All images copyright Felix Clay, Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery