Just like the weather itself, the Rain Room, curated by the Random International arts collective, has become a British obsession in its own right. With consistent two hour long queues, the Rain Room installation at the Curve Gallery in the Barbican Arts Centre remains the most popular UK exhibition currently on show and the queues are only getting longer. Then again, where else can you get rained on without getting wet?
The public are invited to walk around a room of torrential rain – real water falling from the ceiling – and remain dry no matter where they stand. Like an invisible magnetic field the water is repelled from you as if by magic. I think it has something to do with 3D mapping but I prefer to think of it as magic. The moment you hear the intense sound of the rain as you walk into the dark room of the curve gallery all memories of the hours of waiting are forgotten. As you turn the corner, you see a singular light that shines across the downpour making the droplets shimmer and dance. The outcome is both technically brilliant, and aesthetically stunning.
About to step into the deluge of rain, I felt sceptical. I considered the reality of this exhibition; a two hour wait to get rained on, walking back to the tube with soggy socks, good mood extinguished. As I made my first cautious steps into the rain, it stopped above me and I was staying dry. As I walked further into the room, the rain enveloped around me but I was not getting wet. I don’t mind admitting I felt like a god, at least for a second.
Most people spend a few minutes holding themselves staring upwards with their arms stretched out like Tim Robbins at the end of the Shawshank Redemption before laughing and joking, moving quickly to try and see if they can beat the system and get wet. Indeed the concept of staying dry is not 100% perfect. The Barbican website advises the audience to avoid wearing black or dark colours and the stewards suggest that you walk slowly whilst in the rain room, reducing the chances of getting wet. Saying this, the rain room did work well for me and it was incredible.
If you are in London before the 3rd of March I would strongly recommend visiting this exhibition and playing God by controlling the weather; but be prepared to queue and, if you don’t want to get wet, don’t wear black.
image: James Roadnight
words: Alex Roadnight