So after being open for nearly four months [with only one to go] and being the day after reopening, post two day Spring clean, I thought I’d go and try out the Rain Room experience at the Barbican Curve gallery last week. The announced wait time of 2-3 hours seemed correct, as when I arrived one and a half hours before opening, the queue had already formed. Then bang on the dot at 11am the experience commenced with the opening of the doors and the first handful of visitors, including myself, were ushered in.
Emerging again 30 minutes later I have to say I was rather underwhelmed [and more than a little bit wet].
Knowing the space well [a large C crescent moon shaped room with very high ceilings] I had envisioned the rain filing pretty much the whole wonderful sinuous curve, rather than merely a small squarish area down the far end. So disappointment one. Number two was despite the blurb that only 5 people could enter the area at a time, there were clearly double that at any one time, meaning actually finding any spots with any rain falling proved tricky. But unfortunately not tricky enough. Disappointment three, and the biggest of course, was simply that the piece did not work!
Having been warned that dark/black clothing might possibly mean that you might get just a little bit damp, I had purposely worn a white top. Immediately on stepping into the area under the ‘shower maker’ I was, if not soaked, then pretty wet. I continued to get pretty wet for the next 20 minutes whilst trying to mooch around slower than a dead tortoise being moved by geriatric ants. Simply the technology didn’t seem sensitive enough and I began to feel like the Pink Panther with his own private rain cloud. I had of course visited with the intention of testing the limits of the technology by trying to ‘fool’ it by moving rapidly, but my pace of movement couldn’t have been any slower!
Some of the technology seemed simple enough: florets of ‘shower heads’ with differently phased water droppage giving the appearance of there being much more water than there actually was [aided by the lighting] and presumably break a beam type sensors [rather than weight sensors in the floor] that turned the sprinklers off when you passed underneath; or not, as the case may be.
Personally I also found the usher/rain god guardian that directed entry and exit from the attraction, constantly having to, not so subtly, close a wooden door in a fake wall [housing the Wizard of Oz mechanics?] that kept popping open, completely killed any potential feelings of wonderment or awe.
I do wonder given that it is usually raining outside Oct – Feb in Britain why the organisers didn’t choose to schedule this exhibit during the hotter drier months?
Olafur Eliasson’s the weather project at Tate Modern in 2003, now that was an interesting piece – and no one got wet!