August 14, 2014

Talking about a Digital Revolution

What is the DNA of digital? Last week Unity attended the new Digital Revolution show at The Barbican as part of our new Field Trip programme.

The curators claim it is the most “comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever staged in the UK”. Certainly a bold claim and the show is ambitious in scope, across 14 different rooms including everything from games to music, filmmaking, design, fashion and art in a dynamic celebration of digital culture.

So what did the show deliver? And how can it help an agency like Unity who do brave and bold work in the digital world?

For such a forward-thinking show it was surprising to see Digital Revolution opened with a historical perspective. The Digital Archeology room showed the history of digital culture, from early computers to the very first version of Tim Berners-Lee’s world wide web.

A highlights was the history of videogames though. This allowed visitors to rifle through a treasure trove of classics. From Pac-Man and Pong, to a wander down memory lane with Lara Croft in Tomb Raider right through to Angry Birds.

The exhibit then moves on to a space dedicated to the more recent trend of user-created content and interactive web art. Chris Mil and Aaron Koblin’s Johnny Cash Project inspired. It allows participants to create a drawing that is then digitally woven into a collective tribute to his song “Ain’t No Grave”. The project was inspired by the song’s central lyric and represents Cash’s continued existence even after his death.

There’s a big focus on visual effects throughout – it was great to see the spectacle of Jurassic Park in a different context, reliving the classic and then gtaking in interactive walk-through’s of more recent films such as Inception and Gravity.

It was particularly heartening to see so much love lavished on the UK’s flourishing indie gaming scene, featuring innovations in design from eye-tracking technology to wearable tech from Brit designers like CuteCircuit and The Unseen.

Pyramidi is one of the most memraoble pieces. It’s a collaboration between Will.I.Am and sound artist Yuri Suzuki. The piece is an enormous (and slightly frightening) six-foot floating Egyptian-style head. It sings a new track, composed specifically for the exhibition. It is performed by a trio of robotic instruments – a drum kit, piano and a guitar. A mind-blowing, high-tech, riff on a one-man band. Brilliant.

In The Barbican’s Pit Theatre a piece from London-based artist Usman Haque had people queuing up to have a play. It allowed visitors to manipulate beams of light formed in clouds of smoking using gestures.

Our favourite piece was The Treasury of The Sanctuary – a stunning visual arts piece in which your movement is transformed into a flock of animated birds. Lifted the spirits and captured our imagination, one that stays with you.

The show is ambitious, remarkable and feels distinctly British too. Perhaps there’s too much to see and do in one-visit, but we certainly came away both impressed by the breadth of digital creativity out there and inspired to develop our thinking, our digital offering and reimagine what’s possible.
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The Unity Field Trip programme sees members of staff attending the best new shows, exhibitions, and happenings around the UK. Keeping our ear to the ground means our thinking, campaigns and communications stays fresh. We love to get inspired!