diamond geezer

 Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yesterday I visited two art events at the Barbican. Both close on Sunday.

The Queue (4 October 2012 - 3 March 2013) (9am-8pm)
This dynamic artwork has been gathering considerable attention over the last few months. Located on the Barbican's main ground floor corridor, ostensibly it's nothing more than a flimsy chain of taped barriers. The layout resembles a very simple labyrinth, up and down and back again. It's nothing that should challenge the intellectual fibre of any visitor, and yet the temporal nature of the installation inexorably draws them in.

Space is limited, so it pays to arrive early. For some it's been a nine o'clock start, a full two hours early for the main action. The couple staking their claim at the front of the line have brought two packets of Nik Naks for sustenance, and occasionally nuzzle each other in mutual support. The entire line behind them is seated on the ground, coats sprawled and bags laid out to claim the territory. Nobody wants to sit too close to a stranger so the queue winds back further than it might, threatening to extend beyond the end of the barriers into the foyer. Occasionally someone nips off to buy a coffee, but better organised attendees have their own already, or a yoghurt, even sandwiches.

I arrive before ten, narrowly beating the pushchair invasion. There must be approximately sixty people ahead of me, which becomes sixty-two when the student I'm sat beside welcomes two female friends under the barrier. They sit on the carpet and discuss the club they visited last night, and that time they got so paralytic they can't remember what they did - an anecdote which is mercifully short. A few of the waiting participants have books to read to pass the time, but most are relying on their smartphones. Tap, flick, swish - their fingers engage in digital ballet as the minutes slowly pass. I bet half these people couldn't have have stuck out the tedium without 3G support, and ten years ago the queue would have been considerably shorter.

At ten o'clock black-shirted staff begin to appear behind the glass, chatting on walkie talkies. A couple eventually emerge, setting up the artwork's official photograph on an easel and wandering down the line to dispense leaflets. At ten past, one wanders by with a sign reading "the queue is approximately four hours from this point", which she plonks down approximately one hour behind me. An audible shudder resonates, but we are resilient, and the wait goes on. Newcomers wander in from the street, no doubt thinking how clever they are to have arrived early, and their faces fall. Two grandparents have to break the news to their pink-hatted progeny that she won't be getting inside today. Sadness ensues, and the trio go make alternative plans elsewhere.

At twenty to eleven the "approximately six hours" sign appears, if only briefly, as the line reaches the front doors as threatened. An old lady walks past clutching a carrier bag laden with Waitrose provisions - she could be a Barbican resident, but I like to think she's an actress brought in to keep us entertained. The disappointed faces come thicker and faster now, as new arrivals mentally add four hours to the current time and decide their day's too short. "Are you queueing for something?" asks a bemused visitor who's read none of the publicity. And finally the Nik Nak couple stand, followed by a smattering of those behind them, as the appointed time for action arrives and expectations peak.

The Curve's doors open late, something to do with a private view running over, and the atmosphere changes. Books are tucked away, scarves and jackets are gathered, eyes head up front. Where 100+ people had been sitting now 100+ people stand, and everyone politely shuffles forward. This is all it takes for the queue to shrink dramatically in length, and suddenly things aren't looking quite so "approximately four hours" any more. But when only half a dozen people are ushered through the doors ahead, and then nothing else happens for ten minutes, those standing right at the back revert to muted passive pessimism.

It's slow progress to the front, nudging fractionally and occasionally forward. A bunch of students are using the time to do some work, reading through notes on "An overview of the solar system" and jotting down complex equations. Further would-be attendees drop in, sum up the futility of the situation and take photos of an entrance through which they have no intention of passing. At last the distant sound of running water can be heard, and there's a clean smell which reminds very much of swimming pools. "Are you just a one?" asks the member of staff on the door as he ushers me forward. It's half past twelve, and my time in The Queue is finally over.


Rain Room (4 October 2012 - 3 March 2013) (11am-8pm)
The shadows on the wall are the first sign. They appear round the bend in The Curve, a line of heads, lit from behind by a very strong white spotlight. And listen to the sound of that downpour, pounding down like an indoor monsoon which eventually manifests ahead. This rain moves out of the way as you pass - that's the key idea of this artistic installation, but can it possibly work?

The set up is relatively simple, although delivery must be much more complex. A black plastic grid hangs above the end of the gallery space, 72 holes wide and considerably more than 72 holes long. No rain emerges from the front four rows but beyond that a steady stream of droplets falls, then drains away through plastic grooves below. It ought to be enough to drench anyone stupid enough to stand underneath, yet stand they do, such is their faith in the electronics powering the system. Sensors in the suspended ceiling deduce human presence beneath and ease off the rainfall, creating a bubble of safe space amid the deluge. You can watch it most clearly on the ceiling - circles of dry amongst a torrent of wet, slowly shifting as the silhouettes below move around. Looks fun. You'll be inside soon.

Stepping into the rain feels like stepping into the shower, but unnerving because you're still fully clothed. Have faith - the sensors are doing their job, and they'll part the waves for you as you enter. So long as you step slowly, minimal wetness occurs. Tread a little quicker and you'll likely get damp, because the system can't stop any droplets that are already falling before you move into them. Just as well it's winter because everyone's wearing coats, and the overall effect might be more disagreeable with a summer wardrobe. Some visitors even put their hoods up on discovering that speed equals moist hair. But another on my visit defied the odds by wandering around with an open laptop, and over five minutes barely splashed the screen.

It's fun to test the parameters of the installation's programming. Stick an arm out and the rain retreats. Stick out two and the drought zone enlarges to encompass both. You can even spin around, so long as you don't mind how foolish you appear to the outside audience, without getting unduly wet. It's great to have control over the weather, like some all powerful Norse rain god, even if only for a limited period. Five minutes, maybe ten minutes tops if you push it. Nobody's timing your spell beneath the artificial clouds but the next group of moisture-avoiders is already lined up waiting, and it would be wrong to delay their approach any longer.

Rain Room is a unique and highly enjoyable experience, as you may have discovered if you've visited over the last five months. If not, you've only got until Sunday, and your chances aren't good. To reach artwork two you have to queue through artwork one, and that's a considerable investment of time. I calculate only 40 people are getting inside every hour - that's less than 400 a day - so your chances of ruling the rain depend on how early you turn up and/or how long you're willing to wait. Bring a very good book. Walk slowly enough and you could even read it through the storm.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
Total Solar Eclipse
Friday 20th March (0830-1030)
Partial from the UK (84% from
London, 94% from Glasgow).
Best until 2026! Details here.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
tired of london
in the aquarium
round the island
christopher fowler
thamesfacingeast
one bus at a time
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
uk general election 2015

read the archive
Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv