Water, water all around, but does it make you think?

Christina Patterson gets caught up in the rain at the Barbican's strikingly immersive new art installation

There was the sun. There was the crack. And now there's the rain. The sun, which was actually made up of hundreds of little lamps in a semi-circular disc, was part of something called The Weather Project at Tate Modern. The crack, which looked like the kind of crack you might get if there'd been an earthquake, was called Shibboleth, and was also at Tate Modern. The rain, which is real water, in real drops, is part of a project called Rain Room, and you can see it at the The Curve gallery at London's Barbican now.

The sun, which lit up the Turbine Hall of the Tate in 2003, was meant, said its creator, Olafur Eliasson, to explore the ways "we have grown accustomed to the weather as mediated by the city". The crack, which split the floor, or what looked like the floor, of the Turbine Hall of the Tate in 2007, was meant, said its creator, Doris Salcedo, to make you think about "the experience of racial hatred". The rain, which falls from a ceiling in the Barbican, is meant, say its creators, who call themselves Random International, to make you think about the "growing scarcity of this vital resource on our planet".

The sun, as far as I can remember, made me think about how much I longed for the summer. The crack, as far as I can remember, made me think about earthquakes, and drought. And the rain? Well, I was damned if anyone was going to tell me what to think about the rain. I'm used to rain. I live in England. But still, I thought I'd find out.

There are queues. There are, in fact, long queues. And then when you walk in, and down a dark passageway that feels like the night, you're hit by the sound. It's the sound of the tropics, the sound of the monsoon, the sound of beating, bouncing, driving rain. And when you see it, and the light shining through it, a mass of silver drops in a big, dark, space, you almost gasp.

You almost gasp, too, when you walk into it, and the rain is all around you, but you're dry. You know that it must have something to do with sensors, and cameras, and valves, but it still feels like a miracle. It makes you feel like a god because you can, for the first time in your life, control the rain. It makes you feel like a god, too, because you almost feel that you're in a world that you created. It's a world where a clear liquid can sometimes look pink, or green, or gold, and where you can suddenly see a rainbow.

Gods fail. At one point, I got quite wet. But I didn't want to leave it. I didn't think about the "growing scarcity of this vital resource on our planet", but I did think about what lovely patterns there were in the light and the water. I thought of the fountains in Moorish gardens, and of how water often made you think of peace. And I thought that the people who had made this thing had made something that was clever, and beautiful.

But it also made me think that the thing about art, if you call it art, is that it can make you feel all kinds of things, and it can make you think all kinds of things, but the one thing it can't do is tell you what those thoughts and feelings should be.

'Rain Room', The Curve, Barbican, London EC2 (barbican.org.uk) every day from 11am-8pm, and until 10pm on Thursdays, admission free

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus brought her Bangerz tour to London's O2 Arena last night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis