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
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific