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
Christina Patterson is a writer, broadcaster and columnist. She writes about politics, society, culture, travel, books and the arts. She has interviewed writers and artists ranging from Martin Amis to Eddie Izzard and Werner Herzog, and did the first interview after he left office with Gordon Brown. A former director of the Poetry Society, and literary programmer at the Southbank Centre, she has written for the Observer, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, Time, the Spectator and the New Statesman. She’s a regular commentator on radio and TV news programmes, a regular reviewer on the Sky News press preview, and a regular guest on The Review Show. She has campaigned to improve standards in nursing in a series of articles in the Independent, by speaking at conferences, and in programmes she has made for Radio 4 and The One Show. Christina is the only woman on the shortlist for the Orwell Prize 2013. She has now left The Independent, but can be contacted via her website, www.christinapatterson.co.uk .
Wednesday 24 October 2012
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
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Search for plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore suspended overnight
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times