Dialogue Studio: Barbican Exhibition

On Tuesday, our task was to visit Barbican centre and view two exhibits – a sculptural installation by Zarah Hussain and Bedwyr Williams. Numina by Zarah Hussain, is located on the ground floor, between entrances. It looks like it’s always been there and is a part of the interior of the Barbican centre. The sculptural installation consists of a geometric sculpture, an ongoing light show on the sculpture and an audio playing softly in the background, just above the piece. It was really mesmerising and hypnotic, the patterns shifting and changing non stop, creating a different piece every couple seconds. The description from the Barbican website, says this about the piece:

“Blurring the boundaries between science and spirituality, Islamic geometry is traditionally drawn by hand with a ruler and pen, using mathematics that celebrate the order and structure found in the universe to create infinite repeating patterns. Taking the essence of this, Numina combines designs found in the art and architecture of the Islamic world with contemporary digital arts, bringing to life a usually static artform by mapping animated geometric patterns onto a sculpture composed of tessellating pyramids arranged on a hexagonal grid.

The presence of infinite repeating patterns in Islamic spaces is conducive to meditative and transcendent states. In the same way, Numina creates a space within the Barbican for contemplation and reflection, as the perfect accompaniment to Transcender – the Barbican’s season of ecstatic, hypnotic and psychedelic music from across the globe.”

To visit the Beldwyr Williams exhibition, we had to go to The Curve, where we were met by an attendant, who told us a bit about the experience and what it was about (oh, and to not take photographs with flash on). Off we went.

Kasia sitting at the campfire
Kasia sitting at the campfire

It was quite strange – you had to go through each stage, interacting with the set up to get to the other room with the other installations; in some bits you weren’t able to distinguish the door (or the curtains), and we had to ask another attendant how to come through. One of the rooms was a viewing room, running a video+audio of a hypnosis seance, led by a depressed hypnotist; the video wanted you to think you were bread, and we didn’t listen for long. I got very embarrassed that I thought two other exhibition viewers were actually mannequins set up to look like they were watching the video.

Hanging shelves

Through the curtain, you entered a very very tight space with a taxidermy goat on the wall, at the end of the room there was a microphone, and after that there was a race track with shelves hanging from the ceiling; also a single running shoe that was singing. Once we got to the other end, we spoke to a third attendant, who told us that this was meant to be a more interactive exhibition and worked better with more visitors – if you spoke into the microphone, the people behind you at the goat would hear the goat talk; if you banged on the drums 3 rooms prior, the people at the very end of the exhibition would hear the sound of the drums come out above the exit door. That was slightly disappointing, because I really was keen on seeing a talking goat, but no matter. It was good in a way that there weren’t many people attending at the same time and most of the rooms were VERY narrow and dark, and I’m slightly claustrophobic.

Overall it was very interesting, and I think even without the full force that the exhibition was intended to have, it was quite interesting. It felt a bit wrong at first to start interacting with all the objects available for interaction, maybe even a bit inappropriate? Most galleries you go to, you are not allowed to touch or play with any of the works displayed, so this was different for sure, and completely out of your comfort zone.

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