I went to see the Digital Revolution exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London yesterday – it was great. Bit of a hotch-potch of early computing history (though when I say early, it really started from the 1970s), digital art, computer games history and some current indie games, clothing+software, movie special effects… which reflects the pervasiveness of digital media now, I guess, and a lot of fun as a result. The exhibition microsite here has several videos and images if you can’t get to London to see the show.
One thing that struck me about it was that, while the first section on media archeology paid a lot of attention to hardware – keyboards, consoles, processors – that attention almost entirely disappeared in the later sections on games, art and special effects. A couple of the art pieces played on the materiality of computing, but most of the works on show were materialised mainly as screens and projections of various kinds. So a lot of the final effects relied on a sort of magic: your ‘projection’ as a shadow with huge wings; your ‘reflection’ with steam coming out of your eyes (that was weird). Not quite sure what to make of that: the conventions of the art exhibition kicking in? the complexity of the software and hardware (which was suggested by a film showing how the special effects of the film Gravity were made)? or maybe that for many, all that would be visible would be a big Apple Mac?