The Rain Room – an interactive installation involving an indoor downpour – is currently
running at London’s Barbican
Art Gallery to critical acclaim. As a result, the free show – which runs
until 3 March 2013 – is drawing huge crowds on a daily basis. But in a city
known for its year-round drizzly weather, why are people waiting in line for more
than two hours to experience more rain?
To start with, you don’t get wet in the Rain
Room. Once you enter the dark space where a dramatic spotlight shines on a 100sqm
patch of falling water, the sound of the shower and the feeling of moisture in
the air immediately gives the familiar impression of being caught in a
downpour. But unlike a regular rainstorm, the water above your head stops as
you move though it, allowing the audience to feel as though they are
controlling the weather.
At first, small groups of people move slowly
and cautiously into the heavy shower, testing the mechanics of the installation
with a hand, an arm and finally their whole body. As confidence builds and the
audience realises they won’t get soaked, adults and children alike can be seen
performing a joyful dance under the rain.
Random International, the contemporary art group behind the show, is known for experimental
works that often require audience participation. The group designed the Rain
Room to push visitors outside their comfort zone and see how people would react
when faced with a different outcome to an all too familiar situation.
Is it worth the wait? Yes. The build-up adds to
the experience and heightens curiosity.
If you were to walk straight in from the streets of London where, let’s
face it, it is more than likely to be raining, the delightfully surreal quality
of the Rain Room might seem just a bit too – real.
Dalamal is the London Localite for BBC Travel