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Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction at the Barbican Centre

It’s fair to say that SEEN was keenly anticipating this exhibition. Having grown up on sci fi books and films, she was looking forward to a trip down memory lane and hoping to be inspired by new concepts and ideas. She was not disappointed. There’s so much here, it definitely bears repeat visits. Fortunately, it’s on until 1st September.

The first thing that strikes the visitor is what a fabulous venue the Barbican Centre is for such an undertaking. Dystopian and futuristic in its design, the building is a giant sci fi installation in its own right.

The experience is somewhat disorienting as the visitor stumbles into the ‘curve’ that makes up the hub of Into the Unknown. Here, graphic art, film clips and all manner of props and memorabilia visit the giants of the genre (‘Star Wars’, ‘Alien’, ‘Stargate’ et al). The outstanding exhibits for SEEN were the maquettes from ‘Alien’ and the spacesuits from ‘Sunshine’. Work by SEEN’s favourite author Octavia Butler is gloriously here in the short film Encore II (Radioactive) by Isaac Julien, on display in the lobby area.

There was also a stunning CGI film shot in Tokyo that re-imagines that city on a giant DNA helix. Entitled ‘Invisible Cities’ Part 1. It is by Pierre-Jean Giloux and reconstructs projects by the Japanese Metabolism movement from the 1960s. The film draws us in close to the minutiae of this Brave New World, cherry blossom falling constantly, as we see a day in the life of this awe-inspiring structure. It is a truly transcendent experience.

Go to Level -2, where In Light of the Machine by Conrad Shawcross awaits. In it, a robot seems to be slowly creating stars, manipulating perforated monolithic structures to construct the underpinnings of a new universe. The visitor can walk into the sculpture and witness it in close-up, almost as if witnessing God at play.

There is something for everyone here from the Star Wars fan to the consumer of cerebral sci- fi that prefigures future reality. It’s said that creators of sci fi are secular prophets; the Barbican is an excellent secular structure in which to pay homage.

www.barbican.org.uk

Barbican Centre
Silk Street
London
EC2Y 8DS