Rain room lets you walk between the drops

The Rain Room, an exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London, is a room from whose ceiling torrential rain falls. However, a series of 3D cameras are used to track where people in the room are, and it selectively stops the rain such that you effectively walk between the drops.

Random International invites you to experience what it’s like to control the rain. Visitors can choose to simply watch the spectacle or find their way carefully through the rain, putting their trust in the work to the test.

More than the technical virtuosity necessary for its success, the piece relies on a sculptural rigour, with the entire Curve transformed by the monumental proportions of this carefully choreographed downpour and the sound of water.

Random International: Rain Room (via Kottke)


  1. We need a new word for people who create these kinds of things – something different from “artist”. This installation isn’t art any more than something like the Worlds Most Useless Machine is art. I’m not saying it’s not cool, or that it doesn’t have value, but it just doesn’t qualify as art. The first “artist” who is interviewed, Stuart Wood, probably says it best; this is a social experiment.  

    Finding a different term for the people who create these kinds of hacks/social experiments/whatever would free them from the responsibility of trying to explain how their creation says something about the human condition or how it reflects humanity’s relationship with the natural environment “on a human scale” or other such poppycock. 

    1. Though I’m all for adding to the nomenclature, this installation is a magnificent artwork, brilliantly conceived and executed, giving an experience never before possible, possibly triggering emotions inaccessible from other vantage.

      It’s glorious even in this video… I can’t imagine the experience of full immersion, the white noise of the waterfall, the cold humidity, the discontinuity of thrusting a hand into the downpour, the merger of sheltered vacuoles in an embrace amid the torrent.

    2. Pretty slippery slope that one.  What is art.

      Does it need to be a painting?  Sculpture?  Architecture?  Photography?  Or do you only know it when you see it?

      I only ask because I recently swung by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Warhol show, to be greeted by a pile of candy in a corner.  Which we were encouraged to take and eat.

      Is that art?  Is it because it’s in a museum?  Because it’s by someone that a curator considers an artist?  Does it cease to be art when I pick it up and eat it?  Does the candy change to art then back to candy at some point?  I still have the wrapper, is it art or trash?

      For Rain Room, does the rain become art when dancers are added to it?  Or are only the dancers art and the set isn’t?

      My point?  Qualifying art is actually more useless than actually making something and calling it art.

      1. “What is art?” is not only a legitimate question, it is perhaps one of the most important questions.

        1. For you.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve defined it as “Whatever the artist decides it is.  And everyone’s an artist.”

          Not that difficult after all.  I find the created work of art itself to be more important than trying to decide if it’s art or not.  Does every art mean something to me?  Certainly not, but not everything I create means something to everyone else.  So I didn’t make that piece for them, I probably made something else for them.  Does that make the previous piece less art if someone else is intensely moved by it?

          1. The problem is that your definition is so broad as to be useless. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, mind, but it kind of kills the debate.

          2. Then you’re going to have to provide a tighter definition instead of criticizing mine.  Warhol kind of threw us all under the bus when he took commercial art and put it in a gallery.  Next came graffiti.  Prior to that you could tighten things to those who had skills with a paintbrush or chisel, or something.  Possibly those that had years of training (of course, folk art blew that one away).

            So if my definition isn’t good enough, what would you suggest it is?  Because when you have Pollock letting the paint do what it wants to on a canvas over by a Banky wall and a crucifix upside down in urine next to a sheep in formaldehyde adjacent to Dan Flavin’s fluorescent tubes (where the art isn’t actually the tubes themselves but the original drawings used to define the arrangement!) all selling for millions of dollars and inspiring people to imagine and think differently, it’s going to be pretty hard to fit it all in.

          3. We wouldn’t want to kill a debate on the internet about the definition of art.  That would be bad.

    3. I would stick with art. If it is built just for the pure joy of building without any (obvious) practical goals I don’t think it could be anything else. Plenty of artists routinely ignore such responsibility to explain themselves and their work. If they want to try, that is fine, but they are under no obligation.

    4.  I disagree. If it is intended as art, it is art. It may be bad art or unsuccessful art, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t art. It’s impossible to judge this work as art without experiencing it firsthand rather than through a YouTube video. No artist “has” to explain what his or her work says about the human condition or anything else–that is the purpose of the work itself. If it were possible to put into words what the artist intends to convey, the artwork would be unnecessary. Nor does the artist have the only or even the last word on what the work “means”–he or she may not even know.

        1. Oh?  I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen any written words from Robert Frost explaining exactly what he was going on about that road in a yellow wood, or why Monet decided that his backyard pond was so important to demand eight foot tall paintings.  And that Mona Lisa, what’s that smile all about, Leonardo?

          It’s up to the viewer or critic to make their own definition.  You might not like the piece, but that doesn’t make it Not Art.

    5. It would be nice if all artists were freed from having to explain the meaning / significance of their work. Unless, of course, they really really want to.

    6.  Why don’t we just come up with a word for “thing that requires it’s creator to say something about the human condition or its relationship with nature” and leave the word art for describing art, which doesn’t need to do either of those things?

      Art doesn’t even need to make a statement, any statement. It can have other purposes. And it’s a bit backwards to try to claim those things aren’t art, when they hold the initial claim, instead of just coming up with your own term for the particular niche you seem to be describing.

      1. That’s hardly the depth of detail any curious person would want to see from something purported to be this unique.

    1. I know! That’s the one thing I wanted to see — someone walks in, roams around and comes out and we see that he/she is dry. No editing cuts in between. Would that have been too hard?

  2. I found the rain swing even cooler, all over Tumblr, it’s a swing with rain shower that creates a custom gap in rain timed with when you’ll swing under the shower.
    And art and ideas are always worthwhile in a honky world of curmudgeons(me included)

    1. That took me a few tries to find, but sounded too cool to give up searching… finally found it on Make Magazine, of course.

      Very very cool! They did a great job lighting in the video, showing the gap created for the swinger to traverse.


      I was expecting something much less sophisticated and much less elegant – a levered shield equidistant from the seat above the anchor bar, pivoting back and forth to block the stream coming from higher above.

  3. After watching it, I would suggest the addition of a strobe light. (Try it carefully in the shower sometime.)

  4. Walkthrough video looking up at the ceiling or it didn’t happen.  (Or more correctly, doesn’t work.)

      1. I really wish I could, and if I could get there within a few hours I definitely would.  The gap between rural Wisconsin and London is a bit far for a quick trip though :(

  5. Even if it rains constantly, everywhere in the room, people would be walking between the drops. 

  6. It’s obviously very very cool, and I’ve kinda given up caring about whether this sort of thing is art or not -it isn’t, of course :-)
    But making the natural environment tangible by bringing it to a human scale? Puleez! How much more bleeding tangible can it get than rain? 

  7. Well I went and visited it and it really does work! Of course the odd drop splashes onto you but in the end you come out dry! If you look at the video the darker patches on the ceiling are where the rain has been turned off. Definitely recommend a visit.

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