It’s fair to say that the world’s digital explosion in the last 40 years has been something like a phenomenon. Rapid, progressive and artistic all at the same time, we’ve seen it stretch across many facets of life and industries – and this generous show at the Barbican does its best to present as much of this under one roof. Visitors are first met by retro games and inventions in the Digital Archaeology section. As the unmistakable ching-ching-ching of Sonic the Hedgehog collecting coins in the legendary platform game resonates around the room, there’s a chance to play Pong and Super Mario Bros and see the first website by Tim Berners-Lee. Walk further into the exhibition and you notice greater nods to technology in music (musos can feast their eyes on a Linn LM-1 drum machine), education (remember Speak & Spell?) film (Inception and Gravity get a look-in) and home computing, with screens showcasing old-school browsers like Netscape while you can see the development of Apple computers back when the corporation had a rainbow logo, and later spread some colour to the bulbous iMac G3.
And that’s just the beginning. You’ll spend hours admiring and playing with creative art as you experience commissioned works from a range of digital filmmakers, technicians, artists, fashion designers and musicians including willi.am. A graphic of the pop star towers over visitors like a modern day Pharoah in the State of Play section, watching you as you move and belting out a new track – autotuned, naturally – that he penned exclusively for the show. It’s kind of freaky but still impressive, like the rest of this mighty project that presents digital technology to creative extremes you simply couldn’t make up. And yet incredibly, some very clever people did. On until 14th September. For tickets, visit the website. Digital Revolution Trailer from Barbican Centre on Vimeo.