The Barbican present an exhibition entitled Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction which is an exploration into the cultural significance of the Science Fiction genre. The exhibition is one of the most comprehensive held in the UK and will encompass literature, contemporary art, film, music, comic books and video games.
The show includes a large number of rare and iconic pieces with over 200 books from around the world, original manuscripts and typescripts, contemporary art commissions and existing art works, over 50 film and TV clips, featuring some of the most memorable cinematic moments in Science Fiction as well as rare, unseen footage, pulp magazines, adverts, concept art, film props, comics, video games and robots.
The main part of the exhibition is located in the Curve Gallery and is split into four sections.
Extraordinary Voyages explores man’s fascination with the undiscovered and unknown parts of the earth. It was in this area that many of the first Science Fiction stories were published.
Some of the highlights of this section are original manuscripts and drawings from Jules Vernes, and dinosaur models by Ray Harryhausen. This section also includes original models and props from films such as Godzilla and Jurassic Park . Influential books featured include Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, H Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quatermain and She, Thomas More’s Utopia, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and the Lost Empire.
Space Odysseys is the largest section of the show and explores stories that began to look to space for adventure. Space travel, aliens and other worlds became the dominant force in Science Fiction.
Highlights of this section are a new interactive commission based on Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning film The Martian, recreating a sequence from the film’s NASA Mission Control set.
A gallery of aliens features heads, masks, skulls, models and props from films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Aliens. There are also be props and models from Stargate, Star Trek, Interstellar, Independence Day and concept art from District 9, Alien and First Men in the Moon.
In this section are the original spacesuits worn by John Hurt in Alien, Sam Rockwell in Moon, Cillian Murphy in Sunshine, Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek with original Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets from Star Wars.
Brave New Worlds
The third section of the show, Brave New Worlds explores the way that the future of humankind was portrayed in Science Fiction with future cities with gigantic skyscrapers, vast networks and dystopian worlds that ended in disasters, wars and the occasionally the end of various worlds.
Highlights include books by JG Ballard, Ray Bradbury, Anthony Burgess, William Burroughs and George Orwell. Architectural plans and designs from Ben Wheatley’s recent film High Rise, other film and television clips include Akira, 28 Days Later, Brazil, Dark City, Metropolis and The Prisoner.
The final section, Final Frontiers looks at the future of humanity and explores identity, the transformation of the body, cyborgs, mutants, clones and robots. Artificial Intelligence offers a future but will we be slaves to machines or vice versa.
Highlights include Film and television clips in this chapter include Back to the Future, Doctor Who, Donnie Darko, ExistenZ, The Fly, Ghost in the Shell, The Terminator and Total Recall. This section also includes TARS from Interstellar, Robot B-9 from 1960s television series Lost in Space and a 3D model of Sonny from I-Robot as well as selection of robots from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and China from the Mint Museum of Toys in Singapore.
This fascinating and entertaining exhibition provides plenty of evidence of the cultural significance of the Science Fiction genre. Walking around the exhibition, visitors will find the familiar and not so familiar heroes and villains of the genre and can explore many of the narratives that were often projections of humans hopes and fears about the future. It is easy to merely laugh at some of the ridiculous early stories, however these stories often opened people’s minds to alternative realities. It is these alternative realities that underpin much of the genre and provide much of its success.
Elements of the exhibition continue all over the building, in the foyers and in the Pit Theatre. There will be film screenings in the cinema, a pop up outdoor cinema on the Barbican’s sculpture court, music performances in the Barbican Hall, as well as a public programme of talks and events.
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Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information and tickets , visit the Barbican website here
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