Into the Unknown Exhibition at the Barbican Centre Review

“We live in a world of science fiction” – that is the bold statement etched into the guide for the Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction exhibition and it’s hard to argue against it.

Whether the medium is art, literature, radio, comic books, magazines, film or TV, sci-fi is the most expressive genre, capable of handling the full spectrum of various emotions and subjects.  Its exploration of otherworldly planets, fantastical worlds, space odysseys or dystopian futures becomes an integral and influential part of that celebration.  The journey is filled with curiosity – an expansion of knowledge and the search for greater meaning as a means to escape or to break the rules and cross a boundary.  Given how much of a fan I am of the genre, seeing this exhibition was like stepping into a geek heaven.

The exhibition is split into three main sections.  Area one contains the bulk of the attraction and the most photographic opportunities you’ll get.  It’s filled with some wonderful pieces of history including storyboards, props, costumes and models.  But the exhibit also includes original copies of novels, scripts and art designs and experimental art that have been kindly donated for the duration of this event.  From Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury to H.R. Giger, the Barbican centre in London have it covered.

There’s something very pleasing and appreciative about seeing this collection all in one place.  It touches upon a childhood nostalgia, influenced by Tron, Blade Runner and certainly The Day the Earth Stood Still, something I was happily discussing with an American tourist who shared his own memories of Fantastic Voyage with me.  As brief as this conversation was, it shows how deeply connected this genre can be and there’s plenty to smile about.

The best way to explore this exhibit is to pace yourself.  There’s plenty to see and experience, taking roughly two hours to complete the journey.  I wouldn’t blame you if afterwards you wanted to see everything again!

Due to the arrangement, there’s a short walking distance between areas but that can only be a good thing.  I mean you need a slight break to calm down from the geek excitement!

Area two is a change of pace as you enter a small cinema room.  Almost Orwellian in fashion, you’re presented with a short, experimental film called In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain by Larissa Sansour.  Honestly, depending on your taste will ultimately decide whether you’ll enjoy the film.  You might find it interesting in the vein of Under the Skin in terms of interpreting the film’s concept and artistic visuals or just simply boring.

Area three probably sums up the exhibition and sci-fi’s overall influence.  In Light of the Machine by Conrad Shawcross, the mechanical artwork examines the relationship between cosmology and technology.  Like staring at a piece brought back from the future, the sentient robotic arm is somewhat peaceful to watch as the light illuminates around the structure.

Some useful tips – if you are going to take pictures, bring a decent camera.  No flash photography is allowed due to the sensitivity of the items, but because of the low light conditions you will need to make sure your camera can handle that environment so that your memories are kept in tact and you don’t leave disappointed.  Tickets for the event cost £14.50 for entry and whilst that may seem a little expensive, the value of the display is worth it.

Whether you’re a sci-fi fan or just a curious observer, Into the Unknown will transport you to another world and when it’s over, it will slowly bring you back down to Earth.

Tickets are available now with the exhibition running until Friday 1st September 2017.  You can book tickets through the official Barbican Centre website at:

To explore the gallery below, click on an image to enlarge.

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