Though it can look like gobbledygook to the average person, code is the backbone of how we express ourselves, share and search online. We’ve always tried to push the limits of what code can do—from products like Chrome and Hangouts to tools that developers use to build incredible apps and games. Now, we’re showing off another side of code with DevArt, a series of digital art installations made with code, at the Barbican’s Digital Revolution Exhibition.
DevArt celebrates developers who use technology as their canvas and code as their paintbrush to make art that explores and challenges the creative and technical limits of code. With the Barbican, we commissioned three interactive artists to create pieces for Digital Revolution. Karsten Schmidt’s Co(de) Factory empowers anyone to be an artist with an online design tool that creates 3D digital sculptures that may be showcased in the exhibition. Zach Lieberman’s Play the World uses code to find musical notes from hundreds of live radio stations around the world. When a visitor plays the piano at the centre of the piece, each note is precisely matched to one of those radio sounds, and played back via 360-degree speakers to create a uniquely global piece of music. And duo Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet’s Wishing Wall lets you whisper a wish, see your words projected in front of you, then transformed into a butterfly that (virtually) lands on your hand.
We also put out a global call to undiscovered interactive artists for the opportunity to be commissioned by Google and Barbican, and exhibited alongside the DevArt artists. There were hundreds of entries, including a giant map (using Google Maps API) where children can explore fantasy and reality, a group-play haptic musical instrument that visualizes sound using Android, and maps of dreams as they move through the brain (using Google+ APIs). In the end, the DevArt judges chose Les Métamorphoses de Mr. Kalia, by Cyril Diagne and Beatrice Lartigue, which allows you to use your body's movements to control a larger-than-life animated character, transforming basic movement into a powerful visual performance.
We want to inspire a new generation of coders and artists to see what they can create with technology as their canvas. Soon, we’ll kick off our DevArt Young Creators program, a set of workshops hosted by DevArt artists for students aged 9-13 years who have never tried coding before. Each workshop will be developed into lesson plans in line with the U.K.’s new national computing curriculum, and distributed to educators by arts and technology organizations.
DevArt and the Digital Revolution exhibition will be at the Barbican in London until September 15, and after that will tour the world for up to five years. If you can’t make it in person, you can see all this incredible art online or watch our launch film to learn more.