Unknown Territories

This summer the Barbican Centre, London, celebrates the history and ingenuity of Science Fiction across the disciplines of art, design, film and literature. Bringing together an outstanding number of seminal, recent and newly commissioned pieces, Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction examines our curiosity in otherworldly phenomena and looks at how artists have engaged with the genre. The historian and writer Patrick Gyger has curated a festival-style exhibition, comprised of various chapters and featuring more than 800 works. Many of this works have never been displayed in the UK prior to the show.

Beginning with Chapter 1, titled Extraordinary Journeys, Gyger invites viewers to interact with a cabinet of curiosities containing original manuscripts and drawings from Jules Verne, as well as James Gurney’s Dinotopia series. Moving past a plethora of dinosaur models by Ray Harryhausen and influential literature including Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, the audience is flung into Space Odysseys. Here, art and literature tell the story of space travel. Featured works include Soda_Jerk’s video installation Astro Black, vintage postcards and adverts promoting Soviet visions of space, as well as novels by Arthur C Clarke, CS Lewis and Naomi Mitchison.

Elsewhere, Chapter 3, Brave New Worlds, highlights the dystopian worlds we have created for our futures in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the architectural plans and designs from Ben Wheatley’s adaption of High Rise. Concluding with Final Frontiers, the exhibition highlights the multi-award-winning VFX company Double Negative’s installation around the android Ava, star of Ex Machina and also screens Sunspring, which was written entirely by an artificial intelligence bot for SciFi London’s 48-hour film challenge.

Isaac Julien joins a line-up of esteemed visual artists. His Encore II (Radioactive) (2004) will be exhibited in the Barbican foyers, while a new light, movement and sound commission by Conrad Shawcross takes over The Pit theatre space. Other commissions include US Artist Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector (Diamond Variation), a prototype for an actual spacecraft that could be launched into low earth orbit; and Black Mirror, a six foot installation from the award-winning British TV series of the same name. Based on an episode from the first series,15 Million Merits, the commission is displayed across multiple screens across the Barbican’s main entrance hall.

Meanwhile, Palestinian video artist Larissa Sansour’s film In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain fuses Science Fiction, archaeology and politics to explore the role of myth in history, fact and national identity, and Invisible Cities #Part 1 #Metabolism by Pierre-Jean Giloux, reconstructs some of the architectural projects of the Japanese Metabolism movement. The summer-long exhibition features a wealth of special events, talks, workshops and screenings throughout the Centre until September.

Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction, 3 June – 1 September, Barbican Centre, London.

Find out more: www.barbican.org.uk/intotheunknown.

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1. Into the Unknown, Barbican campaign 2017. Courtesy of the Barbican, London.