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Exhibition at the Barbican offers a journey through science fiction
Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction, Barbican Centre 3 June – 1 September. Installation shot. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images.


LONDON.- The major Barbican exhibition Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction is a genre-defining exploration of one of popular culture’s most celebrated realms. This unprecedented show takes place all over the Centre, encompassing literature, contemporary art, film, music, comic books and video games to present a new, global perspective on Science Fiction.

Curated by Swiss historian and writer Patrick Gyger, this festival-style exhibition explores Science Fiction as an experimental genre, delving into its storytelling roots to discover how its visionary creators captured imaginations around the world to become one of the most popular and enjoyable narratives today. Featuring work never before shown in the UK, the show places rare and iconic pieces alongside familiar, well-loved classics, next to new contemporary art commissions, hoping to surprise and challenge visitors’ perception of the genre.

The exhibition includes over 200 books from around the world, including 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.

Into the Unknown showcases works from major collections, national archives, film studios and private collections around the world. On display at the Barbican for the first time are works from philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder, Paul G. Allen. Other lenders include The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, Warner Bros. Corporate Archive and the personal archives of SFX artist Patrick Tatopoulos. It has been brought to life with an immersive exhibition design by Ab Rogers (ARD).

Neil McConnon, Head of Barbican International Enterprises, said: ‘Science Fiction has enjoyed a fascinating transition from niche to pop culture in recent years but still evokes strong emotions in many. We were keen to develop an exhibition that presents a new take on this broad genre by encompassing a variety of art forms. We hope it will appeal to everyone from Science Fiction aficionados to sceptics and all those in between.’

Patrick Gyger, Curator, said: ‘Science Fiction is responsible for some of the world’s most iconic film, music, literature and art. Today, the interaction between digital, virtual and physical spheres further blurs the boundaries between it and our current reality. From 19th century cabinets of curiosities to cyberpunk, Into the Unknown takes a fresh and, at times, subversive look at the new territories, lost worlds, cosmic possibilities and virtual universes that traverse the broadest parameters of human imagination and yet are often instantly relatable.’

Alongside the main display in the Curve Gallery, the exhibition continues all over the building, in the foyers and in the Pit Theatre. There are 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 in partnership with New Scientist and Penguin Classics.

In the Curve Gallery, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey through strange lands, dystopian worlds, and virtual universes in four chapters

Extraordinary Voyages
Extraordinary Voyages explores man’s fascination with the undiscovered, unknown and inaccessible areas of planet Earth, where Science Fiction narratives first took root, looking at mysterious islands, lost worlds, voyages under the sea and in the air.

With a cabinet of curiosities, containing original manuscripts and drawings from Jules Vernes, alongside James Gurney’s Dinotopia series, and dinosaur models by Ray Harryhausen. This section also includes original models and props from films including Godzilla and Jurassic Park, concept art from One Million Years BC, and some of the most influential literature of the time, including Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, H Rider Haggard’s King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain and She, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail , Thomas More’s Utopia, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and the Lost Empire.

Film clips include 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Thunderbirds.

Space Odysseys
Space Odysseys, the largest section of the show, looks at the narratives most commonly associated with Science Fiction, space travel, the moon, alien contact, foreign planets and other worlds.

Motion graphics and VFX specialists Territory Studio produced a new interactive commission based on their work on Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning film The Martian, recreating a sequence from the film’s NASA Mission Control set.

Australian duo Soda_Jerk’s Astro Black is a two-channel video installation which looks at cosmic Jazz musician Sun Ra’s theories of Afrofuturism. Splicing film, music and archival footage, this speculative history draws out the nexus of Science Fiction and social politics in Black Atlantic sonic culture.

A gallery of aliens features heads, masks, skulls, models and props from films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Aliens, including items from The Paul G. Allen Family Collection.

The original spacesuits worn by John Hurt in Alien, Sam Rockwell in Moon, Cillian Murphy in Sunshine and Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek are on display, alongside original Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets from Star Wars ™ , as well as concept art from Doug Chiang and Ralph McQuarrie.

There are props and models from Stargate, Star Trek, Interstellar, Independence Day and concept art from District 9, Alien and First Men in the Moon.

Space Odysseys includes illustrator and graphic novelist Martin Panchaud’s alternative adaptation of Star Wars™ Episode IV, SWANH.NET as an interactive work. His huge 123 metre infographic charts the entire episode in meticulous detail, including every line of dialogue, every character’s precise movements and exact dimensions of the starship’s fleet.

The exhibition also features artwork from some of the most influential artists in Science Fiction, including Frank R. Paul, whose 1920s magazine covers were a major influence on the genre and surrealist artist HR Giger, who realised the concept of the Alien in the 1979 Ridley Scott film, as well as vintage postcards and adverts promoting Soviet visions of space.

There is literature from Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama and Prelude to Space, Robert Heinlein’s Rocketship Gallileo, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand Of Darkness, Stanislav Lem’s Solaris, CS Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman and Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s Aelita and film clips from Aelita: Queen of Mars, Dune, Frau in Mond, Interstellar, Space is the Place and War of the Worlds.

Brave New Worlds
The third section of the show, Brave New Worlds explores spaces and societies that mankind has created for itself, from future cities with gigantic skyscrapers, vast underground networks and the highly organised spaces of dystopian worlds to disasters, wars, the apocalypse and the end of the world as we know it.

This section includes somblacke of Science Fiction’s most enduring texts, including Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, JG Ballard’s Vermillion Sands, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, William Burroughs’s Nova Express, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Doris Lessing’s Memoirs of a Survivor, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s Utopia and Yevgeny Zamiatin’s We.

With architectural plans and designs from Ben Wheatley’s recent film High Rise, other film and television clips in this chapter include Akira, 28 Days Later, Brazil, Dark City, Metropolis and The Prisoner.

Brave New Worlds also includes a selection of Soviet-era postcards depicting modernist utopian cities of the future on loan from the Moscow Design Museum.

Final Frontiers
As the boundaries of science and technology are pushed further, the final chapter, Final Frontiers looks at inner realms to question our own existence in the universe. This section explores identity, the transformation, augmentation and mutation of the body, including cyborgs, mutants, clones and robots; Artificial Intelligence and dimensional rifts including time travel, parallel worlds and alternate dimensions.





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