Stepping ‘Into the Unknown’ We Check Out The Barbican Exhibition!

We’ve been looking forward to the Barbican’s latest exhibition as soon as we heard talk of sci-fi hitting London’s legendary arts centre. With promise of a plethora of exhibits ranging from early film through to Star Wars and Alien right up to the 21st century we simply couldn’t wait to venture into the unknown….

The exhibition itself is split into three separate areas. Starting off in Area 1 where you’ll see a host of props, costumes and other rarities from a vast array of sci fi sources. Before a stop off in Area 5 for a quick film showing and ending up in Area 6 for a unique art installation.

Starting in Area 1 (based in the Curve gallery) the range of Sci Fi material on offer is impressive. From early Ray Harryhausen models and drawings right through to models from Jules Verne and a range of classic turn of the century books. The wonderment of early Sci Fi is clear to see here and it’s a real joy to be able to soak such a rich array of classic Sci Fi. Moving on we’re also given glimpses of early Godzilla head casts (set against it’s ’90s counterpart) not to mention a host of Star Wars and Star Gate paraphernalia. It’s great although the labelling of some of the displays is curiously spaced far from the source , leaving some people around us attempting to work out what label matches with what. Also some of the artwork is displayed curiously high up out of clear eyesight. Which is a little odd when there’s such great material on offer. It’s also fair to say we’re also a little disappointed not to see more of Philip Pullman and Margaret Atwood who’d been mentioned in promotions for the event.  Having said that it’s great to see a wealth of sci fi comic work on offer including some fabulous 2000AD spreads beautifully presented. We also particularly loved the early Dinotopia artwork which has been fantastically displayed allowing viewers to really enjoy the detailing.

But it has to be said we’re blown away with an early HR Giger concept chair and a mix of Giger’s model work from Alien. Not to mention the phenomenally glittering space suit from Danny Boyle’s classic ‘Sunshine.’ This is where the exhibition really excels with some superb props and costume work. Everything from Sam Rockwell’s suit in ‘Moon’ to Spocks’ space suit from Star Trek are displayed beautifully and close enough to really get to see in detail.

Things get a little strange when we queue for area 5 (located opposite the entrance to the Curve). After a brief wait we’re led into a small cinema room which rolls a concept sci fi film. It’s a little disjointed and without any context it’s hard to keep people motivated to watch it in it’s entirety.


Lastly area 6 leads us into the bowels of the Barbican where a large automated robot arm rotates a torch casting shadows through his art piece, supposedly representational of computer code. It’s interesting enough, but after the strong start of area 1 and a lack of signage we’re eager for more of the former, so it seems a slightly strange way to finish. On top of which we’re yelled at by one of the young door staff as we glance down an open corridor which is (apparently) ‘not for public access’ though it lacks any clear signage. Behind us a queue of confused tourists look a little lost as they attempt to work out the context of the finish.


It’s a slightly odd finish after such a strong start to the exhibition. But don’t let that put you off. As a few other reviews have mentioned, as an exhibition it’s curiously laid out – with some elements which could’ve been expanded on. But for any sci-fi fan worth their salt Area 1 alone is a must. Just make sure you keep your eyes open (and cast skyward too) as there’s a host of incredible sci-fi material on offer (just ensure you don’t miss it).

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Images : Tristan Fewings / Getty Images.