Entering an artificial room of rain is beyond a metaphor for our artificial reality
The moment you enter the elevator to the third floor, decked out in abstract depictions of rain against a stark white background, you feel like you’re in for something particularly considered. It’s exciting, anticipating an experience you know very little about, sold purely by the idea of walking through rain without getting wet. Making sure to follow all of the carefully delivered instructions and rules, there is a slight impressiveness to it all.
But by your second visit to the elevator on your way out, you feel instead like you’ve been through something fabricated and unfulfilling.
Outside of the experience of walking through rain, paused in segments from the ceiling using medium-precision sensors that falter if you move too quickly (or get too close to the other participants who will share the room with you), there’s little magic to be felt here.
Instead, one is gripped by a sense of manufactured hype. Rain Room is the embodiment of experience as commodity, veiled as art. It’s the complicit contribution to our contemporary obsession with instagrammable vistas, in which technology and art come together in a capitalistic triumph.
Rushed through in groups of about 15, and split up again in two for the duration of the experience, all is said and done in less than 20 minutes. Emerging from the relative darkness, groups are then ushered directly through the brightly lit, minimalistic, yet carefully curated gift shop – in which, fortunately, no one appears to be buying anything.
Admittedly, to critique Rain Room like this is to critique modern art as excessively synthesized. But there’s something particularly jarring about knowing that Rain Room’s purpose feels like nothing more than to simply gift a likeable share on Instagram. There is little art to interpret here. Little to appreciate other than to see this as a product. Little to understand other than to know that a collective has constructed this experience to be sold. Little to uncover. No internal conversation to be had with the art. Nothing to be kept between yourself and the room. And certainly nothing to connect to other than the hundreds of thousands of faceless figures before and after you who will go through the same empty experience.
Header image by Kevin Dang