I went to check out Rain Room at MoMA at the end of May, shortly after rAndom International's "immersive environment" opened. Arriving just before 10:30am on a Saturday, at the tail-end of the early members' viewing hour (which we hoped would decrease our waiting time), we found snaking, Disney-like lines and were told the wait was 2 hours (the wait for non-members was significantly longer). To fully experience the sensory installation, only 10 people are allowed into Rain Room at a time, hence the long lines and waits. Just before 2:00, after actually waiting over 3.5 hours in an excruciatingly slow moving line and being rained on for real (the queques are outside on West 54th Street), we got to experience what the fuss is about.
Rain Room is a large, chilly, echo-y dark space illuminated only by a bright white light on the far end. In the center of the room, a heavy downpour falls steadily from the ceiling. I initially rushed into the center, stupidly walking at my usual New York pace, and had several big drops of water land on me. Serves me right for being impatient! Slowing down and walking in straight directions, rather than zig-zagging and erratically as I normally do on the streets, I got the appropriate effect. The rain continued falling all around me but stopped falling over me. It's like magic, though it is really digital technology sensing where people are situated in the space and controlling the waterfall accordingly. Rain Room is a "carefully choreographed downpour" that invites visitors to engage and interact with the installation while "creating an intimate atmosphere of contemplation."
Founded in 2005, rAndom International is a brilliant collective based in London that creates art that "explore[s] behaviour and interaction" — a perfect mix of science, technology, sociology, and art.
While I did not enjoy the long wait in line, Rain Room is truly a unique experience. Try to get there early to minimize your wait or be very, very patient. Due to the high demand and crowds, MoMA is now allowing visitors to only walk along the perimeter of the room, without going into the rain area, for a shorter wait—perfect for those with little time (or patience) and who are content just seeing the installation. Learn more at Moma.org and random-international.com. Through July 28th.