My Experience as a Rain Room MoMa Cop

If you're a fan of contemporary art or better yet, if you're addicted to instagram, chances are that you've probably heard of the Rain Room. The highly publicized installation took the starring role at MoMa PS1's Expo 1 this summer. Even as I type this, the thought of explaining what the Rain Room is makes me cringe. Imagined by London based studio, Random International, the Rain Room offers visitors the experience of controlling the rain. Inside of a black box gallery, a field of falling water encompasses most of the space and it pauses whenever a human body is detected. Moreover, you can walk through this field of water and leave it remaining completely dry. It is something quite amazing to experience. However, this exhibition lead me to develop a new perception on technology and it's role in our generation. Even though many people visited the Rain Room- many of them did not actually experience it.

This observation was something that I often spoke to my co-workers about and sometimes the rare visitor picked up on it too. I thought about it for a while and came to realize a few different things. Technology is wonderful, we wouldn't have the Rain Room without it nor would we have the means to photograph it. However, I've found that our generation no longer really does things to experience them anymore. Instead, they would prefer to capture the moment on their cellphones and upload it onto social media outlets to share the event with their friends. It's great that we are able to do that, but since that has now been the priority, we are no longer stopping to smell the roses, we're just instagramming them. This issue of wanting to go to the Rain Room only to come out with a cool photograph lead to immense wait times. When I say immense, I mean that people would come to the museum at 8am and wait up to thirteen hours to get in. Those people received mere seconds inside the installation, even after waiting all day to see it. It is as ridiculous as it sounds. 

In reality, you do not need more than five minutes inside of the Rain Room. That is how much time you need to slowly walk from one end to the other, stand in one place for a moment, look around you, and feel and experience the installation. Yet, the average time spent in the Rain Room was above that. Most people stayed for around twenty minutes, and at that point we would have to remind them to be courteous of the multiple hour long waits behind them. Why would you need that long in the rain? That is beyond me, but I also did not understand why people felt the need to take hundreds of photographs inside of it.

The problem with people being more concerned in taking photos than taking part in the actual exhibit also catapulted into another issue- the amount of people coming to see the Rain Room. Every day thousands of people flocked to the exhibition’s gates and although the show received tons of press- that wasn't what enticed them to come. In actuality, The Rain Room did not get good reviews in the papers. The New York Times wrote an awful (and exaggerated) piece on how the Museum of Modern Art handled this exhibition. If anyone had based their decision to go through a publication's review of it, I guarantee they would of thought twice of attending it. Most of these people came because they saw a cool picture on instagram, facebook, or twitter. This fact alone is a huge statement on how powerful social media is. Perhaps, people are more intrigued by what they see on social media then what they see in a publication. That's incredible and it only backs up the reasons tumblr and instagram went for a billion dollars, while The Washington Post only went for a quarter of that amount. 

All in all, the message that these artists attempted to send was stronger than most people perceived it to be. It was a social experiment with an unfortunate result. People waiting for hours to enter a room only to see rain, saddened because they traveled long distances and the lines were already at capacity by the time they arrived. It only escalated their frustration when others spent too much time inside the space. The irony? These same individuals spent that same amount of time inside the space themselves. The list goes on and on. I just hope that some people left the Rain Room with something other than a cool instagram picture. Photographing an event to retain its memory is a wonderful thing, but what is a photo if you don't even have the memory to begin with?


  1. This was also the experience with fireflies on the water last year at the Whitney. It's unfortunate too--the literature and theoretical work on incorporating mobile technologies and interactive technologies in general in the museum experience as a way to enhance the overall take-away is severely under-developed. I would love it if people would love it if there was some more theoretical work done on how to harness peoples newfound obsession with documentation as part of the museum experience.


  2. So, so interesting. I see this attitude that the photo is more important than the experience all the time.

  3. This also was the case with the Yayoi Kusama installation at The Tate. So many people just looking to get a cool selfish for Instagram likes.

  4. I see this happening a lot at exhibitions and events in London, where some think that another person's view of what they are seeing is more important than their own.
    Is that where the world is going?
    Turning us into insecure narcissists?

    I surely hope not.