The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at
The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at

The Ministry of Measurement

They’ve taken over our Foyers and now they’re taking over our Blog…

Throughout August, we’ll be speaking with some of the artists, makers and technologists behind the exciting and diverse projects taking place around the centre as part of Hack the Barbican.

Have you noticed something strange about our cloakroom? Maybe it’s time to pay a visit to The Ministry of Measurement

The Ministry of Measurement is an installation/performance by art collective Thickear, transforming the Barbican’s giant cloakroom area into a sinister bureaucratic data collection centre. Through sound, visual cues, performance and a keen eye for the Barbican’s Brutalist aesthetic, members of the public are coerced into collecting bizarre measurement data, which is duly fed into the eleven enormous databanks, printed and hung up as lengthy data sheets.

A study of the subjectivity of data readings, the intricacies of measurement and our inherent suspicions about data exchange, The Ministry of Measurement is also an homage to classic sci-fi and dystopian film and literature, visual echoes of which are abundant within the Barbican’s architecture and interior design.

  • How did you come to be involved in Hack the Barbican?

One of the members of Thickear, Tadeo Sendon is also involved with the Music Hack Space and through their close association with the Trampery we heard about the Hack the Barbican festival very quickly. The opportunity to present our work in the Barbican Centre and to help stage such a revolutionary festival was unmissable and we shortly began to plan what we might present and also to become involved with the HTB organisational team.

  • Where did the idea for The Ministry of Measurement come from?

Before we heard about Hack the Barbican we had become interested in data sonification and how information can be processed to produce supposedly representational sound. Our research had revealed how subjective that transfer can be; essentially any data can produce any sound output. As we initially walked around the Barbican building we were conscious that we wanted to create work that was sympathetic to the buildings aesthetic but was also a re-purposing of the space in the spirit of the HTB festival. When we looked at the cloakroom space, we were struck by its symmetrical beauty and epic proportions. It was pertinent to us that was here was a space where another type of transfer usually took place, an exchange of item for code, with eleven gargantuan banks of data storage.

As the work developed we consulted with Ulrich Atz from the Open Data Institute and Michael de Podesta from the National Physical Laboratory on the subjectivity of data readings and the intricacies of measurement and the idea to present a fictional bureaucratic organisation grew from the setting and our research.

  • What can people expect from a visit to the Ministry?

Hopefully a cinematic, slightly sinister yet enjoyable experience. Essentially, if the work allows visitors to engage with the Barbican spaces in a different way and raises questions about institutional data exchanges, we are happy.

  • What excites you most about being part of the Hack the Barbican ‘experiment’?

In many ways Hack the Barbican follows a very modern mode of thought reflected in open data and open source networks. Here the Barbican is the code that has been ‘opened’ and all comers have been allowed access. Participants do not need to have already had successful careers to be involved and they do not need to stick to the usual designated ‘art’ or ‘performance’ stages within the Barbican. They only need drive and ability to make their vision happen. This truly is a revolutionary direction for a world famous arts centre.

  • If you could hack any other public space, no limits, where would it be?

A large department store would be great! We have something we would like to stage in a shop actually so watch this space!

  • Which other Hack the Barbican projects are you looking forward to seeing throughout August?

Penthouse 4C is amazing! We’d also like to see more of Unmoored, the glorious floating Barbican airship, and Soundhack the Barbican.

The Ministry of Measurement will be open until Sun 18 August, 11am – 8pm and can be found in the Barbican Cloakroom on Level -1.

About Thickear

Thickear (Geoff Howse, Tadeo Sendon, Kevin Logan, Jack James, Andy Davidson) are a collective of sound artists working together to produce group exhibitions and events focused on the exploration of sound through conceptual art and performance. Formed in London at the beginning of 2012 from Sound Art M.A. graduates, they have presented exhibitions and performances at the LCC, Arbeit Gallery, Troyganic and Music Tech Fest. The Thickear manifesto is centred around the power of collaboration, involves fusing individual talents to create original and otherwise unachievable work.

Hack the Barbican takes place until 31 August 2013.

Hack The Barbican is produced by creative workspace engineers, The Trampery in association with the Barbican.