Less a traditional gallery exhibition than an example of principled cultural archeology, this inaugural, interactive show at the new HereEast campus (the erstwhile media centre complex for London’s 2012 Olympics, now repurposed as a creative hub for the digital and tech industries, as well as host to two London universities, the offices of BT Sport, large-scale event spaces and an attractive canal-facing sprawl of restaurants and bars) seeks to celebrate and archive the progenitors of today’s tablets and iPhones, models of computers now impossibly archaic and cumbersome, only a few decades on from the first explosions of a now-omnipresent and pervasive aspect of existence and communication, a cultural revolution to arguably rival the tumult of the Industrial Age in its speed and reach of sweeping change. The low-res screens, pulsing and shaky, wreak exhaustive havoc on the eyes, but encountering some of the initial websites (including games, animation, web comics, design programs, magazines, possibly even the first meme-cue dancing baby!), what is evident is pure enthusiasm and excitement at a new medium, an outpouring of playfulness and drunk freedom. Installation curator Jim Boulton (digital director at Aesop Agency) is clear about the need to preserve a sense of the history of this evanescent media and its pioneers- the constant flux of change and rate of development has precluded any rational form of reflection or chronicling, and indeed, based as it is on machine, physical life expectancy is limited. Even on the day I visited, a few of the donated computers had broken down, poignant and tender reminders of the ephemeral, vulnerable qualities of the objects. Each computer sits atop an elaborate trunk, as if wheeled directly from a long-term storage facility, and provides the room with any aesthetic that it has, straight rows of ancient screens beaming out messages and programs from across time and space. Wallspace is granted to some of the first experiments in pixel art, the new binary language of computer harnessed to radically innovative art technique and image representation (the rise of the emoticon). There’s a strangely haunting male figure whose shirt is constructed of Cd-Roms recovered from bins, once very personal products to their owners, with information or records of importance contained, scrawl on the labels expressing cryptic references, all original intentions now lost and most likely unrecoverable. Examples of the very first website, modem, and online ordering system are included, as well as a section for kids (of all ages) to learn the basics of coding. Although enclosed within a spacious room generously imbued with natural light from a run of large windows, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you are consorting with ghosts, walking amidst a graveyard of relics. 64 Bits continues through 21 April


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