08 DECEMBER 2009 - 11 APRIL 2010

Decode: Digital Design Sensations showcases the latest developments in digital and interactive design, from small, screen-based, graphics to large-scale interactive installations. The exhibition includes works by established international artists and designers such as Daniel Brown, Golan Levin, Daniel Rozin, Troika and Karsten Schmidt. The exhibition features both existing works and new commissions created especially for the exhibition.

Decode is a collaboration between the V&A and onedotzero, a contemporary arts organisation operating internationally with a remit to promote innovation across all forms of moving image and interactive arts.

The exhibition explores three themes: “Code” presents pieces that use computer code to create new works and looks at how code can be programmed to create constantly fluid and ever-changing works. “Interactivity” looks at works that are directly influenced by the viewer. Visitors will be invited to interact with and contribute to the development of the exhibits. “Network” focuses on works that comment on and utilise the digital traces left behind by everyday communications and looks at how advanced technologies and the internet have enabled new types of social interaction and mediums of self-expression.

Decode will be on display in The Porter Gallery. Exhibits can also be found on the V&A Exhibition Road façade, in the Grand Entrance, John Madejski Garden and South Kensington tunnel, at the bottom of the stairs to the National Art Library (Staircase L), as well as in the Science Museum.


Digital technology is providing new tools for artists and designers. Innovative, often interactive, displays use generative software, animation and other responsive technologies to install a ‘live’ element into contemporary artworks. Some works exist in a state of perpetual evolution; others are altered by the behaviour of the spectator.

From designs that draw on the barest fundamentals of code – the zeros and ones of the binary system – written by a single programmer, to art that encompasses a global collective of online creativity, many of the exhibits here defy traditional design categories. They blur the boundaries between practices, between programming and performance, creator and participant.

Decode looks at three current themes within digital design: “Code” shows how computer code, whether bespoke and tailored, or hacked and shared, has become a new design tool; “Interactivity” presents works that respond to our physical presence; “Network” charts or reworks the traces we leave behind.


Computational code contains the core data necessary to run a computer programme. It is also becoming an increasingly prevalent design tool. Code is both a new ‘material’ that artists can use and an inspiration for their subject matter. Practitioners are exploring the beauty of algorithms and the artistic potential of computational systems.

Programmers, who work with code to create computer programmes, are a recent addition to the creative arts community. They develop and craft bespoke code, working individually or collaboratively within a design team. Alternatively, they may re-use code from an existing open-source library.

One of the most significant developments within digital design is the concept of ‘open source’. Designers publish their codes on the internet, creating libraries of creativity free for others designers to borrow, develop or pass on within the design community and beyond.


Digital technology enables a wide range of reciprocal relationships between digital artwork and the viewer. Using a combination of technology such as sensors, cameras and tracking, together with feedback and coding, both artwork and human can respond, react and interact instantly.

Many of the works displayed in this section of the exhibition respond to human gesture, tracing the presence of the viewer and translating it back into the work. They also frequently incorporate images of the viewer. The pieces are immersive, inviting participants to interact within a virtual space, deliberately blurring the lines between design, interaction, play and performance.


We are all linked through systems of networks. Mobile technologies have become increasingly widespread, allowing us to be connected to each other almost constantly. The internet has given artists and designers new platforms for production, interrogation and dissemination.

This networked world has provided the basis and tools for works of art and design that are multi-sited and global. Networks are saturated with the traces of our lives: messages we send, blog entries we post, borders we cross. Artists and designers are drawing on these traces of human presence, and using the ‘memory’ as the basis of new works. Translating our digital tracks into readable and understandable visualisations, they tease out the threads of our digitised activity.