Into the Unknown

A Journey through Science Fiction

The genre-defining exhibition of art, design, film and literature.

From the 19th century cabinet of curiosities, to the vastness of space. Through future cities, into the inner landscapes of human perception.

Uncover the mysterious lands of Jules Verne and Ray Harryhausen where Science Fiction narratives first took root. Venture on an odyssey into our solar system, with vintage artwork promoting Soviet visions of space alongside immersive work by Soda_Jerk. Visit a gallery of aliens, and stand alongside iconic spacesuits from a galaxy of blockbusters including Star Trek and Interstellar.

Imagine dystopian worlds with Margaret Atwood and 28 Days Later. Then, with nowhere left to explore but human consciousness, delve deep and experience the transformation and mutation of the body through the eyes of Jack Kirby and Ex Machina.

Curated by historian and writer Patrick Gyger, this festival-style exhibition consists of more than 800 works, many of which have never been seen in the UK before. Continuing across the Centre, it includes artwork from Isaac Julien, Larissa Sansour and Conrad Shawcross, and an installation from the creators of Black Mirror.

Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction is curated by Barbican International Enterprises with co-production partners, Brandts –Museum of Art & Visual Culture, Denmark, and Onassis Cultural Centre - Athens, Greece. It will be staged at both venues before embarking on an international tour. Photography by Dan Tobin Smith, design by Praline.

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Unlimited free entry


Young Barbican is a discount ticket scheme for 14–25 year olds. Find out more and join today

Concessions: £12.00
Students/14-17: £12.00
Art Fund Members: £12.00 
Under 14s: £5.00
Under 5s: Free

Sat–Wed: 10am–8pm (last entry 6.30pm)
Thu–Fri: 10am–10pm (last entry 8.30pm)
Bank holidays: 12 noon–8pm (last entry 6.30pm)

Please be aware that private events and hires mean that some public areas of the Barbican Centre may be closed during your visit, this will not affect access to ticketed content, but may restrict viewing of some sections of the foyer works.

*Excludes booking fee

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‘an unmissable snapshot of this vibrant genre‘
City A.M.
‘The Barbican goes boldly to a galaxy far, far away – and the result is a true sci-fi journey‘
Evening Standard
‘The Barbican has turned into sci-fi heaven‘
‘with hundreds of artefacts, the show will delight sci-fi connoisseur and novice alike‘
The Daily Telegraph


Chapter 1

Extraordinary Voyages

Your imagination is your guide in the exhibition’s opening chapter. With the help of the genre’s pioneering visionaries, explore the undiscovered, unknown and inaccessible areas of planet Earth. Wander through lost cities, encounter dinosaurs and conquer mysterious islands. Voyage across the globe, into the air and deep beneath the sea.  

This chapter opens with a cabinet of curiosities containing original manuscripts and drawings from Jules Verne, as well as James Gurney’s Dinotopia series, and dinosaur models by Ray Harryhausen. See original models and props from films including Godzilla and Jurassic Park, and some of the most influential literature of the time – from Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and the Lost Empire.

Chapter 2

Space Odysseys

With planet Earth fully explored, head for outer space in the second chapter of the exhibition. Here you will find the iconography traditionally associated with Science Fiction - otherworldly beings, spaceships and distant lands. Venture into a gallery of aliens, with heads, masks, models and props from iconic films. See original spacesuits worn by the likes of John Hurt in Alien, items from Stargate, Star Trek and Interstellar, and concept art from Star WarsTM, District 9 and First Men in the Moon.

Get to the heart of the action with a new interactive commission by Territory Studio, based on their work for Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning film The Martian, recreating a sequence from the film’s NASA Mission Control set.

Art and literature tell the story of space travel in Science Fiction, including Soda_Jerk’s video installation Astro Black. See vintage postcards and adverts promoting Soviet visions of space, as well as novels by Arthur C Clarke, CS Lewis and Naomi Mitchison.

Chapter 3

Brave New Worlds

With visions of bettering our home planet, return to Earth in chapter three, only to witness society’s downfall and destruction. Step into the spaces and civilisations that mankind has created for itself. Roam through future cities filled with towering skyscrapers, and experience dystopian worlds filled with war and disaster.

At the heart of this chapter are some of the genre’s most enduring texts, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Alongside a number of film and television clips from the likes of Dark City and The Prisoner, this chapter also houses architectural plans and designs from Ben Wheatley’s recent blockbuster High Rise.


Chapter 4

Final Frontiers

Complete your journey by exploring the only thing left – yourself. Delve deep inside the body and mind, and ultimately question mankind’s existence. As the boundaries of science and technology are pushed further, come face to face with cyborgs, clones and robots.

A highlight of the chapter is multi-award-winning VFX company Double Negative’s installation around the android Ava, star of Ex Machina. Watch short film Sunspring, which was written entirely by an artificial intelligence bot for SciFi London’s 48-hour film challenge, as well as an auto-encoded version of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Literature from enduring tales including Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will sit alongside a selection of rare superhero comics from around the world. Film and television clips in this final chapter include Back to the Future, Doctor Who, The Terminator and Total Recall.


Longread: Brave New Words - Writing the Unknown

From Mary Shelley’s apocalyptic future in The Last Man, to Philip K. Dick’s surreal and thought-provoking Ubik, Into the Unknown advisor, Andy Sawyer uncovers how writers from the 19th century to today have been inspired by what we do not yet know or understand.

Illustrating Science Fiction

We teamed up with contemporary illustration magazine, Wrap, and invited illustrators, artists and photographers to submit their designs for an exciting new series of science fiction inspired prints. Five winning designs were chosen from hundreds of entries…

Visualising Science Fiction

Exploring the timeline of how science fiction has influenced visual culture, Into the Unknown assistant curator Laura Clarke introduces some of the artists featured in the exhibition

Watch: Designing Into the Unknown

Learn how traditional special effect technique ‘cloud tanks’, as used by SFX pioneer Douglas Trumbull in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, were combined with modern technology to create our otherworldly Into the Unknown photography.

The Sounds of Science Fiction

From Gustav Holst to Sun Ra, Kraftwerk to DJ Jeff Mills, we span the genres to explore the connections between science fiction and music to see how musicians transport us into alternate dimensions through sound


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