Souk Al Bahar, meaning ‘market of the sailor’, is an Arabesque shopping, entertainment and… Read more
QR codes… we've all seen them. Little square shaped pixelated graphics tossed around poster ads on the walls of cities, internet websites and even products. QR codes have now become the new trend in advertising, in which each smart-phone owner can now browse and discover information simply with a scan. QR Code is short for “Quick Response Code”, where the barcode links any smart-phone to websites, emails, text and contact information. My Metro Talk itself uses this innovative tool.
What is most unique about the QR code is the added element of curiosity. Visually, the QR code gives little information. We, as non-digitized beings, see them simply as shapes and colour. They give zero linguistic value and have no meaning. They are a language that we cannot comprehend on our own, but rather need a translator to do the job. This is where the beloved smart-phone comes in. The smart-phone, our second brain, has become essential to the way we do business, interact with others, and most importantly the one and only key to un-wrapping the mysterious QR Code.
Bringing this relationship into action, well known Canadian author and visual artist Douglas Coupland has taken the QR Code and brought it into the art gallery space. The artist who is most known for his book Generation X, has developed a series of large acrylic on canvas QR Code paintings as part of his “Welcome to the 21st Century” exhibit as well as a part of the series “Vancouver Codes”. The paintings' colours and the QR Code's natural shape bring to mind a clear reference to Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie painting. Each QR Code painting holds a different message and can be scanned using a smart-phone. When scanned, the title of the painting will show up in text on the smart-phone.
Although these pieces pose as visual art, they can also be seen as a performance in itself. The art is not necessarily simply the painting on the wall, but rather the participation that it asks of its onlooker. When entering the gallery and looking at the painting, it was not only the human eye that was gazing, but rather the smart-phone as well. Each voyeur is now taking out her/his smart-phone and using it as a tool to comprehend, read and un-code the art. In other words, the painting itself, with no instructions, and simply by its mere shape and visual representation, has resulted in the visitors interacting and performing. Art is now on the smart-phone, in the hands of the voyeur. This process of looking through a third eye, and enveloping a hidden message that is personally transmitted to the owner is really what QR Codes are all about.
We should keep in mind though, that the QR Code demands and expects of us the purchase of a smart-phone. It assumes that we own it and disregards us if we don't. What do Coupland's paintings suggest? Are people that do not own smart-phones incapable of fully experiencing the work? Or was this a demonstration of Coupland's humour in the work itself?
Be it upon the gallery wall or not, there is no denying, the QR Code is here to stay. Click here to learn how to quickly install and use QR codes on My Metro Talk to instantly save listings to your smartphone!
Look through the images and try to un-ravel Coupland's messages using your smart-phone!
Images: “Welcome to the 21st Century” at Daniel Faria Gallery. Toronto, ON, Canada.