By Andrew Pryor
At first, a qr code art gallery sounds forehead-smacking obvious. Of course an art gallery with no actual art on display would leave many visitors looking at their phones – as they head for the exit. However, one novel exhibit is keeping guests happy without hanging any art at all. Artform Gallery & Tattoo’s official website describes the origins of the “Through the Looking Glass” project, and the picture becomes clearer.
“When you have a new way to look at the world through a device in the palm of your hand it’s almost like looking into a magic mirror. One that can answer any question, view any object, or listen to any sound. We also use the digital world within the realm of the internet, which is like exploring everything and anything through a looking glass.”
It’s one way to interpret the phrase “through the looking glass,” culled from Lewis Carroll’s novel of the same name, but when looking at the sparse gallery with bright lights shining down upon the framed Internet-age equivalents of supermarket bar codes, the scene brings to mind the original meaning of the phrase: something that seems backwards, flipped, topsy-turvy. At first glance, these seem like proper adjectives to describe an art gallery without any actual art.
The exhibit aims to be much more than a simple art show—it adds the extra dimension of “Quick Response” technology to make a statement about how accessible information is today. Quick Response code, or QR code for short, is a checkered bar code that can be scanned by a smart phone with the proper app installed. You have probably already seen them on movie posters and magazine ads. While they are usually tucked away in a corner, this display puts them front and center.
QR Code Art Gallery: The Exhibit
Visitors to the exhibit can walk up to a framed bar code, scan it, and receive an image of the artwork on their phone, along with an artist biography, photo, and link to their personal website. The show features 58 qr code art pieces from 48 artists worldwide. If you don’t have a smart phone, don’t worry – there are complimentary smart phones with QR readers on loan specifically for the unequipped.
Also part of the qr code art exhibit is a pre-show lecture detailing the many uses and functions of QR technology, which the true focus of Through the Looking Glass. As is explained on the website:
Thoughts About QR Code Art
“The point of having the art show based around Quick Response technology was to convey the practical use of it in our everyday lives. The use of this art show is to demonstrate the possibilities of QR codes that hasn’t been done in any fashion like this before.”
Even before the exhibit officially started, the organizers were ready to take their show on tour in hopes of spreading information about “the possibilities” of quick response technology. The day before the exhibit opened, the Through the Looking Glass Project went on the road to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, by way of a school bus filled with QR codes that Pittsburgh art students could experience for themselves.
To be sure, QR codes aren’t likely to replace real art any time soon, but it’s clear many are banking on a future where your screens reveal an unseen, digital world just behind the one our senses perceive. “Through the Looking Glass” is merely a checkered, black-and-white sign of things to come.