Guillermo Bert, a Chilean Artist based in Los Angeles, CA, USA, is currently working on a project called “Encoded Textiles” which will soon be ripe and ready for global presentation. The exhibit is the first of its kind in that it examines the link between technology and tradition in the comparison of Native American tribal images to Quick Response (QR) Code boxes. QR codes are pixelated barcodes that are readable by smartphone, linking the smartphone user to a website fora given product or entity.
Mr. Bert picked up on a striking resemblance between the images prevalent in the textiles woven by the Mapuche tribes of his native Chile, a set of peoples who are renowned for their successful resistance to Spanish colonisation as well as to the Incan forces up until the late 19th century, when they were forcibly moved to reservations by the Chilean government. On a recent trip to his homeland, Mr. Bert remarked upon the fact that, their language and their oral traditions are disappearing due to the increased assimilation of the Mapuche into modern Chilean society.
This provoked Mr. Bert into interviewing members of the Mapuche tribes from all walks of life and resulted in a robust collection of tales and histories. He then took striking quotations from this collection, translated them and transformed each one into its own unique QR code. Mr. Bert’s next step was to incorporate the Mapuche craft into his work, collaborating with traditional Mapuche weavers to create tapestries with his new QR codes. The QR code is centred in the tapestry and is adorned with traditional symbols on the side. The result is an interactive exhibit of tapestries that allows viewers to scan each QR code, generating one of Mr. Bert’s Mapuche quotes and an accompanying story.
“Encoded Textiles” was displayed at the Pasadena Museum of California Art earlier this year and future exhibitions are said to be in the works. The project is also being altered to include members of the Navajo trip in Arizona, making his effort to preserve dying identities truly pan-American.