Coding art

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta Museums celebrated Alberta Arts Days on Sept. 30, welcoming visitors to view the CODE art exhibition in the U of A Museums’ Gallery A on the main floor of the Telus Centre. People from both campus and the community took in the experimental exhibition which investigated the use of QR (quick response) codes as an alternative to traditional labels within a gallery setting. 

The 28 works, selected from the more than 9,000 works of art and artifacts in the University of Alberta Art Collection, included paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures that represent various approaches local, national and international artists have explored in producing portraits, images of the Alberta landscape, and works that explore language in a visual context. Highlights included two paintings by famed Canadian Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson, a Greg Curnoe sculptural installation, an etching by Rembrandt and a sixth-century bust of the Bodhisattva. 

QR coding is quickly becoming more widespread with “mobile tagging” applications common to smartphone technology, says Jim Corrigan, Curator of CODE and the University of Alberta Art Collection. “We’re experimenting with ways in which we can create a richer experience for the gallery-goer. The codes transport people to our art records, which offer more in-depth information about the artists and these particular works, as well as acquaint them to our web-accessible database.”

Visitors were offered the use of iPads if they did not come equipped with their own smartphones or other code readers. Reactions were mostly favorable, and feedback is now being considered for use of QR codes in conjunction with labels in future exhibitions and with public art on campus.

“We’ll be looking at ways to integrate QR codes into more traditional labels in the future,” says Corrigan. “We have art on campus that people walk by every day but don’t really know anything about. We want to provide useful information about the amazing resources in the campus art collection.”

The University of Alberta Art Collections is one of the 28 museum collections in the University of Alberta Museums used daily for teaching, research, and community outreach. Visit www.museums.ualberta.ca for more information.