Monday, November 14, 2011

Who Holds Memory

Installation shot of "Tag: We're It", Flatbed Press.  November 5, 2011.  The black frames are can be removed and re-positioned over the QR coded wall.  The digital devices "read" the code and instantly access the corresponding video.

If you attended "Tag: We're It" at Flatbed Press on the evening of November 5th, you may have come away a little overwhelmed, like I did.  Flatbed's parking lot was full and the main hall gallery that held the digitally projected QR tags was overflowing with visitors patiently "reading" the codes that linked to videos revealed on IPads, IPod Touch or their own smart phone screens.  It was a quiet, almost hushed atmosphere in the gallery, where the four projectors flooded the walls with light and code.  Lisa Kaselak and Lee Billington, the designers and video artists who organized, filmed and planned this large scale installation were on site to facilitate the interactive experience.  They had interviewed over seventy individuals in a carefully styled setting that only showed each person's bare shoulders and heads. Each answered a simple question:  "What is your earliest memory?"  The results were a range of poignant, funny, hazy, dark, childlike, telling memories.  To discover and watch each video, the viewers moved the available foam-core viewing frames into position for the digital devices to "find" each QR tag, which is otherwise hidden in the wall of projected light and dots.

Somewhere in the experience, I was deeply impressed by the people who were attending.  There were children and a range of adults, old and young.  Intently they all listened and watched the videos as they found them.  Standing at the end of the hall, it occurred to me that the people interacting were just as full of the same kind of memories that they were accessing.  We didn't need a digital device to walk up to them and access their memories.  They were a rich trove of memories waiting to be asked.  It was that kind of "art" moment that happens once in a rare while, when the art work spurs an epiphany.  In this case, I don't think I'll look at another person in quite the same way for a good long while.  I don't want to forget this.

The installation is still up for E.A.S.T. (East Austin Studio Tours) which is this coming weekend Saturday and Sunday from 10 am until 6 pm. Bring your own smart phone, IPad or IPod.  The application to read the QR codes is free for download.  The experience is free for all.

Katherine Brimberry


  1. This is an incredible implementation. The combination of art and technology is really fascinating. Thanks for the post!

    One minor correction - the technology used is Microsoft Tag which is a different animal than QR Codes which are much more limited in terms of flexibility and customization. This wouldn't have worked with QR.

    Nick Martin
    Online Community Manager
    Microsoft Tag

  2. Thanks, Nick! Glad to know the difference. I like that the Microsoft Tag can be "embedded". I'd love to see us do a print with this kind of image embedded.


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