From 1994 — when the Japanese invented them — till now, QR codes have been used for many purposes that have no immediate affinity with the original aim they were used for. In 2008, for instance, La Pluma Eléctri*k, an art collective based in Madrid, decided to use QR codes as a modular element for their art. The QR code was formerly created to facilitate the access to digital information data (in fact, QR stands for Quick Response) — it is a bridge between the analog and the digital world, an interface with a hidden message that lies in a virtual reality. Using them as contemporary hieroglyphics, the artists started to wheat-paste these codes on the streets or in any city’s surface, leaving people the curiosity to discover what the QR want to tell us. But in the end, the message is that there is no message.
“The first reaction once you see QR for the first time is: ‘I don’t understand anything’. Then, when you discover that there’s a secret message, you take a picture (to read the message, ndr). And in the end, you realize that there’s no any message that will save your life or sell you anything.”
Another well-known artist that uses QR codes in his work is Space Invaders, who actually prefers the data matrix, which looks just slightly different from his QR brother. His famous mosaics, reproducing black and with code, are visible all over the world. Unlike La Pluma Eléctric*k, Invaders actually wrote some hidden messages in the codes, like “This is an invasion” or “I invade New York” or just his name as a signature of the piece.
QR codes seem to be turning into a trend in the contemporary art panorama and lots of different, anonymous artworks can now frequently be found on the streets. Although, the tastiest use of QR code is that made by NYC Resistor, a hacker collective based in Brooklyn, which aim is to “share knowledge, build community and hack on projects”. In order to participate to Google DemoSlam, they create a contest open to all the members of the group, where different teams challenged each others in the creation of an edible QR code, with the condition of it being correctly built and so readable by a smartphone. Participants used all kinds of ingredients, from jello to peanut-butter, from cheese to chocolate and potatoes. A tortilla won the first price. What could it be its hidden message?