Artist Guillermo Bert, an immigrant from Chile to Los Angeles, was pondering the bar code through his work. What it means for globalization, what it means for identity, what it means for communication. Then he realized that there are unexpected design similarities between bar codes and the traditional weavings of the Mapuche Indigenous People of Chile.
Bert began recording traditional stories and poems with the Mapuche, then used software to translate their words into bar codes, and finally commissioned Mapuche artisans to weave those codes into large tapestries. When a viewer reads the tapestry with a smart phone, the words are revealed.
"With this new technology, our identities are digitized and, in the process, may be stolen or lost – parallel, perhaps, to the identities lost by indigenous peoples or immigrants," Bert writes on his website. "This project intends to poetically reverse this process, using bar codes to symbolically reclaim and restore identity."
Bert's project was displayed at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in a show that ended in February. He is currently expanding the project with Native communities including the Navajo Nation in Arizona.
You can learn more about Guillermo Bert and his past projects at his Website gbert.com