Project 9: Codes

When working on project 8 I touched on the issue of bar codes but didn’t spend much time on the subject and I want to take some time to explore the subject because it seems to me to work on several levels. Firstly bar coding is a language albeit in code. Thus it can say very specific things. But it’s not any language but rather a modern one of digital age (I think). But it’s also abstract and graphic and so could work as a picture in its own right.

Having just read a little on the history of bar codes I find that there are not a creature of the digital age and was invented just after the Second World War but not realised as a practical entity until the 1970s. Nowadays there are many types of bar codes and readers. These include matrix codes where mobile phones can act as readers.

Ideas of bar code and disability
My initial thoughts about bar codes in relation to disability are about similarities and differences. Society defines me as disabled because of the way I present myself – a wheelchair user. I define myself as disabled because society does not always recognise my needs in the way it designs the physical environment or offer services. Yet I have much on common with non-disabled people. Our wants and aspirations are similar for example. Therefore maybe presenting statements that speak to these facts visually through code might prove interesting. For example, take these two simple bar codes below. One speaks of disabled people and the other non-disabled people – can you tell the difference? (I used this site to generate the original codes.)


The problem with the above for me is that the imagery is not necessarily personal enough or evoking any sentiment I want it to make. In other words it’s a bit impersonal and cold. I then had a look at Matrix codes.


But again – they don’t really do anything for me.

I then moved on to think about embedding longer statements into the codes. So below for example the codes have re-presented the following statement: “We all share legitimate needs and wants that should be recognised”.


I like this as it makes a clear statement that some people might be able to read but it lacks something personal. On its own it is just a code and so I want to play a bit more and see what I come up with. I then watched a great video here whereby Steven Wittens presented his approach to art using maths code as its generator that made me think about other forms of coded representation.    How about this. Can you interpret it?


None of this work resonates with me yet but I will spend anther day or so exploring in this area.


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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