October 27, 2012

Mapuche bar-code tapestries

Mapuche tribal traditions embedded in bar-code tapestries

For 'Encoded Textiles' at a Pasadena museum, Guillermo Bert distilled tales into 'QR' code, which was then woven into textiles that can be scanned and read.

By Hugh Hart
Who knew ancient pictograms used by a Chilean tribe of hunters and gatherers would dovetail aesthetically with bar code graphics that store information for drivers licenses, plane tickets and hospital bracelets? Artist Guillermo Bert, that's who. "The pixelation, the geometric pattern, the black and white repetition that you find in bar codes is very similar to traditional South American textiles made by the Mapuche tribe in the south of Chile," Bert says. "The similarities really blow my mind."

Bert, a Chilean native who moved to the United States in 1981, showcases this unlikely synchronicity at the Pasadena Museum of California Art's "Guillermo Bert: Encoded Textiles" through Feb. 24. The exhibition features blankets that render tribal lore as contemporary "QR" code.

Framed by astronomical iconography and X-shaped symbols representing the healing canelo plant, each textile piece centers on a story by one of the Mapuche villagers that Bert interviewed during a series of visits to southern Chile two years ago. He then condensed each transcript and scanned the resulting 20-word story into a device that turns text into bar codes. Blown up and printed out, those checkerboards-on-acid served as templates for Chilean weaver Anita Paillamil, who re-created the abstract patterns on blankets approximately 4 by 8 feet. (The pieces will go on sale after the exhibition finishes its run.)

Bert, who produced murals for the NoHo Arts District, has used Universal Product Code patterns as the basis for his own paintings. With "Encoded," he's working with bar code in a different way by exploiting its data-storage capability to preserve tribal traditions.
Comment:  For more on the Mapuche, see Musical Tribute to Mapuche Resistance and The Only Native Country.

Below:  "Guillermo Bert literally weaves ancient folklore into tapestries with the help of Chilean weaver Anita Paillamil." (Ronald Dunlap)

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