Google inspires interactive art Reply

Viewer interacts with an artwork at the 6th Annual Google Exhibition

by Elizabeth Bornstein

For the first time in its six-year history, the annual Google exhibition was part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, and allowed viewers to interact with its artworks.

The exhibition was comprised of artworks inspired by the search engine ‘Google’. Twenty-five artists from Sydney and Melbourne participated; they were required to Google the same phrase at the same time, on the same day. From the results, each artist selected a single website as a source of inspiration. The search phrase is different each year, with this year’s being ‘distorted reproduction’.

The curator of the exhibition David Greenhalgh explains the origins of the exhibition. “A lot of people think the Internet and the ease of access to information these days stifles creativity and wonderment,” he says. “This is an opportunity to reverse that trend by having the artists use Google to seek inspiration that brings about the wonderment that is lost.”

For the first time, the exhibition used Quick Response (QR) codes to allow the audience to interact with the artworks. QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that reveal encoded information when scanned by a mobile phone. In the Google exhibition, QR codes were used to direct the viewer to the artist’s website of inspiration. “We wanted it to work both ways,” David Greenhalgh says of the decision to place the QR codes alongside the artworks so that the audience could engage with the website, just as the artist did.

Anthony Reid, 32, is a local artist who has attended the past three Google exhibitions. “It’s always an interesting exhibition, you never quite know what to expect,” he says. “I like art that reflects aspects of contemporaneous culture, and using technology as the muse is an apt reflection of today’s society”. Anthony was supportive of the organiser’s decision to place QR codes alongside the art works. “It’s a smart decision; people want easy access to information.”

While QR codes are in their early stages of use in Australia, they are becoming increasingly popular overseas. “QR codes are being used more and more by art galleries across the world. I don’t think it will be long before they make their way towards mainstream adoption here,” Anthony says.

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