Monday, February 7, 2011

Bar Code Art: Gimmick or Auratic Experience?

After digesting this week's readings, I was inspired to share with you the work of artist Scott Blake. Blake lives in Omaha and has become well known in recent years as the "Barcode Artist." (And he just happens to be the fiancé of my friend Sara.) Blake has managed to take the ubiquitous black lines and digits that we see on everyday consumer goods and make them into interactive, multi-media works of art. For example, if one scans a single barcode in the portrait of Ozzy Osbourne, they will hear a specific song from the Ozzy/Black Sabbath catalogues. (Blake reproduces barcodes from real products using Photoshop.)

Blake’s work perfectly reflects our mass consumption/mass entertainment culture— while stretching our notions of what can be considered fine art. I wonder what Walter Benjamin would think of this form of artistic expression? The barcode is hardly considered “distant” from daily life. In fact, barcodes are so close to us we are practically trained to ignore them. They appear on the surface to be universal, mass-produced symbols, but Blake transforms them into “unique” works that take the shape of 8-foot tall pop-culture icons, dictate the Bible, and turn into flip-books, among other things.

Question: Is Blake's "barcode art" simply a Warhol-esque gimmick that loosely comments on the 21st century, commodity-driven masses— or, dare I say, does this barcode art produce an “auratic experience” that didn’t exist before?

Click here to check out his site for images, videos, etc.

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