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Guillermo Bert's Encoded Textiles Tell Mapuche Stories

LA-based Chilean artist Guillermo Bert makes woven textiles in the Mapuche tradition that feature QR codes that can be read with a smartphone.

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

A view of the exhibition at Pasadena Museum of California Art.

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A textile woven by Anita Paillamil based on a story of Jeannette Paillan. It features the QR code 'Lukutuwe,' which translates to 'Mapudungun [language of the Mapuche] is the sap that is essential for the transmission of our culture.'

Textile woven by Anita Paillamil, based on a story of Machi (Medicine Man) Juan Curaqueo. It features the 'Ancestral Spirit' QR code, which reads 'I always look back in order to understand the teachings of our ancestors.'

Artist Guillermo Bert and Anita Paillamil with the urdiembre (set up of the loom) and a couple finished pieces.

The Mapuche poet Graciela Huinao in front of a textile that contains one of her her Poems.

A segment of the weaving in progress.