White City Tube station art uses QR codes and smartphones to bring work to life
16:24 15 April 2012
An innovative project at White City London Underground station is combining art with smartphones and QR codes.
Visitors to the west London Tube stop can begin their daily commute with a virtual journey thanks to a new Art on the Underground installation.
Poster-sized QR (Quick Response) codes are lining the station, allowing customers to use their smartphones to scan and access videos and text for the latest project in the Central line series by artist Anna Barham.
She has embraced both the functional side of QR codes (graphic storage devices, accessed by smartphones) and their pixelated form.
Barham has inserted images in place of the solid colour of which the codes are usually made up.
The images are linked to the location - an iris flower called White City and Tyche, the Greek goddess of chance and fortune, often depicted with a mural crown or a ‘white city’ on her head.
When scanned, these QR codes take the visitor to a series of text and video works.
Two of the videos animate anagrams of the names of east and westbound stations along the Central line. Letters flicker on a black or white background, forcing the viewer to grasp at words and find some meaning in the combinations.
This ‘portable’ part of the project exploits the increasing use of smartphones to watch movies and video clips online.
The phone screen gives a jewel-like quality to the videos and an intimacy and “one to one aspect” of viewing them, which is important for the way in which Barham wants people to experience the works.
Tamsin Dillon, head of Art on the Underground, said: “I’ve been intrigued and excited by Anna’s proposal since she first talked to us about it – particularly the way she is using very new technology in the form of QR codes as works of art in themselves and as a vehicle to take the viewer to the films she has made for the project.
“I’m sure people will enjoy the multiple layers of this work, from the anagrams of all the stations on the Central line to the subtle images embedded in the posters at White City station.”