Destination... anywhere, we'll find you

02 Sep 2010

A village image in a passport

Passports, offering very different forms of access, link my ongoing concerns here in blogsville with rurality, interpretation and new technologies. As Creative Review recently observed, it's interesting that the Home Office should choose such an old-world approach to picturing Britain in the new biometric UK passport, given the hi-tech nature of the chip embedded within it. The beautifully rendered pastoral havens and antique skies written into its sheet appear untouched by Modernity, much like the protected historical site, pitching the idea, perhaps, of preserving what's good.

Whether a neat trick to encourage citizens to swallow the new, for it almost seems a shame to cover these images with stamps, it's also interesting to think of the role art/design plays in altering the perceived value of an essential but, in the past, aesthetically uninteresting piece of identification. It seems to me like a visual device to rebalance time in the mind of the collective consciousness. As technological developments push us 'forward', well as far as monitoring the movement of people goes in this case, so the keepsake quality of the document pulls the mind back into an historic zone in which 'progress' as we know it has yet to happen.

Another form of identification technology leaves that me equally nervous is Passport to Discovery -- an exhibition guide system designed by an American software company for museums. Visitors acquire identification tags and their own avatar that will then speak directly to them about collections of art, antiques, artefacts, anything you like. Washington's Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC), a Smithsonian Affiliate, will be the first institution to pilot the project this month.

If museum interpretation experts are already worried about the impact of wall texts and phone apps on the visual encounter, one can only imagine the ramifications of all singing virtual tours around real objects. Not to mention the data protection issues: each cultural recipient of the system then able to plot and keep information on exactly who uses these spaces, and when.

Spent quite a lot of yesterday hanging around the Twitter arrivals board servicing askacuratorday. While at several points serious questions and answers fought to land through the dirt storm raked up by spammers, if you can face the trawl through, there are some interesting and downright barmy observations to be found.

Posted by Rebecca Geldard at 9:52 AM