Video documentation of the installation, Twenty-Two Flags (Bardo Thodol), by James SOE NYUN, on view at the San Diego International Airport, Lindberg Field, from May to December, 2014. The piece was on display adjacent to TSA Checkpoint 6 in Terminal 2, the point of entry for several major airlines, including American, Delta, United, and Continental.
The entire text of the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, was rendered into 660 QR codes on twenty-two "prayer flags," which viewers can decode using their handheld devices.
The piece is one in a series that looks at the various ways knowledge is passed down, and how our systems for communication are fragile and potentially transitory ways of encoding information. The work uses QR codes, a system commonly used today in advertizing. This technology is fugitive and it's entirely likely that it will be supplanted by other ways to transmit information. While the codes could be decoded without mechanical aids, the process is difficult and tedious, perhaps akin to other texts that are largely reliant on intermediaries to allow an interested party to avail themselves of the knowledge. In this case, the intermediary is not a priest or holy man, but a machine. Transitory as the QR codes might be, they're also quite beautiful, as are other writing and notational systems that have been developed.