Tagged at Dundee Contemporary Arts
How your mobile phone can demystify print-based artworks

Impact7: Intersections and Counterpoints

International Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference
27th – 30th September 2011
Melbourne, Australia

This paper explores a collaboration between TOTeM (Tales of Things and Electronic Memories), a £1.4million research project across 5 UK Universities[1] based around the ’Internet of Things’[2], and Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) Print Studio. Supported by the Digital Economy Research Councils UK, TOTeM explores new ways of preserving people’s memories and stories, through linking objects to the Internet via emerging technologies such as QR Codes and RFID tagging.

In this collaboration, print-based artworks produced at Dundee Contemporary Arts for the DCA Editions programme, and artworks made also by invited members of the open access print studio are linked (known as “tagging) via a QR code to digital media content which can be played on a mobile phone. QR codes are 2 dimensional barcodes which can be read by “scanning” the tag/ code with the camera in a mobile phone. In most cases a web address is embedded in the tag, which when scanned, links to a mobile optimized website. Scanning codes is easily done with free software which people can download to most current handsets, if they have not already shipped with them. To make this process even easier, the TOTeM technical team at University College London have created an free iphone app and are in the process of creating an android app as well.

The TOTeM team in Dundee will carry out research through use of the public facing site, developed by their UCL partners called talesofthings.com where digital media content relating to artworks created in the DCA Print Studio is uploaded.  This may take the form of video, text or audio of stories and inspiration, in the creation of the artworks.  By working in collaboration with a community of artists, tagging can provide a platform of communication about the artwork between the artist and potential buyer/ collector. 

Although, this is a means of enabling artists to connect with their audiences, reaching beyond artist/ maker communities and out to buyers and collectors, other research questions arise, such as:

  • Do artists really want the concepts behind their works to be explicit?
  • What does this mean for the artist and their audiences if the “mystery” surrounding concepts, or how the work was produced, is demysitified in this way?
  • If artists choose to create digital content relating to how the work was produced, how does this affect their working practices in the print studio?

Currently underway, this research and proposed paper for presentation will examine initial findings in terms of the research questions, art making and the logistics encountered when marrying print-based artworks with cutting-edge mobile technologies in the context of a large multidisciplinary research project.


[1] University Of Dundee, Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), Brunel University, University College London (UCL), and University of Salford.


[2] This term is used to describe the increasingly popular use of tagging technologies to track physical objects in the real world. For example Oyster Cards for the London Underground or e-toll tags for use on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.