Rijks Vasilis

Behind every QR-code is a picture of a wonderful work of art. That’s what my five year old daughter thought for a while. She has an old Ixus camera and a few days ago she was making pictures of something on our wall. She wasn’t happy with the results so she asked to use my iPhone. Again she was not happy with the results, and she gave up. Later, when I was looking at the photos on my phone I saw that she had taken pictures of QR-codes. They didn’t do what she expected. The day before I had shown her that you could find amazing pictures behind these weird blocks. She didn’t know it doesn’t just work with every camera.

The thing on our wall that she was taking pictures of is a work of art, called RIJKS VASILIS. A while ago I came home and it was just there, without any explanation. A big triangle, pointing towards the words RIJKS VASILIS. The triangle consist of 28 QR-codes that direct you towards some lovely works of art, and to one picture of a salad. To truly understand this work, you have to know that I hate QR-codes and that I love the new website of the Rijksmuseum. This work is made by my beloved friends Robert-Jan Verkade, Marrije Schaake and Maaike de Laat with the help of my even more beloved wife Katrien Vermeulen. I’ve tried to figure out why exactly they made it elsewhere.

It’s a weird object. While I think QR-codes are among the most ugly inventions ever made by humans, this thing is actually nice to look at. The repeating pattern is nice, but the geometric shape is a bit clumsy, which makes it human: The codes are all the same size, but the borders around them are of various widths. And then, the distance between them varies too. Compulsive people should probably not look at it for too long, but others might agree with me that exact symmetry and perfection are boring: even without a QR-scanner this is a fascinating thing to look at.

There is a website of this work, with all the QR-codes on it, so you can enjoy the works too. The website lacks the sloppiness, but does have some wonderful things to think about. For instance, I love opening the URL in the browser on my phone. And not because it looks so nice. The only way to actually see the pictures behind the QR-codes is by using an app on another phone. And I don’t have another phone. But I do have my memory so I just look at the codes and imagine looking at The Nachtwacht. Or that weird Japanese print of a giant cucumber with a cricket on it. Or the inspiring painting of the household of Jan Steen. Who would have ever thought that, to amuse myself, I would be looking at QR-codes.

Finally the weather is getting better here in The Netherlands, so my daughter and I were playing outside, on the doorstep. Suddenly my daughter cried out with joy! Close to us a van was parked with a QR-code printed on it. Would it be a beautiful painting of a swan? Would it be that marvellous statuette of a rabbit? Would it be the salad or one of the amazing old Japanese prints? She still doesn’t get it. Why would anyone, ever, want to point towards a crappy contractor’s site?