A scroll down the memory lane…
Pictoplasma Characters 'R Us
A scroll down the memory lane…
Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Pictoplasma Portrait Gallery examined the genealogical dimensions of figurative aesthetics in the postdigital age and presented paintings, busts, sculptures, animated video portraits by today’s most influential creators of character-driven visuals – also extending the list to accommodate the current obsession with self-portraits taken on a cellphone, gathered by Pictoplasma in an open call for #CharacterSelfies.
The Space Invaders – in all their minimalist glory and retro nostalgia – have been born out of a technological limitation. Driven by the necessity to engage the player emotionally by anthropomorphizing a hand full of pixels, the 1978 arcade game created a timeless, iconic logotype and pioneered a true avalanche of reduced and abstract figurative design, which echoes throughout pop culture up to today.
Staring at us from billboards and food packaging, battling for our attention as corporate logos or trademark icons, spreading over websites or the screens of our mobile phones, mascots have become a constant cast of our visual culture.
They connect viewer and product on an emotional level and enable instantaneous identification of – or differentiation between – brands and ideas. But their significance can stretch far beyond their function in marketing of products.
Created as part of Pictoplasma’s White Noise exhibition at La Casa Encendida, Madrid, the “White Noise Serials” installation consists of an extensive shopping shelf display, bursting with an abundance of 300+ competing sympathy seekers on an avalanche of endless trifling product packages. The original White Noise product package, designed by Steve Rinzen and featuring the exhibition’s mascot by Rilla Alexander, served as a serial canvas to present over 300 characters by an avant-garde scene of international artists, designers and illustrators.
The Yeti, Big Foot, Sasquatch, Meh-teh, Yeren, Abominable Snowman – there are many names for this archetypal creature: neither human, nor animal, but bridging the divide. As a recurring motif in a steady flow of unverified news stories of sightings, the legend of a lonely, hunted species has become a global pop icon, without ever actually revealing itself. Meanwhile the Missing Link seems to have lost all biological connotations as the myth reverberates in endless circuits of communication and information.
The installation presents the crypto-zoological species as a tableau vivant, frozen in time as it performs a strange mystical rite of reunification with its conspecifics.
A surrounding 360 degree video + 6 channel audio loop loosely narrates the rise and fall of the creature, reaching from found footage of yeti sightings in international news to psychedelic landscapes depicting their ongoing struggle to re-unite as a functional tribe. The work is a collaboration between Pictoplasma and Berlin-based costume designers Werkstattkollektiv, performance artists and dancers Jared Gradinger & Friends, and Japanese artist and motion designer Motomichi Nakamura.
The approach also links figurative art to an ancient genealogy distinct from our all-surface digital culture: the ritualistic practices, mystic totems and animist masks that combine anthropomorphic principles with graphical abstraction.
“Post Digital Monster” featured original art-work and installations by Shoboshobo, FriendsWithYou, Ben & Julia, Jordan Metcalf, Steve Alexander, Joshua Ben Longo, Nick Sheehy, Motomichi Nakamura, Nina Braun, AJ Fosik, Overture, Sarah Illenberger, Raymond Lemstra, Roman Klonek, Allison Schulnik, Nick Cave, Megan Whitmarsh and many more
MORE ON POST-DIGITAL MONSTERS > HERE
While the live music acts function on their own as a pop concert, the parallel visuals and performances add a narrative layer, following the story of the lonely species. The show plays out the fantasy of how these characters fell from their happy homogenous existence as a functional hippiesque tribe to turn into a hunted species of lonely, desperate creatures and outsiders, and culminates in an alternative synthesis of their return to fulfill an immersive ritual that involves us humans.
The show premiered 2011 on the revolving stage of the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin, featuring Maximilian Hecker and Dan Deacon, and was re-staged in an adapted version at la Gaîté Lyrique, Paris, in collaboration with Jason Forrest.
The areal with over 800 square meters was re-designed as a full-grown interactive installation referencing a suburban landscape, including private hide-aways, cheerful picket fences and FriendsWithYou’s legendary bouncing castle “Fun House”.
Not only was the installation the first to greet visitors of the exhibition, thus having to introduce and transport the exhibition’s core topics. Most importantly it had to be carefully conceived and produced in such a way to stand up to the enormous – and sometimes uncontrollable – willingness, of the more than 30.000 visitors to engage in wild, limitless and untamed play.
Every hour lights gradually faded as the sun set in the exhibition hall, while the central marked place arena came to life in an illuminated fire-work of sounds, lights and colours. The dodgems awoke and invited visitors to hop in the character cars for a truly psychedelic ritual. Accompanied by the special, 6 channel soundtrack composed by Künstler Treu, a synchronised light-show in blue, red and white revealed the previously hidden multilayered inhabitants of the graphical arena designed by Steve Alexander from the art-collective Rinzen.
The Bumper cars have since made a reappearance at the Internationaal Beeldfestival in Rotterdam, where visitors were able to literally bump away each others visual fatigue.
MORE ON PICTOPIA > HERE
In 2009, Pictoplasma commissioned Doudouboy to collaborate on a large-scale, walkable installation, playing on the topic of perfect and sterile consumer aesthetics incorporating minimal, yet engaging characters. The aim was to create a maximal notion of desire while keeping the viewer at unreachable distance. The installation “Brilhante” employs the optical illusion of an infinity room by arranging mirrors to seal and extend a closed space. This endless void is the perfect stage for an over-sized, gently revolving koala bear statue covered in exclusive fur.
A soundtrack sets an uncanny mood, as the visitor is tempted to touch, hug and cuddle the precious creature, only to see his own image endlessly reflected in the life-less eyes and infinite space of the installation.
Participating artists included FriendsWithYou, Fons Schiedon, Akinori Oishi, Motomichi Nakamura, David OReilly, Tokyoplastic, Aaron Stewart and Gangpol & Mit.
So be aware: Cute can hurt…
After its premiere at TodaysArt, “The Character Ride” made a reappearance at the Pictoplasma Festival Berlin (2007), where Geisha-gone-singer Hanayo attempted the impossible: She agreed to perform her live-act while in full gallop.
Since then “The Character Ride” had the honour of shaking off “It-Girls” Julia Allison and Meghan Ashaat at the DLD Conference in the Haus der Kunst, Munich; nearly knocking out it’s own creator Akinori Oishi at the opening of “Prepare for Pictopia” in Berlin; as well as disgracing numerous courageous attendees of the Internationaal Beeldfestival, Rotterdam (2009) or the Fashion Net Night (2011) in Düsseldorf.
The result is a full-scale bunny overdose, with far more than 1.500 individual rabbits from 500+ international contributers. By condensing the endless variations of the rabbit motif into one ultimate system – a perfect bunny mandala – the true nature of the beast emerges: the eternal essence of rabbit.
“The Bunny Mandala Shrine” was installed at the sous-station of Projet Diligence in Nice (France), during the onedotzero Festival in London (UK), at Bios Athens (Greece) and the South Eastern Centre for Contemporary Arts (SECCA) in North Carolina (USA).
Dancers and performers under the direction of choreograph Jared Gradinger (Constanza Macras / Dorky Park, Berlin) explored these new life forms and their individual character. Freed from the binds of storytelling and advertising, the characters developed their individual will, which they have proudly demonstrated in countless guerrilla style interventions during their ongoing tour. Meanwhile, the orphans have made memorable appearances in all corners of the globe, from France, Germany, New York, The Netherlands, Sweden, all the way to China, turning the urban streets into a main stage for their adventures.
MORE ON THE PICTOORPHANAGE > HERE
Starting in 2005, until today numerous walls of established project spaces, upcoming galleries and high-art museums from Europe to Asia have been covered with thousands of black outline illustrations, only to find themselves coloured in to the point of total occlusion by a huge stampede of happy visitors. Amongst others, “Colour Me!” has been set up in Düsseldorf, Halle, Hong Kong, New York and Peterborough. Participating artists include Jon Burgerman, Sune Ehlers, Boris Hoppek, Shoboshobo, Neasden Control Centre, Ian Stevenson and Dennis Tyfus.
The loveliest, cutest, and strangest characters stand tall as life-size cardboard stand-up soldiers arranged in a gigantic battlefield installation. Behind the foot soldiers of this enormous anthropomorphic army are none other than the heroes of the international design scene.
Characters at War has toured excessively around the globe, and has been installed in the Zentralbüro, Berlin and the Forum-NRW, Düsseldorf (GER), at the Space4 Gallery in Peterborough (UK), at the Secca in Winston-Salem (USA) and the California State Univeristy Long Beach Art Museum in Los Angeles (USA).
Artists participating in the installation include Snowcat, Fawn Gehweiler, Buero Destruct, Furi Furi, Francois Chalet, ESM artificial, ACNE, James Marschall aka Dalek, Phunk Studio, ShagArt, Mari-chan, Unit9, Jim Avignon, Genevieve Gaukler, Boris Hoppek, FriendsWithYou, Tim Biskup, Flying Fortress, Doma Collective, Love Ablan, and many, many more…