Emoticons Infiltrate the Art World: Emoji Art and Design Show

Curators of the show, Zoë Salditch and Julia Kaganskiy, Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal

Embedded in our digital language, emojis assist in expressing emotion when plain text fails us. Life without these Japanese emoticons almost seems like ages ago and the little illustrated cartoons provide a new diction and tone to our cyber articulation that we have become accustomed to.

Curators of the show, Zoë Salditch and Julia Kaganskiy, photo by Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal

This past weekend at the Eyebeam  Art+Technology Center in NYC, artists celebrated and brought attention to possible problems of this new vernacular with the first ever Emoji Art and Design Show. Curators Zoë Salditch and Julia Kaganskiy believe that the icons have become an important part of art and design today and serve the same basic purpose of the innate need for visual communication for human expression as an evolution of hieroglyphics and cave paintings. With contributions from over 30 artists and designers, the exhibit explores the visual and cultural connotations emojis have had on our generation.

’emojitracker’ by Matthew Rothenberg, photo by Lauren Thompson for Forced Meme Productions

Matthew Rothenberg projected his website emojitracker.com, a software tool that tracks the frequency each emoji is being used on Twitter in realtime.

Detail from ‘The Garden of Emoji Delights‘ by Carla Gannis

Carla Gannis reinterprets Heironymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthy Delights, transforming the hellish imagery into a lighthearted piece with Emojis superimposed onto the original work. The stark contrast raises the issue of emoji’s limiting ability to fully capture human expression.

‘Shift Key’ by Maya Ben-Ezer

Maya Ben-Ezer contrasts the generations of technology.

Video artists Luciel Perte and Noah Spidermen employ Siri to narrate descriptions of each emoticon while they all swirl in a hypnotic motion across a blank white backdrop. The monotone voice paired with the nebulous movement generates an eerie, haunting video, stripping the playful energy of the emojis.

‘Transiconmorphosis’ by Fito Segrera and Emilio Vavarella

As a performance piece, Fito Segrera attached muscle stimulators to his cheeks and forehead, sat at a computer logged into a chat room, and waited for people to send him emojis. The stimulators sent electric shocks to Segrera’s face, contorting his face to whichever emoji got sent to him.  –Kathleen Tso

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