“At the turn of the century cute and cuddly robots carried none of the symptoms of technological paranoia, and bright-eyed boys and girls looked with ecstatically dilated pupils into a bright future. Only a few years later, the same characters had been tortured, twisted and mutilated. Suddenly blunt combinations of cuteness and abuse, naivety and sex, harmlessness and violence were everywhere. A little later death entered the scene and character’s eyes were crossed out. More recently there has been a spiritual shift, ghosts have started appearing and souls are being exhaled.”
Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, editors of ‘Prepare for Pictopia‘ offering some insights from Pictoplasma’s mammoth archive of character design.
A Berlin based group dedicated to exploring contemporary character design, which has included an ongoing archival of characters since 1999, a series of curated exhibitions, an annual animation festival and conference, and a series of DVDs and books, of which ‘Prepare for Pictopia’ is the latest (shout out to book designers Janna Davidjants + Alex Fuchs of wiyumi.com ), a chunky colour picture-dense tome of 326 almost A4 size pages.
Wheeeeee! The thing is gorgeous, full of delights. Crackpot collage ( hello Franceradium ), whimsical illustration ( Andrew James Jones, come on down.. ), giant helium filled characters floating above a sea of people on a Miami beach ( Word up, FriendsWithYou), Mongolian death worms on the streets of New York ( and yes, they are in Motomichi Nakamura‘s trademark minimal palette of black, red and white ), Mark Ryden’s seductive paintings, the three dimensional double headed tigers of woodworker AJ Fosik, and so on and so on.
Australians Crashing The Party
Melbourne artist Dylan Martorell : featuring both his intricate layerings and colour saturated sculpture-costumes.
Ben Frost : his multi-layered pop-art is well known, but the relative stark simplicity of his ‘Self-Regenerating Bambi’ is refreshing (a series of miniature Bambi deers are piling up under Bambi’s rear end, one in mid transit.)
Rinzen : extending their vector based schwing to sculptures and murals etc
Sam Gibbons : vivid mandalas of decomposing cartoon characters.
Nagi Noda ‘pushing pet culture deeper into artificiality’ ( remember her poodle fitness video? )
Boris Hoppek‘s bimbo / gollywog character – exploring themes of immigration, racism, violence and sexuality..
Hideaki Kawashima ethereal ‘stylised feminine beauties with wafting hair’
Olaf Bruening‘s photographs of masked and recontextualised characters in strange places..
The psychedelic crystal ink work of Charles Glaubitz.
But Wait, There’s More
“Insert your finger or tube into the finger prosthetic.”
Essays. You get a bunch of them in the book, including a typically visceral, anti-corporate anti-figurine essay / stream of consciousness covered in paint / body fluids rant from Paul McCarthy. Lev Manovich desktop-chimes in with a piece about ‘Remix after Software’, and a bunch more tackling the uncanny between animation and animism, the human machine and masks and the body. Recommendo~!