Pictoplasma NYC 2008 Festival
Contemporary Character Design and Art
Curators Peter Thaler and Lars Denicke and co-curator Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck brought their cultural phenomenon called Pictoplasma to the U.S. for the first time last weekend. The majority of the event took place at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
The kick off on Thursday night (presented by Sid Lee Collective) grabbed the attention of the downtown New York designers scene with all of the artists creating original chalk drawings on blackboards. The mood was set for numerous screenings, performances and lectures by the presenting artists and designers.
The list of speakers included: Tokyoplastic (UK), Fons Schiedon (Netherlands), Gangpol & Mit (France), Tim Biskup (US), Aaron Stewart (US), Motomichi Nakamura (Japan), Akinori Oishi (Japan), Studio Aka/Philip Hunt (UK), David OReilly (UK), and Friends with You (US).
Tokyoplastic started the conference off with Sam Lanyon Jones speaking on behalf of the duo (Drew Cope couldn't make it). His presentation went into a little of the background behind how their enormous web success led to their studio's agency career.
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Dutch designer and artist, Fons Schiedon creates his characters sometimes out of the simplest of shapes and colors, bringing them to life using humor, dancing (movement), and street motifs. His presentation went into his process and inquisitive nature, expanding upon the universal question of "Why?".
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A conceptual artist who hates conceptual art, Tim Biskup has a sense of humor that creates a balance between laughter, anger, and meaning. He laughs and jokes about the art professors who told him that he'd never be taken seriously. One anecdote in particular talked about his student project—"Braille bumper stickers" that say "if you can read this you're too close".
"I always wanted to compare stand up comedy to conceptual art," says Biskup. His paintings are a play on visual aesthetics and conceptual art, using characters to soften the rage undertones that speak through his work.
On inspiration, Biskup finds everyday nuances most intriguing, whether its a row of cars consecutively colored blue, red, yellow, and black, or an unintentionally funny or ironic sign.
David OReilly showed some of his lesser known commercial work, which he says he rarely shows in lieu of his "more interesting work".
However, the larger story behind OReilly's presentation was the revealing that he is the one responsible for the YouTube phenom "Octocat" series. He's been using the alias of Randy Peters (with the YouTube username of randypeters1), choosing to remain anonymous for the first 4 of 5 episodes that have collectively received over a quarter million views. With this revelation, OReilly debuted the last episode in a somewhat hesitant fashion, claiming to not know how we the audience would respond. With great relief for David, the response was overwhelmingly positive, which sparked most of the questions from the audience during the Q&A after his screenings and presentation.
Above: Octocat fan art
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Miami artists Sam Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III (nicknamed "Tury"), aka Friends With You, gave the event's last presentation in a most entertaining fashion. They arrived in costume, presenting to the audience a unique performance that included music, audience interaction, and wishes for everyone!
Our friend, Randy J. Hunt, conducted an interview with Friends with You back in 2006, which can be read on Under Consideration.
For a first run in the U.S., the character-filled event was full of energy and excitement. We can only hope for another inspiring Pictoplasma event to come back, if not to New York then to another lucky city.
The next scheduled stop for the Pictoplasma festival is Argentina (October 2nd, 2008). All of the details about the event can be found in their well-designed program.pdf (1.3mb). Pictopia will be the next larger-scale event, which will be at the House of World Cultures, Berlin, in March and April of 2009.