12 Questions: PictoplasmaIn April, Pictoplasma celebrated its tenth anniversary in Berlin. The conference embraces making the world a better place for characters and humans alike. The line-up featured Nychos, Buff Monster, Tim Biskup, James Jarvis, Nathan Jurevicius, Jean Jullien and many more international talents. We asked Lars & Peter, the faces behind Pictoplasma about a decade of celebrating character design.
Why Pictoplasma? Where does the name originate from?
When Peter founded Pictoplasma in 1999, he came up with the name, as the project was intended to collect pictograms that were not communicating directions, but that had appeal and passion – hence the plasma. Something alive flowing through the pictographic images. We only later learned that plasma has a Greek origin of the creature, creation, monster – combine that with the picture in picto and you have all that Pictoplasma is about.
What inspired you both to create Pictoplasma and how has that evolved over the past decade?
Peter started it as research project for more distinct character design than he was encountering in his job as animation filmmaker. He found it on the Internet, with a new breed of characters crawling through our slow modems to populate the web around the millennium. The very successful book compilations followed soon, and in 2003 I joined Peter with the idea to extend his activities to a conference, which we have been hosting annually in Berlin since 2004 and in New York since 2008. Especially the Berlin edition grew beyond to feature exhibitions, performances, installations. And we have had the great pleasure to travel bringing Pictoplasma to many different places and contexts, most notably major group shows in Berlin, Paris and Madrid.
How did you guys meet and how do your strengths overlap to create Pictoplasma magic?
We met as friends and are happy to keep being friends, working closely together over the years. Peter’s background in animation and mine in cultural studies help us bringing in different angles, but we have both learned from the other and the division becomes less and less distinct. We don’t have a method for developing projects, they grow organically by talking things through over and over again, often it is something the one says that seeds a plant that then continues to grow in the other.
You guys are celebrating ten years, what does that feel like? Can you tell us about some of the highlights for you during that time?
We know that 10 years marks a period, so we wanted to look back and reflect a bit. We invited all 150 artists, illustrators, filmmakers and designers who have ever spoken at Pictoplasma to send us a character portrait for some kind of ancestry gallery. Lucky all of us, only very few had to reject to participate, and the Pictoplasma Portrait Gallery finally featured works by 125 artists. The idea was not only to exhibit something for the future, but also to imagine a genealogy for the characters, as if they had a history reaching back earlier than the project and if you want movement does.
The last printed title you published was “The Character Compendium” in 2012, do you have anything else in print upcoming?
We are currently woking on a new publication, that will be released this fall. It will showcase works by many new artists from around the world and also document some of the Pictoplasma Portrait Gallery.
Since starting the festival, you have created installations and exhibitions in various countries such as Paris and Madrid as well as a sister conference in NYC, what other cities are on your picto-radar?
The Pictoplasma Portrait Gallery will travel on to Mexico, to MARCO, the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Monterrey, from September 2014.
How do you select the speakers for the festivals?
Research and then finding the right balance for the mix of artists. We are guided by whether we are caught by the work.
The character selfie project that will be part of this years Pictoplasma Portrait Gallery is a fun concept. Who came up with that?
It grew from our ideas to work on the portrait and in the end was definitely Peter’s idea.
After ten years submersed in character design, what are you seeing now that excites you?
We keep being entertained and excited by good work. This year, the 15 solo exhibitions we have had were all outstanding, just mentioning three: Kimiaki Yaegashi with his crazy mix of pizza, bikinis and cats; Jean Jullien with his out of scale gadgets as screens for projections of his work; and Chu with his graphical-minimalist universe.
Is there anything that has changed in this genre over the years that you would like to comment on, positive or negative?
There was a driving motivation to take character design from the flat surface to physical, tangible objects. Urban vinyl toys were one form to do this, plush dolls, costumes, installations were others. We were always very fond of this drive and engaged ourselves with the costumes and installations we have done. Recently, I personally have re-discovered the quality of the simple drawing or illustration, and while I still want things to go big or sculptural, I am happy to have my eyes more focused on the pure work.
What does 2014 look like? Anything you want to share?
A new website – ours was hijacked and it seems beyond repair this Monday.
More on Pictoplasma Berlin 2014 here
For information on all events and future Picto happenings, check out their website.
Photography: Kind Instants & Irene Fernandez Arcas