Why You Should [THUMBS UP] the Emerging Emoji Art Movement
At the end of 2013, there was a full-on exhibition of emoji creativity (and self-described “examination of the emoji zeitgeist”) at Eyebeam, the art/tech nonprofit in New York. It featured a couple dozen examples of emoji artwork culled from hundreds of emojified submissions.
These ranged from Matthew Rothenberg’s dizzying online Emojitracker.com, which tracks emoji use on Twitter in real time, to a typewriter reimagined with emoji keys, by Maya Ben-Ezer, to emoji wallpaper designed by emoji-arts star Zoë Burnett.
Since then, the use of emoji in creative works has continued apace. Consider Game of Phones, a Game of Thrones Season 3 recap by Cara Rose DeFabio told entirely in cute little glyphs. Or Nastya Ptichek’s addition of emoji (and other digital signifiers) to classic paintings as part of a series called Emoji-nation — transforming, enhancing, and commenting on these familiar images all at once.
From Burnett’s Emoji-nation. (Behance)
Those are just some of the more recent examples of emoji artistry — creative applications of the form via GIFs, imagery, videos, tech experiments, and even physical objects.
So what is it about emoji? How did this curious creative movement come about?
For the uninitiated, emoji are “picture characters” — more fully realized descendants of emoticons, wordlessly expressing approval or despair or confusion — that are widely popular in the realm of texting, particularly in iOS.