NEoN Digital Arts Archive

Pictoplasma character costumes


There’s definitely something a little odd in the water over at Pictoplasma HQ in Germany, Michael Burns (Fired By Design) attempts to find out more in an exclusive interview for NEoN.

[Michael Burns] Can you give me some background information about yourselves please?

[Lars Denicke] Pictoplasma is a little office in Berlin, where we, Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, have our workplace, but foremost Pictoplasma is a network of thousands of artists from all over the world, a large international community of creatives, designers, illustrators, animators, artists and fans, all connected by a shared love for abstract and reduced character representation.

How and why did you start Pictoplasma?

Pictoplasma started off at the end of 1999 as a website, to serve as the first-ever platform for an extensive collection and archive of contemporary character design. From the beginning, Pictoplasma’s main goal has been to free character representation from commercial intentions and the popular psychology of storytelling, while linking a new breed of character design to the birth of a new, graphical language beyond all cultural boundaries.

How successful have the festivals and books become?

Within the last 10 years, we have published exactly 10 books, mostly compilations featuring the new works of international graphic designers, illustrators, animation directors, and artists... Our Pictoplasma Conference in Berlin has established itself as the world’s only annual meeting point for a global scene in a very interdisciplinary field, with more than 600 international attendees joining a broad local audience for artist presentations, screenings, performances, and exhibitions.

What else does Pictoplasma do?

In addition to our curatorial approach, we like to work on the conception and production of installations with performance and interactive elements. For example, we developed an installation similar to a mechanical bull, “The Character Ride”. This happened in collaboration with Akinori Oishi from Japan, who is also a speaker and participating artist at NEoN. The installation invites you to physically hop on a divine, smiling, golden sculpture, until it gradually throws you off, as its movements get increasingly brutal and robotic.

...and where is it going next?

Our next big Berlin festival in April 2011 will feature the premiere of a truly physical, breathtaking character performance and installation, of which some parts will be first presented at NEoN. But we don’t want to give it away…

Also, following the success of our first New York and Buenos Aires conference editions in late 2008, we are currently preparing a comeback in the Americas. But first, during fall 2010, we are touring with a concentrated program of artist lectures and animation screenings through Europe and America.

Can you provide a quick overview of the nature and subject of your presentation/ involvement at NEoN?

We have been invited to hold a lecture, in which we will give an introduction to the phenomenon of contemporary character design in its varied manifestations – and introduce our curatorial approach and own productions. We will talk about the cultural implications and links of today’s aesthetics to ancient and folklore archetypes. From our perspective, characters are not representations, but have a more animistic quality, of giving objects or mere thoughts the appearance of being alive themselves.

As such, characters are often nothing more than projections of guardians to unknown territories and worlds. In addition to the lecture, we are producing an installation for urban interventions in Dundee – be surprised and keep your eyes peeled.

What/who else are you looking forward to seeing at NEoN?

We are keen to meet the Dundee scene of makers and shakers interested in character design, and other than that, we are looking forward to seeing Akinori Oishi and TADO again.

What do you see as the current trends and themes for characters in design and animation?

That is always a difficult question to answer, but currently, we are seeing more and more artists turn their backs on digital media and getting their hands dirty with ink, watercolor, or pen on paper. This recent revival of analogue techniques has injected immeasurable visual wealth into the world of illustration, fine art, and especially character design. Artists reject the computer and channel their creativity through spontaneous freehand drawing to create untamed, edgy, and exceptional beings.

What do you see as the challenges & opportunities facing the digital art scene in Europe and elsewhere?

For us, it’s not as much a focus on “digital” as at our beginnings in 1999. We have witnessed web designers turn to urban art interventions, illustrators deciding for clay and pixel pushers going 100% oil on canvas. The gift of being able to create an immersive and appealing character has obviously nothing to do with the tools, but rather with a profound understanding and learning of a classical craft. Therefore the challenge and opportunity is mainly that more and more upcoming talent, established artists, and forward-looking agencies are embracing character visuals in their work, and it is getting more and more difficult to stand out with something unique.

Any other information you’d like to add?

Just a friendly “hello”.