Bold and hypnotic, Amigo Total’s creations are replete with striking colours, digital aesthetics and cheeky nods to internet culture. Operating at the intersection of animation, film, photography and illustration the Barcelona-based studio creates experimental audiovisual treats for future-facing brands and cultural events.
The edgier sibling of sister studio Device, Amigo Total started as an offshoot for more unorthodox work. “It all started with Device,” recounts Marcello Buselli, creative director and one of five Amigo founders. “Back in 2011, our portfolio showcased a broad variety of projects: music videos, fashion, brand work, installations, corporate identities and audio – each with different moods and visual styles. Our website looked confusing and we didn’t look ‘specialised’ enough. So in 2013, we split our portfolio into two sides: the commercial one and the experimental one.”
For a while, this new duality – christened the White Side and the Black Side – framed Device’s work for potential clients. At one point they even coopted the YingYang symbol to convey how, despite the split, “both sides were equally important and fed into each other.” Initially, the White Side remained a priority, it’s clean, commercially-viable tone bringing more work through the door. But over time this dynamic changed. As Marcello explains: “After several years working on both sides, brands started contacting us looking for the experimental approach of the Black Side. Eventually, in 2018, we felt the need to elevate that side of our work, to give it its own identity and space, to make it independent from Device and to let it find its own way.”
Just like that, Amigo Total was born. Now in its second year, the studio’s growing portfolio is both is diverse and distinctive. United by a desire to “find new, disruptive ways to tell stories” and an overarching tone which ranges “from cheeky to nasty to disturbing,” it’s the variety of Amigo’s commissions that the team value the most. “We aimed not to be specialised in any particular media or format because that variety is what we enjoy the most,” Marcello muses. “We’re lucky to work on a great variety of projects from campaigns to short films, spots and music videos.”
An early project from before its formal creation, the studio’s festival titles for IAM Weekend 16 perfectly embody Amigo’s now-distinctive fusion of internet culture, experimental narratives and zany visuals. Asked to create “a highly random, WTF but empathic video,” the work hurtles through a scene of eclectic 3D scans set to a robotic narration by multiple artificial voices. “We wanted to let the internet speak for itself, to create a story depicting internet reality, feeding from internet sources both in terms of concept and tools,” Marcello says. “So we used what the internet had to offer: a 2015 top 20 hashtags list served as key concepts to shape a highly random script and the online photogrammetry tool 123D App to invite attendees to build and send 3D models.” Playful, overwhelming and wonderfully bizarre, the final result is a superb manifestation of IAM’s motto, “In Randomness We Trust.”
These same threads can be found in studio’s latest work for Offf. One of its most complex endeavours to date, the project’s central piece, a 360-degree short film with a multi-layered narrative, takes an alternative look at appropriation and meme-ing in internet culture. Opening on an animated man in his bedroom, attempting to explain how we got so close to a nuclear world war, the film reflects on the real-life repercussions of seemingly innocuous circulation of online images. “With total creative freedom from Offf, we wanted to create a story imagining a parallel virtual reality colliding with the actual one,” explains Marcello of the video’s beginnings.
Interested in exploring the appropriative journey of internet icons-gone-wrong, selecting the film’s star was an easy decision. “We cast Pepe The Frog as our main character,” Marcello tells us. “The story of the famous – and infamous – meme that has been appropriated by so many different hands, changing, evolving and corrupting the image from its original 2008 Boys Club comic book. With everyone from internet trolls, random users, weird theory holders, right wing political parties and even Trump’s presidential campaign using it for their own purpose.” Peppered across the film’s myriad multi-layered scenes, Pepe haunts the film as a reminder of the power of circulated images and their ability to permeate far-reaching cracks of the “real world”.
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