Can artists and designers be immune to today’s political questions? This year’s Pictoplasma highlights artists with a cause
Registration is now open for the 17th edition of the historic character design festival. This year – from 17 to 18 September – Pictoplasma explores how artists and designers use their practice to enhance diversity in an increasingly political industry.
- Jyni Ong
- 6 September 2021
Pictoplasma is taking place this year from 17 to 18 September 2021, delivering an online festival broadcasting 40 lectures courtesy of internationally renowned artists and designers. This marks the second online festival for the industry-leading event platforming character design and art. Pictoplasma went online like most events last year, and its founders Peter Thaler and Lars Denicke were taken aback when the online festival amassed 100,000 views – a smashing success. We spoke to Lars on the benefits of going online, primarily, that it “makes the festival accessible to so many more people around the world who cannot afford to travel to Berlin.”
Over the two days in mid-September, Pictoplasma is bringing live hands-on workshops, panel discussions and screenings of animated shorts, broadcast straight to you at home. This content is available on two different, jam-packed channels. One is pre-recorded while the other is live. The special two-day entertainment fest features a myriad of talks by stellar creatives (just like other years) but to mark a difference, this year, Pictoplasma is centred on the pressing issues facing the industry today with this year’s festival highlighting artists with a cause. Taking to the stage, we’ll hear from Alex Jenkins, Amber Vittoria, Aurélia Durand, Loulou João, Raman Djafari, Taili Wu, Ton MaK, Yuk Fun and many, many more. Amongst these creative heavyweights, Pictoplasma 2021 will also take a deep dive into how character design can enhance diversity, reclaim visibility and fight for representation.
Across the two days, the events will explore the importance of creative political activism in today’s industry, and whether any work can be immune to it. As the last couple of years have seen an increasing amount of artists, designers and brands speak up in favour of social justice, this year’s festival will lead the discussion on how character design can be more representational, not to mention empathetic. After what has been a stressful couple of years, to say the least, co-founder Lars adds on the mission of Pictoplasma: “We want to empower creatives to connect to what matters to them; to not feel stressed by the pressure of both commercial success and artistic expression.”
The two-day online festival follows a physical exhibition which took place from 26 to 29 August in Berlin. It featured many of the artists speaking at the festival, showcasing a variety of media from painting to drawings, print, sculpture and video art. The exhibition space also led to a cupola where a distinguished series of “character flags” hung proudly. This marked an annual call for entries where 120 international creatives had the chance to turn their original characters into graphic representations hung in the wind. The magnificent display of these “UnitedCharacterNations” can be viewed in full here.
For the first time in Pictoplasma’s history, the festival is hosting pre-recorded and live content which serves many benefits. In Lars’ words, “the format of a self-recorded video lecture is more flexible and open than a lecture on stage.” For starters, viewers can tune in at any point during the weekend that suits their schedule. Additionally, video lectures open the floor for speakers to play with the format of their lectures. “It suits some artists much better,” says Lars, “and many of them feel inspired to experiment and find new ways of expression.” By contrast, having some physical elements in this year’s festival also allows for a sense of communal interaction, something that has always been “so important” to the creative industries.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the stellar list of speakers taking to the online stage this year. Sharing insights into their individual working methodologies and ideation, the coveted speakers feature the likes of Elizabeth Ito, who created the original Netflix animated series City of Ghosts. In her lecture, she discusses the multicultural histories of various LA neighbourhoods which inspire the show. Elsewhere, the Berlin-based illustrator Esra Gülmen sheds light on their practice which strongly vocalises issues of migration, cultural identity and diversity. As one of the key names in the German advertising landscape, Esra will also share insights on this industry.
Also on the line up is Matt Furie, the creator of the much-loved Pepe the Frog and classic slacker humour comic series Boys Club; as well as illustrator Aurélia Durand known for her diverse celebrations of joyful and empowered Afro-descendants; and Loulou João, the 3D artist exploring how white supremacy is upheld through original animation. Baphoboy and Okuda San Miguel are also speaking at the festival. The former creates sexualised characters that hold a mirror up to Thailand’s elite whereas the latter designs geometric structures and multicoloured partners in a message of optimism inviting viewers to enter a magical world.
You can get tickets for this year’s online event below. On the evening of Saturday 18 September, It’s Nice That will also be hosting a panel on diversity in the industry. Other workshops include a session on Adobe Fresco with Carina Lindmeier, a Wix Playground workshop on taking control and a panel discussion on character production in Berlin.
On a final note, we leave you with a taste of what Lars is most looking forward to: “We are very happy to keep widening our geographic and curatorial range,” he says, “and we are looking forward to getting new ideas on what character culture can be and why it is so relevant as a language of expression... and to actually host an event again feels good.”
In partnership with
Pictoplasma is the world’s leading platform for contemporary character design and art. The project pushes forward interdisciplinary discussion, development and promotion of a new breed of visual vocabulary—from illustration to animation, game to interactive design, urban to graphic arts.
Pictoplasma 2021 (Copyright © Achim Hatzius, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.