Digital artist duo Zeugl, aka Lolita Do Peso Diogo and Gabriel Wéber, have been impressing us with their incredible emoji art since we first laid eyes on their Chasseur Chassé music video for Iñigo Montoya. Their latest work with Iñigo, titled Totem, expands on the duo’s distinct visual signature. Uncanny emoji landscapes fill the screen, glitching and roaming about freely as the video progresses. While it evokes similar styles of Chasseur Chassé, the Totem video has distinct differences in its visual make-up. “In the Chasseur Chassé video, the emojis were arranged in a grid, creating pixelated scenes,” Lolita tells It’s Nice That. “But this time, we used them as a drawing tool by taking advantage of their design and using the different colours that constitute one emoji to create volume and tones in different elements.” Still, Zeugl’s careful consideration over what emoji constitutes which element remains the same. Grass is depicted by the pickle, snow depicted by the white clouds, and animals depicted by their own emoji counterpart.
What furthers Zeugl’s artistic hand in this project is the complete production of an alternate reality within the music video. “We called this alternate reality BetterThanLife to highlight the promise of lifelike playgrounds that the Metaverse promotes,” explains Gabriel. “BetterThanLife offers a utopian environment, a fantasy for the urban user and viewer, made of stereotypically luxurious nature bustling with elegant and marvellous wildlife.” Most interestingly, however, is how the ‘utopia’ begins to glitch and bug, “slowly revealing its true nature, which consists in a bunch of pixels on a screen that you might spend your whole fortune and time on,” Lolita says.
Such storylines and visuals blend into the overall theme of the track itself. “We interpreted the meaning of the title of the track, Totem, as an avatar,” Gabriel says. “We see online profiles as totemic representations of their users.” Using the lyrics to guide their world-creating process, Zeugl included volcanos, tunnels, lightning and more into the landscape. “It all started with the spectacular paintings of Hiro Isono depicting a seducing nature that matched perfectly with our utopian project and therefore used as our main reference,” Gabriel tells us. “For our own images, we literally used the emojis as paintbrush strokes, placing them carefully to emulate volume and tone.” Using Photoshop and After Effect for compositing, all the elements were created separately and later merged to create the landscapes and become animated in 3D. “Some animals are rotoscoping sequences, in which each frame was hand/emoji-drawn,” Lolita adds.
What was most interesting for the pair was to apprehend the drawing technique with the emojis. “At first it took us a long time to interpret the images into volumes and colours, and to reproduce them the way we wanted solely with emoji duplication,” Gabriel says. “After a while we obviously got better at it and we are even thinking of reusing this technique for other projects.” Now, Zeugl is looking forward to future ventures with this new technique. “Most importantly, we are currently developing a DJing set reusing the video elements that we will be playing ourselves at the band’s release party in Paris on the 2 December.”
GalleryZeugl: Totem for Iñigo Montoya (Copyright © Zeugl, 2022)
Zeugl: Totem for Iñigo Montoya (Copyright © Zeugl, 2022)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.