Former Studio Moniker founders publish zine with Hato on the complexities of digital technology

The small-scale publication asks a big question: what difference does it make to be human?

8 February 2024

Last year, the interactive design studio, Moniker, announced that it was closing its doors. Its co-founders, Luna Maurer and Roel Wouters stated that they would be pursuing their practices independently, while still intermittently collaborating as an artistic duo. Sticking to their word, the pair’s recent collaborative zine Emoticons Don’t Have Wrinkles explores many of the themes that concerned Moniker’s work, specifically the complexities of digital technology and media.

In line with their previous practice, the zine visualises Luna and Roel’s new manifesto, Designing Friction: a call for friction in digital culture. The main strand of the manifesto is an investigation into whether it is possible to experience “real connection in the digital realm”, something Luna and Roel observe to have been increasingly lost in our screen-obsessed world. Ultimately, they aim to explore one core question: what difference does it make to be human?

The zine is illustrated by stills from the pair’s new film Emoji is all we have, which in turn focuses on the selfie, the ego and the disappearance of tech optimism. The film lenses in on a series of conversations between Luna and Roel about their personal perceptions of the ethics behind digital technology. Taking place amongst the natural beauty of the Swiss mountains, the scene is punctured by Luna and Roel’s faces, which are both painted to look like emojis.


Luna Mauer & Roel Wouters: Emoticons Don’t Have Wrinkles (Copyright © Luna Mauer & Roel Wouters & Hato Press, 2024)

The stills show Luna and Roel in conversation, while others focus on the effect of the make-up “between our ageing faces and the seamless frictionless one dimensional emoji”, says Roel. “In our emoji-face the film depicts the contrast between the emoticons and real emotions with the complexity and subtlety of real life that digital technology cannot reach,” says Luna. “Digital technology that tries to even out all wrinkles of human encounters, with the premise of frictionless interactions.” The film is currently on show in Rotterdam at Nieuwe Instituut’s Reboot: Pioneering Digital Art exhibition until 12 May.

For Luna and Roel, the zine format and Risograph printing methods make perfect sense in reference to their material. “Riso printing, with its tactile qualities and unpredictable colour outcomes, embodies resistance by definition,” says Roel. The zine is part of Hato Press’ Zine Series, a collection of publications that are quick to print, easy to distribute, affordable and agile, to make them as accessible as possible. “The Zine Series gives us an opportunity to disseminate ideas by some of the artists, photographers, designers, writers and makers that we believe are doing the most exciting work today, and to share them with a global audience,” says Hato co-founder Kenjiro Kirton. “When you put something down on paper you make it part of contemporary cultural record. That’s just as powerful an idea now, as it was 100 years ago.”

GalleryLuna Mauer & Roel Wouters: Emoticons Don’t Have Wrinkles (Copyright © Luna Mauer & Roel Wouters & Hato Press, 2024)

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Luna Mauer & Roel Wouters: Emoticons Don’t Have Wrinkles (Copyright © Luna Mauer & Roel Wouters & Hato Press, 2024)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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