Emoji never cease to fascinate. We often wonder if we can eventually communicate only in these tiny illustrations of pizza slices and lipsticks, and we puzzle over whether we’ve been interpreting some of the symbols wrong all along. Fred Benenson, a data engineer who is “passionate about emoji,” tried to translate Moby Dick into emoji.
As far as linguistic projects go, emoji don’t quite work — they don’t have all the components needed to make up a whole language. They are, however, conveying meaning in a form we should all be familiar with — visual art. As art, these little emoji hardly offer the most avant-garde thought or impressive style, but they have made it easy for us to exchange emotions and information in a visual form that can be both more immediate and more malleable of meaning.
In “Digital Mirrors,” a new exhibit opening Friday at Arch Enemy Arts in Philadelphia, the emoji as art takes center stage. The slew of think pieces about emoji language, director Patrick Shillenn told HuffPost via email, actually inspired the multi-artist show. The ability emoji offer to communicate emotions across languages, he explained, seemed like a natural juxtaposition with “the crucial role that art has maintained throughout history in tapping into our universal feelings and the human condition.”
The artists in the show each focused on a particular emoji, some easily recognizable from the final work and others dramatically built upon and reimagined, all placed into such a new context — gone are the small white boxes of our text messages — that we’re forced to reckon with the true image and the complex meaning behind each.
Arch Enemy Arts
“Digital Mirrors” will be opening Friday, Aug. 7, at 6 p.m. at Arch Enemy Arts in Philadelphia, through Aug. 30. You can also view the exhibit online.
All images courtesy of Arch Enemy Arts.
Naoto Hattori courtesy Arch Enemy Arts
Emily May Rose courtesy Arch Enemy Arts