These symbols are as pervasive now as religious symbology was in the 15th and 16th centuries. According to Carla Gannis, Emoji add a new flatness to the iconography of the past, emptying it of controversy and replacing it with something akin to Murakami’s Superflat aesthetic questioning the “sins” of our contemporary consumer culture.
The luscious garden in Bosch’s central panel is transformed here into a frisky setting where a world of digital creatures engaged in sinful pleasures mimics what has become of our communication through text messages and social media. The manipulation of social expressions as a flat visual language devoid of the very conflict of one’s actual presence, or the Emoji promiscuity of happy sinners translating our own growing inability to relate to one another, invite the viewer to gape into a world that deepens gaze within the settings only to unveil the digital horrors. Just like with Bosch, the musical instruments turn into tools of torture, in reference less to the astrological alignments of our time, but rather to a new era of derailment.
I've always been fascinated with Bosch, and the cacophony of creatures and chimera that inhabit his work. What interests me most is the flatness, the way he uses religious iconographic style and tropes to explore the profane.
The digital creatures in this work express our emotional obscurity and ambiguity in communicating our feelings, unveiling the technological codifications of today’s language and the intimate, psychological impact of consumer culture on our expressions, gestures and actions. With Emoji being inserted into the cannons of art history, a new means of subverting our visual communication language takes form, one that is deeply rooted in our reflex communication.
“The Garden of Emoji Delights” is part of Emoji Art & Design Show, an exhibition at New York’s Eyebeam Art+Technology Center intended to provide an “examination of the emoji zeitgeist.”