For the first time in history, in 2015 the Oxford Dictionaries chose a pictogram, to be exact an emoji, as the word of the year. Emoji is a Japanese word, the ‘e’ means picture + ‘moji’ means a letter / character. The similar sounding English word emoticon (emotion icon) helped the Japanese word to spread.
The incredible rise of emojis is a fascinating cultural and linguistic phenomenon. Its history goes back to the roots of modern writing that developed from pictures: pictograms and ideograms.
The earliest examples of writing come from the pictographic Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform scripts around 5,000 years ago. During the early first millennium BC the Phoenician alphabet became the ancestor of multiple writing systems across the Middle East, Europe, northern Africa and South Asia.
Emoticons are pictograms that were created using alphabetical punctuation by like semicolons, colons and brackets. The „smiley“ was born in 1963 when Harvey R. Ball, owner of an advertising agency in the USA, came up with the idea to use it to lift the mood of the workers of a recently merged insurance company. The company has paid him 45 dollars for this invention that he never claimed the rights for. However, Nicolas Loufrani has some doubts about the origin - supposedly there is a 4500 years old rock that have been found in a French cave that has a „smiley“ on it.
1982 Scott E. Fahlman, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon University, typed the first :-) Starting from the widespread use on Japanese mobile phones in the late 1990’s, emojis multiplied in form and variety and conquered the world’s electric discourse. By the end of 2015 they were so widespread that - for the first time ever - a pictogram i.e. a picture was chosen as the ‘Word of the Year 2015”. They infuse contemporary digital conversations with facial expressions and gestures, adding a human touch the midst of text-based cyber communication. This is a buffling reverse transformation: first, pictography writing became simplified and alphabetical, then pictograms were reinvented by using alphabetical writing.
The installation is a 25 m2 large, transparent room filled with exactly 2015 yellow beach balls.
The artist created 65 different well-known as wellas new emojis using 14 character sets of different typefaces (Avant Garde Gothic, Avenir, Frutiger, Helvetica, Eurostile, Futura, Courier, Didot, Trajan, Caslon, Baskerville, Garamond, Times, Pistilli). At the end oft he exhibition visitors can take home a ball. In exchange, they write down a word of their choice on a card and placeit in a box. At the end of the exhibition the artist createsa new ball with the word that comes up most frequently, "The Word of the Exhibition". With the Ball.Room. installation the artist and the visitors interactively transfer pictography back into alphabetic writing.
The exhibition has an art history background similar to Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds inflatable installation, the dutch Florentijn Hofman’s giant duck Rubber Duck, Geraldo Zamproni’s inflated red Pillow Talk, the FriendsWithYou inflated sculptures, Kurt Perschke’s Redball Project or Jeff Koons’s balloon imitating metal sculptures.
I have created 65 different well-known as well as new emojis that have been put on 2015 (that's when an emoji became the word of the year) yellow inflatable beach balls using 14 character sets of different typefaces (Avant Garde Gothic, Avenir, Frutiger, Helvetica, Eurostile, Futura, Courier, Didot, Trajan, Caslon, Baskerville, Garamond, Times, Pistilli). Then I filled up a room with these yellow balls.
Every visitor can take a beach ball home in exchange of a single word they come up with that they place into a box. At the end of the exhibition the word that most people have written down will become the word of this exhibition and will be written down on an empty ball.
The more places this exhibition will be held the more interesting it will be to see the chosen words from that certain exhibition, will it be affected by a nation or a geographical location?
"Every visitor can take a beach ball home in exchange of a single word they come up with that they place into a box."
12 hours after the Opening every "emojiballs" were adobted by the visitors.