Friday, September 19, 2014

Emoji Mania

I've had a smartphone for almost two years now, and I've used emojis on a regular basis for about three months. I was just never really that into them. I like the good old fashioned :) and if I am feeling really saucy, there's always room to spill over into C: and the like. We've got a whole 26-character alphabet of options! But of course, I did eventually give in to the magic that is the world of emoji. There are just so many options! I started to pay more attention to the way people use them, and I think Instagram is where they thrive the most.

One crazy phenomenon I have noticed: people try really hard to find emojis that match the visual style of an instagram post. For example, see above. Those nail decals are pretty darn cute. But hey oh my gosh, there were the perfect emojis to copy the theme perfectly in the comments! It must be related to my undying love of miniature versions of things.

This one is kind of funny. The emojis aren't copying the theme of the photograph, they're actually an exact replication of the photo as translated into emojis. This is getting pretty deep.

And here we can see art imitating life, which in turn is imitating life. Look, ma! I found a leaf that looks just like my iPhone 6 Plus! I didn't know these things grew on trees. I wonder if it's rare. Oh wait, there's an emoji for it! Must be common, then.

And I loved the idea so much, I did it myself. Don't go thinking I didn't put any thought into this either, I went through almost every menu and chose from at least five triangular-shaped emojis, ok. I put the time in. Not to mention the metaphorical meaning. Tess loves Oatcakes more than diamonds. They are both precious and rare.

As with any new language, there is some discrepancy over meaning of certain emojis. I really enjoyed the little debate that happened over whether a certain emoji was representative of a pair of hands praying, or two different people's high-fiving hands. You know the one I mean.

I love asking people what they think it is, because everyone has a different take and everyone is flabbergasted when you offer the theory that it might be the meaning they didn't mention. Some funny ones I have heard
  • "Definitely praying. If it were two different people high-fiving, their sleeves would be different colours!"
  • "High fives for sure. Why would there be religious emojis? That's just wrong."
  • "It's a person praying! There is another religious-themed emoji (see below left), so would it be so far-fetched to have two?
  • "It's ambiguous. There's another emoji (see below right) that could also be either praying or high-fiving. I choose to believe it's both."

Personally, I think the one on the right is clapping hands. But I guess the meaning is whatever you want it to be. That's called free speech, kids! If you want to see the article debating the whole thing, you can find it here.

I think the reason I really like to use emojis now is because they remind me of MSN Messenger. That thing let you make your own emoticons! I used to make a lot of pixel art, so that sort of thing wasn't a far stretch for me. I remember that I used to customise the existing ones with hair that resembled my friends and surprise them by sprinkling my creations into our chat windows. I get nostalgic just thinking about it!

Communication is a funny thing. I've heard a few people say that emojis are on their way to replacing texting language completely, and I'm really trying to resist that for myself. Much as they are expressive, I appreciate a well-written, well-thought out text. If I ask you how your day was, I really hope that it was something that just simply can't be described through emoji. Otherwise you might realize that you are really boring! Not to mention, our language could go the way of hieroglyphics and become completely misunderstood by future humanity. If that happened, how would we keep the important ideas alive, like "Girl, Becky got so fat over the summer" or "That cute guy in my math class asked me to borrow a pen!"

It's some hard-hitting stuff.

------------- Update!

While wasting time on the interwebs, I found this:
Now I KNOW that life is also imitating art. It's indisputable proof, people!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Curating Your Own Museum

Labour day is a very special day for many people. While the holiday's exact origins are unclear and unimportant (at least to me), I love labour day because it denotes at once both the last free day of summer and the threshold into the new school year (albeit this is my last one!).

This year, I used my very special labour day to go to the Power Plant Art Gallery at the Harbourfront. I have been meaning to go for some time now, and finally motivated myself at the suggestion of a friend. She saw Pedro Reyes' Sanatorium and gave it a shining review. Labour day happened to be the last day of the show, so I adorned my final all-white outfit of the summer and went downtown.

The Sanatorium, according to the Power Plant's website, is a curated exhibition that aims to cure the psychological ills of its visitors which occur when living in an urban environment. Multiple trained receptionists in white lab coats roam the exhibit offering guidance in its different 'treatment options' to the 'patients' (visitors). Before the patient is allowed to enter, they are given a short survey to fill out regarding their current emotional state. Then, they choose a treatment to undergo and the exhibit unfolds for them.

Along with my mother, I chose to take part in the Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes. In this treatment, we were taken to a long wall with two shelves housing various small trinkets and items of different styles. There must have been more than 200 of them. My guide told me that the selection of items changes depending on where the Sanatorium currently exists in the world, and many of them have been collected from the previous exhibitions of the Sanatorium.

There was also a table housing what looked like a whitewashed laboratory rat maze, with all different kinds of 'rooms' which would house the objects of our personal museum. Each room in the museum is related to a specific part of the human life.

As my mother and I chose items to place into the rooms of our personal museums, we learned a lot about each other. We did not disclose our reasons for each selection to each other until after we had selected each item in all 22 rooms. After each room was filled, we shared the stories of our lives, as follows below:

Of course, I am not going to tell you the meaning behind all of the objects; what would be the fun in that? I will give you a few snippets, though. The most interesting part of the museum was to find an object that relates to one's mother and father. Since my mother was standing right beside me, it was slightly strange to have to find a small figure to represent her. I think I did well in the end:

I chose to represent her as a small dog. She laughed and was confused because we both know she is no animal lover. My reason for the little dog is that she can be yippy and annoying at times but she is mostly cute and very caring. She was also confused at first as to why I chose a caricature of the Queen of England for my father, but if you knew him you would understand.

A three-headed dog represents my legacy. I want to be remembered...and feared!

The snail represents my current love life. My mother chose glasses for her love life because they remind her of my father.

The mother's parents and the father's parents. Another overlap, it was interesting to compare my item for my grandfather to my mother's item for her father (who is obviously the same person).

Personally, I really love the concept of the interactive art installation. It really focuses the visitor on finding the meaning behind the piece, whether that meaning is shared with others or perhaps just a personal one. I strongly believe that main point of public art and creation of creative product in general is to draw out emotion and thought in the viewer of the piece. This experience definitely brought out emotion and thought in me.

Speaking of which, when the patient finishes their treatment, they are asked to fill out the second half of their form. This is the point at which they can compare their emotional state from before and after they have experienced the treatment. I felt happier and more focused.

As an aside, I didn't realize that the Power Plant Gallery is completely free of admission charge (at least for this year) and subsists on donations. The Sanatorium, along with two other exhibits, was a very interesting way to spend my afternoon and I will definitely return when the next exhibits are installed.