Pictograms, Signs of Life, Emojis: The Society of Signs

Düren Leopold-Hoesch-Musuem, untill April 11, 2021
Freiburg Musuem für Neue Kunst, Freibug, starting on May 6, 2021

The exhibition Pictograms, Signs of Life, Emojis: The Society of Signs compiles a rich variety of visual languages, starting with Köln Progressiv, a socially engaged group of artists including Gerd Arntz. Arntz would later become an important member of Otto Neurath’s ISOTYPE collective. This introductory part of the exhibition mainly focusses on this team that created an influential body of work starting in Red Vienna around 1925 as the Viennese method of image statistics and that later becomes the International System of Typographic Picture Education.

The second part of the exhibition explores the development and reorientation of signs, starting with an artistic work of Harun Farocki and the famous pictograms by Otl Aicher for the Summer Olympics Munich in 1972. These infographics and pictograms communicate without written language, a more radical attempt is to fully replace written language with an image language. The LoCoS language by Yukio Ota is easy to learn and has the goal to bridge global communication, while the artistic work of Pati Hill, Proposal for a Universal Language of Symbols, is inspired by pictographs invented by her bilingual daughter who, as a child, struggled with the grammar of English and French. Warja Lavater transformed fairy-tales into symbolic landscapes and Wolfgang Schmidt’s Signs of Life anchor the exhibition with a gigantic figure looking over the scene.

Open Emoji Research

A third section of the exhibition contains different research and artistic positions including the Genesis of Juli Gudehus and Timothée Ingen-Housz’ Elephant’s Memory. This Open Emoji Research is separated from the rest of the exhibition by DOCOMO’s basic set of Emoji designed by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999 and is reflected with a voting-booth for Lilian Stolk’s Emoji-Voter. Ilka Helmig and Johannes Bergerhausen present a rich table of their own works and some highlights of their collection. Edgar Walthert compiled a “memory” of symbol-fonts, pictograms and icon-systems, that invites visitors to play and build sentences with. Next to this are two folders which include his comparative symbol research. In an extra room, the visitor is invited to take a seat inside the palm of a gigantic yellow hand and experience how images, set next to each other, build new compounds. This brings the concept of typographic ligatures to the realm of visual languages. The multimedia installation »snake, sun, cloud, hand, triangle« is created by the artists collective Gruppo Due, consisting of Moritz Appich, Jonas Grünwald, and Bruno Jacoby.

picto-, ideo-

The publication picto-, ideo- was created on the occasion of this exhibition in co-poruduction of the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum Düren, the Museum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg and the two autors. In this publication Johannes Bergerhausen and Ilka Helmig examine the often neglected difference between pictograms and ideograms. It can be ordered at the Design Shop, Mainz University of Applied Sciences.
24 x 17 cm, 48 pages, German and English.

Exhibition Poster designe by Eva-Maria Offermann
Exhibition Poster design by Eva-Maria Offermann

As the exhibition had to be closed on November 3rd of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic its duration has been extended to April 11, 2021.
Current information on the opening times of the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum.
Starting on May 6, 2021, the exhibition will open at the Museum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg.

Curators: Michaela Stoffels, Anja Dorn and Maxim Weirich.