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Pictoplasma Stares into ‘The Face Machine’

International conference and festival of contemporary character design and art announces speakers, programs for May 2-6 event in Berlin.

BERLIN -- Coming May 2-6, the annual Pictoplasma Festival turns Berlin into the world’s epicenter of character design and art -- and a vibrant meeting point for a diverse scene of international artists, illustrators, filmmakers, and game, graphic or product designers.

Creators and producers meet for a central conference to exchange strategies for figurative aesthetics, while the wider festival invites the general public to discover new trends. Cutting-edge screenings bring the latest animation to the big cinema screen, numerous exhibitions throughout the city present original works and outstanding character craftsmanship, and performances put the characters into direct play with the audience.

In its 14th edition, the international conference and festival of contemporary character design and art investigates how character design challenges our understanding of what makes a face a face -- with striking masks, bizarre deformations, graphical abstraction and minimalist reduction. Can “The Face Machine” be seen as the counter strategy to the current photo-realist regime that governs our visual culture?

As a premiere, the festival's international animation section is highlighted by new award opportunities: In three programs, short films compete in categories such as Audience Award, Best Character-Driven Narration or Best Newcomer, the latter two awarded by a special jury including some of the artists speaking at the conference. Films can be submitted until Feb. 1. Further details on

Additionally, leading up to the festival, Pictoplasma invites international illustrators, designers and animators to hypnotize their audience with a new open call for Entries: #CharacterStareDown challenges participants to create short, animated GIFs that portray proud, strong characters as they look the viewer directly in the eye and claim their right to exist.

A selection of entries will be presented at the festival in a curated installation, while three participants receive a free festival and conference pass, granting full access to all lectures, workshops, screenings, exhibitions, presentations and parties. Further information on

First confirmed speakers include:

  • Edel Rodriguez, the Cuban American artist and illustrator has exhibited at many galleries and cultural institutions, mainly in the USA and Latin America. His bold, figurative works are an examination of identity, mortality, and cultural displacement. Rodriguez has created over a hundred newspaper and magazine covers. His current output is among the most controversial comments on the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump.
  • Sophia Jansson is the niece of the late Tove Jansson (1914-2001), the Swedish-speaking Finn illustrator, writer and artist who achieved worldwide fame as the creator of the Moomins, a family of white and roundish trolls with large snouts. Sophia is the chairman of the board and creative director of Moomin Characters, Ltd. She carefully selects and co-directs all projects to keep the heritage of her aunt alive, whether it be collaborations with artists in exhibitions, authors for new books, or animation filmmakers.
  • Victor Castillo, a Chilean artist based in Los Angeles, appropriates the narrative logic of children’s book illustration and the aesthetics of classic animation. His work mostly features girls and boys wearing his trademark face-masks -- dark black holes as eyes and long red rubber noses. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the U.S., Latin America and Europe as well as published in numerous newspapers, magazines and books.
  • Alberto Vázquez is a Spanish writer, animation director, illustrator and cartoonist, known for his multi-award winning short films, such as Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015), Decorado (2016) and Unicorn Blood (2013). He recently finished his first feature Psiconautas, based on his dark coming-of-age graphic novel of the same name. His work has won over 100 awards at international festivals, including three Goya Awards (Best Feature Animation and Best Animated Short).
  • Danette Beatty is a 3D artist currently working at ustwo games in London, most recently as a level artist on 'Monument Valley 2.' In her work, she experiments with human representation in the medium of 3D computer graphics, while she also enjoys making doodles, comics and writing up tutorials and blog posts.
  • Kévin Gemin, better known as Kékéflipnote, is a young, self-taught animator from France, who has taken the simple tools provided by his Nintendo DSi and 3DS consoles to captivate his audience. A lover of animals, it is mainly his cast of little, bouncing pigeons and foxes that inspire him to create viral vignettes and share as much positive vibes as possible.
  • Charlotte Mei is an artist and illustrator whose work spans the media of painting, ceramics and animation. Her creation is characterized by playful motifs, a bold use of color and gestural mark-making. Mei’s clients include Penguin Books, Hermes and Sony Music and she has exhibited in group shows at the V&A Museum, Red Bull Studios NY, and the Barbican.
  • Jim Stoten is an illustrator and artist living and working from his home studio in Hastings on commissions for clients all over the world, including MTV, Levi’s, Urban Outfitters, Nestlé, Marmite and British Airways. His work has a distinct psychedelic flavor, and he likes to play in any medium, whether painting, performance, animation, music, collage or film.
  • James Curran is a British animator and director with a background in videos games, music videos, commercials and animated GIFs. As well as regularly working for clients including Disney, Nike and Samsung he has become renowned for his “Gifathon” projects -- 30 GIFs in 30 days in New York City, Los Angeles and Tokyo, based on his personal experiences while living in each city.

The full artist lineup and all details on the exhibitions, performances, parties and screening programs will be announced in early March.

To register for the Pictoplasma Conference, visit

Source: Pictoplasma

Thomas J. McLean's picture

Tom McLean has been writing for years about animation from a secret base in Los Angeles.