How Did K-Hole’s Blue-and-Yellow Pill Become the Face of the New Museum’s Triennial?
You might not know what a Triennial is, but you can still download the character.
Meet XR, a happy little blue-and-yellow cartoon pill who enjoys sunbathing, metal detecting, and badminton and sometimes stands in front of a mirror, asking, “What have I become?” At least through May, the New Museum’s 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience, has the answer.
The “friendly pharmaceutical,” designed by art collective K-Hole, has become the face of the ad campaign for the exhibition. And it’s also K-Hole’s artwork for the show.
When Triennial curators Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin began working on the show, they made the decision to turn over the administrative duty of coming up with the exhibition’s advertising mascot to K-Hole (see New Museum Triennial Offers a Dazzling and Dystopian Vision of the Future). The thinking was that many of today’s young artists are already employing marketing and advertising tactics in their work, none more so than K-Hole, a self-described “trend forecasting” quintet based in New York, known for coining the neologism “normcore.”
“K-Hole, as a platform, builds these media documents that function as artworks, but also can exist seamlessly in the world of branding,” said Greg Fong, a member of K-Hole, in a phone interview. According to Fong, K-Hole became one of the first artists selected for the Triennial, spending the next year consulting with the curators on how to market the exhibition. Cornell confirmed that K-HOLE were one of the earlier projects which started over a year ago, similar to some of the artists in residence projects.
Part of the power of XR, is that it also has a life outside the Triennial. It is a character in an emoji-like “sticker set” on the app “Line”—stickers being a form of pictograph popularized on apps like LINE and Facebook Messenger.
Having first noticed LINE stickers being posted on by teens on Tumblr a few years ago, K-Hole saw an opportunity to create a populist, interactive promotional tool. “We made a campaign that’s relatable to frame the institution as something that is vulnerable and open rather than a pristine cube,” Fong said. “You might not know what a Triennial is, but still (download the stickers).”
To access XR, smartphone users must download LINE or LINE Camera, where XR is a stamp set that users can affix to their art selfies. The app-based “entertainment platform” includes a messaging app, a photo app, and several gaming apps, according to Jenny Yoo, the sticker shop curator at LINE. Yoo facilitated the collaboration from their end, making a presentation for the LINE home office in Tokyo who approve all the sticker sets.
LINE was the originator of the sticker technology—nearly 2 Billion LINE stickers are sent each day—and though LINE now has the clout to partner their app with the National Basketball Association, for instance, Yoo said there’s an opportunity for LINE to reach a different, more engaged group of users through the collaboration with the Triennial.
We’ve already spotted the pill, as a limited edition bean bag, going for $2000 a pop at the Armory Show. (At the New Museum booth, but still).
“K-Hole using stickers to introduce us to the art world is important for LINE,” Yoo said. “And it makes sense vice versa too. Emojis are passé now, and people are noticing stickers. Stickers are what’s forward right now.”
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