Cute Kawaii Art


WAKO.Evolution level II, the infant.

As I wrote in my previous post, the first level of evolution was WAKO.webo is an egg-like creature that is completely dependant on the adult WAKO, or WAKO.portrait, evolution level 5. At this stage, that Webo is absolute potential, is a total possibility, and he has not revealed almost anything about its future features. You may find Webo in different colors, textures, or materials, or even with graffiti paintings, a WAKO.webo.storyteller (I will talk about the meaning of that later on this post), but not more than that. I must say that WebOS shape is a bit far from your normal art toy, as they resemble more humanoid features.  I think there is more of Yayoi Kusama’s influence in the shape of this piece than in the rest of the work. Kusama is obsessive with the circular shape and sphere and thus I can perfectly see an installation of Webos such as this one at Philips Johnsons glass house.

From an egg to a Peruvian Munny.

There is a dramatic change between WEBO and the WAKO.double.spout, evolution level.2. and a WAKO.single.spout.evolution level 2. First, the spout is more prominent, almost a third of the body, something which corresponds to the orinal huacos, or, ancient Peruvian ceramical vases. Here are a couple of example of differet Precolumbian cultures, the first one from the Nazca Culture (100bc-800ac) and the second one from Moche (100-700 ad)

huaco asa estribo cultura chimu

The mysterious grin.

In this level of evolution, WAKO turns into a more anthropomorphic shape, showing a greater influence from Kids Robots Munny, the “archetipal” art toy but keeping the previously shown Andean element. The small closed eyes that you had in WAKO.webo, turn into a preoccupied grin which is, from now then a characteristic element of the complete universe of characters. Almost all the subsequent evolutions will show the grin, and not the eyes.  This is the expression of the existential angst emerging inside. Its is not sadness, but anxiety mixed with skepticism.  An important part of it comes from an emerging sense of mortality, of fragility and vulnerability, but also a constant questioning of the status quo, of reality.

A toy without eyes.

Why are there no eyes? Conceptually, the eyes are a window into the soul, its our way in to understand the others intent and spirit. Kawaii characters  for instance, have huge eyes to convey feelings and emotions in a very efficient manner. On the contrary, if the creator wants to hide emotion, the eyes are concealed. Villains are a good example. They can be portrayed with small or no eyes at all as a way removing our capacity to negotiate with them (Darth Vader, Terminator, Alien Creature, Predator are some examples). Cyborgs too as a way of showing visually that they cannot experience emotion. Notice Robocop at the beginning of the movie, eyes hidden by a black helmet, but in the end, he removes his helmet to show his face and say his name.  The intent of WAKO is to convey mistery. The idea is to suggest that its inner world is difficult or even impossible to understand. For me, Its metaphor for contemporary Peru, a country so  diverse, multicultural, and historically complex that its inner workings are unattainable.

Existential inner worlds vs the kawaii outer world

Wako’s grin is a reflection of his inner world, a world of contradictions, of struggle, of constant questioning, its a world in search of meaning. Its more human, and hence, the color and texture of the mouth resembles the color of human skin.  That is its existential dimension, the world of the soul. The outer world is shiny, polished, artificial. Its the world of Jung’s persona, the mask we create to interact with the world. In our age of consumerism, it is a mask of brands, shinny products, success, luxury exaggerated happiness. The Japanese aesthetic of cuteness, kawaii, colorful, round expresses this idea. This is who is in the world of social media and consumerism. The suffering human nature, fragile, aging, vulnerable, who is forced to be happy and successful.

cute kawaii art

J-Pop and kawaii as an expression of globalization.

Peru has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, opening its economy and culture to the world back in the nineties. As economic progress increased and more Peruvians came out of poverty, consumerism became more prevalent on one hand, and on the other the influence of foreign trends such as  “pop” started blending with local culture. The idea of using kawaii and J-pop as an aesthetic of the foreign speaks of the important connection that the Andes have with Asia. Peru has a significant population of Chinese and Japanese origin, from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century which have profoundly blended with the local culture. It can also be argued that Asia and the Andes are both important cradles of civilization and that there is the fundamental contribution of Japan in archaeological and anthropological research and discovery of our past, through missions, scholarships and funding.  Finally, Peruvians are deeply influenced by manga and anime, which abounded in media in the eighties and nineties, (Candy Candy, Marco, Robotech, Mazinger Z, Dragon Ball Z, among other examples) and we can expect China and the rest of Asia to become the big cultural an economic protagonist of the twenty-first century. For all of this, it makes sense to think of a contemporary global Peruvian identity influenced by an Asian aesthetic. 

huaco asa puente cultura nazca

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