MoMA to exhibit original emojis as artwork

The rapid development of the Internet—and the culture that has resulted from it—has certainly broadened the ways in which humans interact with one another. Through constant text messaging, Snapchatting and photo-sharing through Instagram and Facebook, keeping in touch has never been easier. One of the most popular new forms of communication—especially in the millennial generation—has been the use of emojis.

Initially created by the Japanese mobile provider NTT DoCoMo, emojis are used to quickly communicate an idea, to tell jokes or to liven up a text message. The use of emojis is spread among generations, from young children to teens to even older adults.

The original emojis included simple images that indicated things like weather such as an umbrella or a lightning bolt as well as numbers and other basic designs. These, however, don’t even come close to the elaborate emojis used today by iPhone and Android users. These digital images may be miniscule, but they have a widespread impact on our Internet culture and on our ability to communicate with each other in a human way.

Art has long been used to communicate within relationships, communities and even whole countries, despite any cultural or linguistic barriers. Visual arts, music, dance and performance serve to connect individuals on an intimate level without any other link but the art itself. And now, art has begun to merge with technology, prompting the world to ask the question, “Are emojis art?”

The Museum of Modern Art seems to think so. The museum recently acquired a set of the original 176 emojis through an agreement with NTT DoCoMo. The MoMa now has permission to use the emojis in any artistic way they wish. This is a bold and progressive move that allows the largely uncharted territory of digital art to be explored by artists in different mediums.

While emojis are a largely abstract section of art, the beauty of art itself is its malleability and loose definition. Throughout time, art has gradually become a way for anyone in the world to express themselves in any number of different ways. Modern art—especially performance art, which not only makes the viewer question him or herself, but also at times makes for extreme discomfort—often has the biggest impact on us.

Emojis are definitely an unconventional form of art. In fact, many may not even consider them to be art. They certainly allow for communication between humans, though, and isn’t that what constitutes the basis of art? Emojis allow people to communicate and to express themselves in new ways; they can be used as an alternate medium for budding artists living in the age of technology.

Considering the use of hieroglyphics thousands of years ago, emojis speak to a very basic aspect of human communication. Hieroglyphics was the form of communication used in ancient Egypt, but the letters we know today were replaced by simple images that could be easily understood.

Emojis work very similarly to hieroglyphics. Despite the whole slew of complex languages circulating the world today, emojis allow individuals from almost anywhere to connect through a shared recognition of symbols.

When it comes down to it, art is all about human connection and understanding in all of its forms. Emojis only further add to the diversity of modern art, allowing for a broader, more inclusive definition of artistic expression in today’s rapidly changing world.