Lou Lou João

Digital artist Lou Lou João creates a super-cute avatar in a hyper-femme world to uncover the darker sides of identity and sexuality.

Sarah L. Roberts | Ed. MiMi | 26 July 2022

Woman Digital Artist: LouLou Joao -Agora Digital Art
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Lou Lou João (b.1993, BE) is an Afro-Belgian 3D animator and illustrator. She uses her animations to express her interdimensional worldview, experienced growing up in the afro-diaspora. Using Digital Art, she explores her position and identity in a world that assumes whiteness is the default. Since graduating from university, João has worked with open-source software Blender, teaching herself through YouTube tutorials. Her signature bubbly, girlish and naive style betrays the darker emotions of her work, which tackles mental health struggles, politics and sexuality.     

 

Her digital characters reside in a “candy-coated world of squishy plastic objects”, referencing early 00s consumer and pop culture, including Bratz, Barbie and Polly Pocket. Like the digital media she employs, João views blackness itself as a technology. Her racial identity constantly updates like software, code-switching and masking itself to survive in a world of oppression of objectification.

Current Event

João’s latest NFT drop is available to view or purchase from Makersplace.

Lou Lou João, Honey, the stage is all yours (2022) ©Lou Lou João Courtesy of the artist.

What’s next?

Lou Lou João, Focket Fyre (2022), 3D Animation. Commissioned by TBS Network. © Lou Lou João. Courtesy of the artist.

Warner Brothers-owned networks TNets, YBS, TNT, and TruTV recently launched their MORE initiative, a campaign to promote inclusivity among creators. According to entertainment corporation WarnerMedia, the MORE programme uplifts the voices of diverse artists and media partners, including João. For the project, João produced the 3D-animated short Focket Fyre: Skate or Die (2022), premiering at the end of July. The short stars Miss Focket, a digital double for the artist. The character is unafraid of expressing her afro-identity and wants to share the beauty of her world with the viewer. Focket lives in an inviting and brightly coloured universe, matching it with her cute and enviable fashion sense and bold, irreverent personality. 

Did you know?

João initially pursued her passion for mathematics and science during high school. In an interview with the popular design publication, It’s Nice That, João revealed that this experience was often traumatic and stifling. She recalls being underestimated and overlooked compared to her [usually white, male] peers, even after she began pursuing the more creative field of Architecture. It was not until her university years that João became intrigued by the storytelling capabilities of illustration. Finally, in straying from traditional styles into New Media, she found a safe place to explore the difficult experiences of her youth, reconnecting with the complexities of her identity. 

Featured Projects

Miss Focket / The FocketVerse (2020 to present)

Lou Lou João, Miss Focket (2021), 3D Animation © Lou Lou João. Courtesy of the artist.

João created her avatar Miss Focket in response to her feelings of being unheard, unseen and generally “othered” by society due to her Afro-Belgian ancestry. In a live demo for the digital art, culture and animation festival, Kikk, João explained that she created Miss Focket as a gift to herself, a gift to that young girl who grew up feeling out of place. She recalls growing up and never seeing girls or women like herself. Where representations did exist, they were usually misrepresentations.

Using open-source software, Blender, she created her animated “verse” with violets, magentas and a soft bubble style. The hyper-feminine aesthetic is reminiscent of the clunky computer animations of João’s childhood, growing up on the cusp of the millennium with girlie culture consisting of My Little Pony and Barbie cartoons. Her character Miss Focket occupies this enchanting, animated world, but she reclaims it for women of colour. The viewer is almost lured into false security by the naive, almost childish animation style. João juxtaposes this delicate outer appearance with a more challenging message- reclaiming her image back from the white male-dominated corporations that profit from defining the cultural vision of young girls.

Lou Lou João, Adult Swim Social ID (2021), 3D Animation Ident. Commissioned by AdultSwim © Lou Lou João. Courtesy of the artist

Ident for Adult Swim (2021)

João’s alter-ego takes centre stage in her series of idents created for Adult Swim‘s grown-up animation network in 2021. The artist’s kitschy yet slightly raunchy style was the perfect fit for the experimental network as her idents explore human voyeurism and beauty. In João’s words, “Miss Focket is a beautiful actress, who is hired to play roles,” for her commercial clients. Focket embodies these roles with poise and perfection but she also allows João to push boundaries with playful representations.

In a short animation produced for the adult cartoon network, João traps Miss Focket in a plastic music box, reminding viewers of the familiar childhood toy. Attempting to subvert expectations, instead of the “skinny, blonde, white” girl that viewers may find inside this box, they find a different performer, redefining the narrow beauty ideal that young girls are confronted with.

Discussing this work with It’s Nice That, João describes how this animation reclaims the power of the gaze and puts it back in the hands of women of colour, giving them control over their sexuality. In another twist, the dancer trapped inside the box, endlessly twirling for her viewers, is the owner too. The salivating voyeur who stares at the dancer is Miss Focket, highlighting the almost perverted concept behind the toy, a young girl made to dance for others’ pleasure.

Lou Lou João, Miss Focket as Beaumont (2022), 3-D Animation and Model © Lou Lou João. Courtesy of the Artist

Miss Focket as Beaumont, sculpture and NFT (2022)

João’s digitally modelled sculpture references a controversial image of the model Carolina Beaumont by photographer Jean-Paul Goode. Viewers will probably also connect it to the now infamous shot from 2014 that #broketheinternet, when Goode recreated the shot with Kim Kardashian. In the viral picture, Kardashian sported a black leather gown and balanced a champagne glass on her rear. 

Kardashian’s family have faced criticism for appropriating black culture and celebrating sexual characteristics commonly attributed to women of colour, big lips and large “booty”. Showcasing her work for social currency producer Whale, João discussed the complex racial history of the image and the problems raised by Kardashian’s recreation. Instead of being nude like Beaumont and subject to the history of oppression people of colour carry, Kardashian wears a leather-look luxe gown, celebrating the erotic qualities associated with the black body but not living in one.

Developing her 3-d concepts for Miss Focket, João chooses to reclaim the pose for the afro-diaspora. Miss Focket poses in her 3-dimensional world, with the aesthetics that João created-in a safe space for her sexual expression. In the same interview, João told Whale that she wanted to take ownership and resist the exotification of black women, preventing the pose from becoming a whitewashed aspect of culture. Miss Focket pops the champagne cork with whimsy and confidence, reclaiming her sexual power in pink, bubbly technicolour.

Key achievements

Represented by Snyder in the US and UK, João’s work has been displayed in physical and online exhibits across Europe. Her impressive client roster includes BMW, Adobe, Burning Man and the New Yorker and Life magazine. In addition, her animations have appeared on MTV and AdultSwim networks. She has been a panellist and guest for numerous festivals and events in digital arts, including HBOMax’s Our Stories to Tell, Pictoplasma Festival, and Animade. In 2021, she was named one of the digital artists on the online media platform Giphy’s “Animators to Watch”.

Recent shows

Group Shows

2021, NAFT Group Exhibition, STEM Festival, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

2020, The Print Project, Museum Plantin Moretus, Antwerp, Belgium

2020, These Selves, Pilar VUB, Brussels, Belgium

2020, Next Generation, Bozar, Brussels, Belgium

Festivals/Appearances / Residencies

2021, Guest Speaker, Pictoplasma Festival, Berlin, Germany

2021, All Ears Artistic Practise Presentation, Animade, London, UK

2021, Panellist “Animation but make it black”, Our Stories to Tell, HBOMAX (Online), 

2020, Residency, The Impossible Library, Hamburg, Germany

2019, Wallpaper Installation for Black History Month, Antwerp, Belgium

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