Mario Wagner Explores New Worlds for Playboy
The worlds of Israeli writer Etgar Keret are fantastic and surreal. Constantly edging between genres, he challenges his readers in recontextualizing ideas and situations, reaching beyond the pedestrian experience and forcing confrontation with human issues that may be uncomfortable. Illustrator Mario Wagner recently ventured into Keret’s world and brought back with him an image for an article in Playboy Magazine, directly responding to his own experience.
Keret's story tells of a man who is tacitly trapped in his own small existence, interacting mostly with artificial intelligence and rarely with the tangible through a single window. It is a tale of the tear between the complications of the real world and the slick, clean artifice of the created world. Each have their own benefits and short comings, so the question raised is, which offers more to humanity? And ultimately, what is human? Mario’s job becomes complex in the face of these questions, distilling the reading experience into a single image. “The story was so visual already, I thought it would be too obvious to go totally crazy,” he explains. “So I took it pretty literally.” What we see is the protagonist of this tale in a clean world, facing a window to another existence. A woman is at his side who is at once real and created, straddling realities. When artifice meets emotional experience it’s hard to know which is real.
The only element that breaks into the clean setting of the image is a splatter of paint at the top of the image, something like a prolonged application of spray paint. “There is a little bit of an outer world going on, he sees people, he has this window,” explains Mario. “I wanted to add a little texture so it’s like it’s something he’s looking for.” That added texture gives a visual representation of the pull between these two worlds the protagonist is facing.
As we adopt more and more technology into our daily lives and our interactions between one another become more digital, reality is as easily experienced through the composition of pixels, and through the anonymity of textural creation it's possible to lose grip on what is real and what is created. The emotions are always there, whether or not we're responding to something we can touch. In some ways we are becoming this man, and Mario is illustrating not just an image for a story but our collective futures.
To get the full experience of Mario’s piece in context, check out the latest issue of Playboy on newsstands now.