ArtistsInstitutions 24-11-2015

YAK and his double, Elyx

The smile ambassador, Elyx, a little stick man tenderly invented by Yacine Ait Kaci (YAK) has become an icon on social media. On Instagram, his hybrid work which combines photography and sketches about daily life, is followed by a hundred thousand fans. And as the United Nation’s very first digital ambassador, Elyx is using his social media influence to create awareness for the COP21 event in Paris, which kicks off on November 29.


Funny, bold, effective, there is a nod to Keith Haring — with his famous radiant baby — in the little stick man, an expressive, dynamic shape that is equally endearing as entertaining.  YAK draws his character reacting to his surroundings. Then, armed with a camera, he sets the scene in the most peculiar situations. In a shift of identity, it’s not a self-portrait of the artist, but of the drawing itself. A type of selfie, where only his hand appears in the photo, holding the sketch.

On social media, the craze for Elyx the character has eluded his creator.

“Elyx really exists!"

"I’m not invited as an artist anymore, but it’s him as a hero whose reaction we want to see,” YAK says, amused.

The question of identity in the digital age is at the heart of YAK’s work, but also in the personal history of the artist. Born in 1973 in Paris, Yacine grew up in the hybridization of consciousness at the time, of being both oneself and the other. Hence, no doubt he created "Elyx" as a sort of "double" in 2011, whose name comes from a quick reversal of the letters "XL", the magazine for which YAK was working as a cartoonist. The term also refers to the word "helix", or "spiral" which is often used to describe DNA. Armed with a pencil, a sketchbook and a simple smartphone, YAK has returned to the basics, forgetting the machine who had mastered digital writing.

After graduating from the Ecole nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (Ensad) in 1992, YAK immediately turned to multimedia creation. He created CD-ROMs for Yves Saint Laurent, Beaubourg, the Louvre...In a CD-Rom tribute to Picabia, « La Loi d’accommodation chez les borgnes », he evokes the Dadaist spirit, diverting mechanical systems for poetic purposes.

Then, in 2000, YAK created Electronic Shadow with artist Naziha Mestaoui. Both artists explore the relationship between space and image, the material and immaterial, through art installations and performances. Together they invented the first 3D projection mapping system in 2003. Their joint show with Carolyn Carlson, "Double Vision", was created in 2006 and will be played in 2016 at Chaillot.

A collaborative element can be found in YAK’s work, including Elyx. Free downloads of his drawings are regularly available on "Elyx parties" are festive examples of “participation”. Everyone is invited to create their own scenarios. "I like this idea of participating in the development of a parallel economy, an economy of desire, independent of the traditional financial system," says the artist for whom the "like" function is like a mini-dose of dopamine. A click, a gesture of devotion? Aimed at the community cult, YAK has defined an iconographic grammar of a new kind. During this adventure we were invited to read the book "Elyx, Ambassador of Smiles", published by Editions du Chêne, a book of 240 pages where on coated paper, you can catch Elyx in all his pranks.

Follow Elyx on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Images courtesy of the artist

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