LOLCAT: TEH EXHIBISHUN

LOLcat: Teh Exhibishun
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LOLCAT: TEH EXHIBISHUN



Written by James Read
21 Monday 21st January 2013

Top image: Nyan Cat in Sydney, Matt Harvey

How has the show come together, from first idea to the imminent opening?

It has taken nine months from me jokingly tweeting “Anybody fancy being part of an exhibition about LOLcats?” to where we are now. I was absolutely blown away with enthusiastic responses, and before I knew it, I had over 45 confirmed artists – who would have thunk it?

I chose this concept, because it is something that truly resonates in today's internet culture and is a contemporary method of communication.  What started as an experiment, bringing this notorious internet meme into a mainstream physical environment, is proving to be one of most interesting projects I have ever created and curated. But, I'm sure you won't be surprised that I still get quite a few "you're doing what?, "I have no idea what you're talking about?', but since it's all about cats and humour, it's still a concept most people can connect with.

Keyboard Cat, Charlie Farncombe (larger version here)

And have there been any hurdles?

Plenty of hurdles. All my exhibitions have been projects realised without any brand partnerships nor funding. The amount of effort to find sponsors and assure artists that I will secure sufficient exposure in return for their skill and time is not an easy task.

However, it was the hunt for a venue (with 40+ art pieces already completed) without budget nor sponsors, which was probably the hardest. But, if you don’t ask you don’t get, and through a tenacious couple of months, I was recommended to speak with Artefact Picture Framers who own The Framers Gallery. They immediately saw the potential and uniqueness of the exhibition and the value in raising funds for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home – so I am extremely grateful for them donating us their space. After securing the venue, everything else slowly fell into place, most recently with EventBrite becoming our Private View sponsor.

Tailors, Paul Mcanelly

You've been running the rather popular lolcatalog.tumblr.com since March 2012. You must've seen more than a few cat photos. What's your number one cat-based meme, and why?

This all started with a bet. I challenged my friend, and designer, Francis O’Donnell Smith to send me one LOLcat per hour for 24hrs – and our private LOLcat-O-Clock joke was born. Boy did my archive of cats in bread, ceilings and playing piano grow. Something had to be done, so I started lolcatalog to archive and share this ever-growing menagerie of felines purring on my desktop.

I’ve probably seen most LOLcats on the web one way or another, so this is a really hard question. My favourite memes must be the ones generated in response to something topical, like Carl, which appeared only half a day after the story broke. But also, classics like “SOON” and “Nyan Cat” tickle me pink.

Murdoch LOLcat, Lizzie Mary Cullen

As you point out in the exhibition info, amusing cat photos have been around since the 1870s - what do you think sets LOLcats apart from the marginalised lineage of cat portraiture?

I find the psychological aspect of LOLcats the most interesting – the fact that they are part of modern day communication. That is what sets them apart - they are quick, witty and off the cuff. A fantastic example of people being able to instantly express themselves creatively over social media.

Memes Scarf, Victoria Kochowski

You've got Kate Milner (author of Srsly Phenomenal: An investigation into the appeal of LOLcats) giving a talk at the exhibition. Can you summarise her body of research in brief?

One step better, here is a quote from Kate about the concept and the exhibition:

”One of the things that art does is allow us to reflect upon and interpret our environments and experiences. LOLcats are a big part of both for many of us, particularly in the digital realm. Researcher Laurel Braitman commented that our preoccupation with things like LOLcats indicates how important animals are in our collective imagination-- we had animals beside us in the fields, and now we've got them beside us in our cubicles. Even if LOLcats were just a bunch of funny kitty pictures, this choice would be significant.

LOLcats are more than just funny kitty pictures, though. They are a venue for expressing our feelings and dissecting our foibles. They have inspired a massive community and a language. Furthermore, they were the first bit of internet culture that crossed over into the mainstream. For many people, especially those who don't spend a ton of time on the internet, "funny cat pictures" are shorthand for internet culture as a whole. From my perspective, it makes total sense that a phenomenon with this level of cultural significance would be explored through other art forms.”

Monorail Cat, Alex Piercy (for larger version, see here)

Alex Piercy's excellent Monorail Cat seems particularly poignant with the 150th anniversary of the Tube, similarly reflected in today's Google Doodle. Where's your favourite place in London?

Since we’re on the topic of cats, I would recommend a visit to the statue of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s cat Hobbs – just off Fleet Street.

Escata for Fashion Forward Felines, Sneaky Raccoon

Do you have any cats yourself? If so, what's the stupidest/funniest things they've done?

Ironically, I don’t particularly like cats. But, of course I have one! Miss Mustard Explosion The Cat is much loved across Instagram and social media herself. Here she is being a Derp with some water.

I see you’re familiar with CatsInSinks.com!

 

LOLcats: Teh Exhibishun is opening at The Framers Gallery this Wednesday 23 January. For more info, visit lolcattehexhibishun.com

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