Inside the exhibition celebrating meme culture
What do you meme?
[O]ut of nowhere, a wild event appeared: described as “an exhibition celebrating meme culture”, it seems that 9.2k Facebook users are interested in celebrating and over 2.4k have already bought their party hats and are promising to attend What do you meme? at Holdron’s Arcade, London in mid-August. Hosted by Maisie Post and Jake Rees, two Central Saint Martins graduates with a love of art and memes, What do you meme? is part of Post’s mission “to celebrate memes as a higher art form”.
Memes, as the event description rightly declares, “have moved a long way from websites such as Reddit and 4chan” and now are “used as communication across cultures”, so it only seems fair to commemorate the exposure that our internet culture has caused. From fashion trends to university lecture slides to the very articles on Hunger, memes have sprung themselves into every aspect of our lives. We spoke to Maisie Post to find out exactly what does it meme?
What made you decide to produce this exhibition?
It was something I’d been thinking about for a while, incorporating Internet culture and post-internet art into a gallery setting. Then I clocked that memes would be more than enough content. It also came from a genuine light-hearted love for memes and as far as I was aware no one had curated an exhibition celebrating meme culture before.
I saw memes as a type of folk art, made for the people by the people, the difference was in the tools used, such as Photoshop and pixels over wood or clay. I wanted to take a different angle with memes, moving away from the 4chan boys club and showing the different communities that exist within meme culture. Memes are a running commentary on society; they are topical and give a comical twist on current affairs. Exploring this discourse within a gallery setting creates an opportunity to give resonance to memes, a practice that has been portrayed as low culture. Celebrating them and giving an alternative to the elitist nature of the art world.
Did you expect the event to become as popular as it has on Facebook?
The event has itself inadvertently turned into a meme. Very meta.
What is it about memes that you think appeals to our generation so much?
Memes encapsulate popular culture, politics, sports, fashion and art. We are digital natives living in a time where we have everything at our fingertips; it is extremely exciting. As prosumers we no longer settle for just consuming content, we want to produce it too. Memes are the perfect intersection to this. They give us instant gratification, our generation is said to have an Instagram concentration span, memes give you information in an easy, comical and digestible way. People would much rather repost a meme that stated their opinion than read and repost a solid piece of text on the same topic. It’s the relatable nature that comes with memes that makes them so popular.
Why do you think internet culture has become so influential in every aspect of our current society?
I don’t differentiate between our current society and Internet culture anymore. They are intertwined in that they now mirror each other. Maybe that’s because I’ve grown up with the Internet and been plugged in, online and active. Internet culture creates a sense of community: something so fleeting and simple can instantly engage and relate to people. I think, especially for my generation, Internet culture is something that creates a sense of place. It also allows people to have more of a say, it creates a level playing field, something that is lacking in our current society. For example, Facebook and Twitter are platforms where anyone can share their opinion online, there is to some extent no filter, and that can be a very powerful thing.
So what can we expect from the 'What Do You Meme?' exhibition?
What Do You Meme? brings together the work of five female memeological artists, with open submissions from the Internet and the added input from serious meme trolls. And by the looks of it over 2 thousand meme appreciators crammed into the Back Room gallery of Holdron’s Arcade, Peckham. Memes are love, memes are life. It’s all ogre now.
Follow the exhibition on Insta and join the event on Facebook to get you in the mood for August 8th-22nd at Holdron’s Arcade. Look out for a Kickstarter campaign coming out soon with rewards to raise money to make this meme fest the best it can be.