Are LOLCats and Internet Memes Art? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios


Here’s an idea. Anyone who has
ever made a LOLcat has also made a work of art. So chances are if you’ve made
it this far on the Internet, you’ve probably seen
an internet meme. They take tons of different
forms– funny pictures of cats, dogs giving advice, people
wearing sunglasses, sad guys, happy guys, superheroes,
chickens, mermaids, Leroy Jenkins– Leroy! It’s as if there
are over 9,000– nah. Old meme is old. And anyone can do it. You just go online to some
quick meme generator thing, fill in some of your
personal experience, blam! You got a meme. But wait. People are creating
images and sharing them with strangers for the
purpose of communicating their personal experiences? That, my friends, is
art, plain and simple. OK, we understand that
meme makers would probably refuse the title of artist. They’re a very modest bunch. But some of history’s
biggest thinkers might take one look at Socially
Awkward Penguin and say “art.” For instance, literary giant
Leo Tolstoy says the following. “To evoke in oneself a feeling
one has once experienced and having evoked it in oneself,
then by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds,
or forms expressed in words so to transmit that
feeling that others experience the same feeling, this
is the activity of art.” He didn’t know it,
but Tolstoy was writing about internet culture. And on top of that,
Aristotle talks about the artist planning
and then executing an act of catharsis. Fuuuu– And if there’s
anything that this stuff is, it’s cathartic. User-generated culture is kind
of like Andy Warhol’s factory in hyperdrive. It’s a high-speed
collaboration between people recombining popular media,
advertising, everything into new forms. And the art exists almost
entirely independently of any particular artist. The originator is
almost a novelty. So we have Tolstoy, Aristotle,
and Warhol on our side. Of course, there will be some
people who will disagree. Philosophers Immanuel
Kant and David Hume might say that Internet
memes don’t count as art because they’re not beautiful. I for one disagree. [CHORAL MUSIC] British historian
R. G. Collingwood might say that Internet memes
are the performance of emotion and not its true
expression, making meme makers ranters and
ravers and not actual artists. That actually makes some sense. There are maybe 100 reasons
both for and against, but what’s exciting
is that this is a body of work produced
collaboratively by tens, maybe hundreds of thousands
of people across the globe. Anyone can get involved. That’s something we’ve
never seen before. That’s pretty astounding. What do you guys think? Do you think Internet
memes are works of art? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to subscribe. It’s right there. Hey, there were a lot of
comments on the Lana and Miku video. Let’s see what you
guys had to say. People clearly find Miku Hatsune
to be the more authentic pop star. A lot of people commented
that they didn’t even know who Lana Del Rey is. Snowedkami makes a
really good point about the labor that goes
into performing on stage. Charonchan makes a really
good case for Miku’s realness based upon the realness of
the people who create her. DINGOlord makes a really
awesome comparison between Miku and the animated
pop super group Gorillaz. Pooton wants to know where
we get our ideas from. Mostly our work is fueled
by coffee and sugary snacks. But we also want to
hear some of your ideas. What do you guys want
to see a show about? Send us an email. There’s a link in
the description. And to our friend Jonathan
Holmes at Destructoid, you’re welcome.

Danny Hutson

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