Memes at UMD’s Art Gallery

By Joe Zimmermann, Bloc Reporter

Cats playing instruments, foreign music videos and pictures of celebrities can be found everywhere on social media sites and Internet forums, but not in art galleries.

An exhibit that opened March 13 in the Art-Sociology Building showcases the videos, images and GIFs that become viral on the Internet, otherwise known as memes.

The exhibit titled “What’s in a Meme?” is the first of its kind to display the various characters and parodies of the digital age in an art gallery, said event curator Kate Kula.

Kula, graduate assistant of this university’s art gallery, did not want to define memes as art.

The exhibit’s goal is to spark thoughtful discussion concerning diverse memes that are often passed off as a quick laugh, Kula said.

“It’s becoming a conversation people are having,” she said. “I believe it was this past January; they dedicated an issue of a scholarly journal to memes and to studying them.”

Today’s art culture often absorbs popular memes and repurposes them, Kula said.

“Scholars in sociology and science have published and are starting to publish books on what it means to go viral,” she said.

“I think in the coming years it will definitely be even more prevalent. I think galleries are starting to catch on to that to a certain extent.”

The exhibit featured everything from “Gangnam Style” and “The Shining” recut as a romantic comedy to, “Pepper Spraying Cop” and “Feminist Ryan Gosling.”

To add, the exhibit showcased “LOLcats” and other things “that become culturally significant every day when you go online or open your email,” Kula said.

The gallery displayed memes on screens or projectors to present them exactly as they were created.

Madeline Gent, an art history graduate student, enjoyed how the exhibit brought these familiar memes to a new space.

“It’s incredibly exciting and educational and fun,” she said. “For most of us, this is something so fun and it’s such a nice break.”

But are they art?

Abram Fox, also an art history graduate student, said “yes.”

“They are a public experience and they have aesthetic qualities and people think they are art,” Fox said. “I would say that makes them art.”

“It’s cool,” he said. “You don’t really see people talking this much and laughing with strangers at an art exhibit.”

The Art Gallery will continue the exhibit until April 26.

2 responses to “Memes at UMD’s Art Gallery”

  1. […] we have to see them after class,” said Katherine Kula, curator of the art gallery’s “What’s in a Meme?” exhibit. “Hopefully they’ll come […]

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