Our new Lifestyle section takes a voyeuristic peek at the world beyond watches. It could include anything from fashion, to art, to cinema to travel to the latest gadgets. We’ve invited a variety of writers from all walks of life to write about a wide range of topics to inform, entertain, and maybe even educate. Emily Longstaff, who also writes for www.Art Observed.com reports on the ‘Lolcats Exhibishun.’
Lolcats, Framer’s Gallery, London January 23 – February 15 2013
Can a feline internet phenomenon successfully translate as material for an art gallery setting?
Over the years, the concept of ‘contemporary art’ has been constantly in flux. Dating back to the early 20th century when Paul Cezanne unveiled his ‘shocking’ works that we now know as Cubism, we, as a society, have been unremittingly challenged as to what we are able to deem as ‘art’.
However, this January you needn’t be worried about nudity or scenes of an explicit nature being present in the contemporary art scene. In fact, the more Avant Garde works of art that are currently in fashion couldn’t be more child friendly; the worst crime that the artists who created them commit is the misspelling of words… You’ve guessed it, our guilty pleasure of watching singing, dancing cats online is now, not only viral, but has miraculously worked its way into art galleries too!
The term Lolcats was of course coined after the acronym of LOL was invented as an abbreviated stand in for ‘laugh out loud’. The use of the phraseology became so popular via online social media that many people, including myself, now use the term ubiquitously and not just as a way of expressing a side splittingly funny moment. Shortly after social media jargon began taking the nation by storm, we all started turning to online videos and posting our own creations. Then all it took was the advent of a humorous cat and the omission of a space bar for ‘lolcats’ to be born.
The oddity of such furry individuals being classed as ‘art’ however, isn’t as strange as you might think. If you consider the likes of the graffiti artist Banksy and his works, you can appreciate that this is just an example of the natural progression of society. What we previously considered as pointless and even criminal in the first instance (i.e. Banksy’s iconic street art) is now being flipped on its head and deemed something of great worth.
This is perhaps the best turn contemporary art has taken in a while as most exhibitions lately either seem to be purposely designed to antagonise, or just, well, seem devoid of all purpose altogether. The concept of having a singing, dancing virtual cat may not seem all that valuable, but if you think about how much laughter and joy such creations bring all over the world you can recognise that the advent of such creatures was purely for entertainment – and that is a better ‘purpose’ for art than I have seen in a long time.
However, any introduction of a new medium of art will undoubtedly be met by critics and spectators that will attempt to draw metaphorical meaning from the works, and in some cases, take great offence. Dieme Rosser is a contributing artist (out of a total of 49 in the show) that has reproduced images of the devil as a cat in a comedic manner, making ‘Lucifer’, as he is referred to, seem altogether friendly. His main exhibition piece is entitled Hail Lucifer and consists of a brightly coloured mono print version of a cartoonised kitten with a yellow and blue halo that projects varying shades of pink. He wears a golden crown perhaps denoting religious power, potentially symbolising the son of God. The twist to the image however, is that as the eye progresses down the feline’s body, a symbol of a smiling heart with a cross resting in its surface appears to be on fire. On closer inspection, the detail of the additional cross appears more sinister than at first glance. The emblem is piercing the creature’s heart in a sacrilegious way.
The public display of such symbolism could be deemed as offensive. However what is an exhibition, or ‘Exhibishun’ as curator Jenny Theolin refers to the show as, without some form of controversy. Those who don’t take offence, and equally find the comic display highly amusing, have the option to purchase a limited edition, black and white print T-shirt in the style of the artwork.
Another source of controversy that can be found within the collection is the representation of Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks over the notorious scandal that shocked the public last year. Editor of News of the World, Brooks, was caught phone hacking in a bid to cash in on the private lives of many famous celebrities and politicians. She, along with Rupert Murdoch, were the subject of extremely negative press due to the scandal which caused News of the World to close after nearly two centuries of business. Brooks is still currently being tried in the courts over the hacking incident as she broke the law on many accounts in a bid to obtain her gossip.
The Lolcats piece by artist Lizzie Mary Cullen, consists of a watercolour depiction of the pair whereby Brook’s hair is emphasised in a humorous manner and Murdoch is featured (obviously in cat form) towering over the feline Brooks in oversized glasses telling her to ‘SSSHHHHHH…’. The misspelling of the text juxtaposed within the image ‘I found sumfink..’ appears not only to reconcile with the rest of the collection’s phonetics, but it appears to exemplify the potential stupidity of the pair for thinking they could get away with such a scandal. The airy water markings also hint at the transparency of the characters not only in their representation but in their literal personae.
Lolcats may be something that many of us use to zone out at work and take the pressures out of our day to day lives. It may also be a vice for innocent child’s play or humorous puns. However, via putting such a creation into a formal art scenario we can observe the relevance of the medium as a communicative platform in which to express our beliefs regarding political and religious matters. Either that or we can simply have a giggle at them on our lunch break.