Not many lols at Lolcats - Teh Exhibishun
As the comical internet meme makes a foray into the world of 'serious' art with an exhibition, The Independent's Tom Peck tests his funny bone - with disappointing results
Ears erect, tail curled under its body, the tiny tortoiseshell cat has its back to the viewer. Feline thoughts are heavy on its angled shoulders as it perches upon thin air, high above jagged peaks and an alpine lake. At the lake’s edge, in stencil, run confounded Second World War policemen wearing circular metal hats.
Morphism III - Dumbfounded, by Martin Parris, is the third in his series of three works at Lolcat - Teh Exhibishun, a new art show in London attracting all too predictable attention.
“Can we take the LOLCAT phenomenon and elevate it to the level of art?” Is the question asked on its promotional literature at the Framers Gallery, near Soho. Evidently, you can try.
Click here or on "View Images" for a picture preview of Lolcats - Teh Exhibishun
If you don’t know what a lolcat is, congratulations, but to humanity’s eternal shame it can rightly be described as a phenomenon. Just type the word - a conjoining of lol, online speak for ‘laugh out loud’, and cat - into Google Images, and brace yourself for a tsunami of powerfully weird and dangerously unfunny nonsense.
There are millions of them. The premise is simple. Take a picture of a cat, add what you think the cat is thinking, but spell it like a toddler (cats are thick, after all), then tweet it, post it on Facebook and send it to everyone with whom you’ve ever exchanged an email. “I Can Has Cheezburger” is probably the most famous, the caption written beneath a fat Persian blue grinning apologetically for having seemingly just shat on the rug. Its name was given to a wildly popular blog that would eventually secure its founder a £20m investment.
But is it art? Well no, though Lolcat - Teh Exhibishun, with its 49 works on a theme of Lolcat is giving it a decent go.
A series of cartoons by Anthony Smith succeed where all the unknown billions of actual lolcats fail, in that they are genuinely funny. One, entitled Dameow Hirst, depicts a bespectacled cat, proudly displaying his latest work - a dog, bisected and suspended in formaldehyde.
But alas next to it hangs I Has Found Wormhole! by Alix Lind. Two black outlines sit in adjacent frames. One is a cat from the front, the other a cat from behind. For the artist, and precisely no one else, “This piece pays homage to the extra-terrestrial pursuits of the feline species; specifically their interplanetary mischief and flagrant disregard for the space time continuum.”
Elsewhere in the two room gallery, three large photographs of cute tabbies lovingly anthropomorphised in apricot knitwear are on sale for £210 each, or, unframed for £15, which may shed a little light on their artistic merit.
“It started with my daily twitter interactions with my friends, everyone always sending lolcats to each other” admits Jenny Theolin, the Swedish curator for whom Lolcats - Teh Exhibishun is the culmination of nine months work. “Once, I challenged my friend Francis to send me one lolcat an hour for a whole working day. He did it! Eventually I started a blog called lolcatalogue, and then via twitter I asked if anyone would want to do a physical exhibition of lolcats, and it went from there.”
Cats have long beguiled intellectuals. T.S. Eliot rather tragically expended a sizeable proportion of his most productive years writing poems about them, which in an Oppenheimer-esque fable came to be misappropriated by Andrew Lloyd Webber and debased to form the musical Cats. Ms Theolin suffers the same inexplicably common enchantment, which she thinks explains the overwhelming march of the lolcat.
“It's their intellect. They have so many hidden layers," she claims. "Just today i was sent a video of a dog barking at a cat, and when the dog turns round, the cat starts miaowing. How can you imagine what the cat is thinking there?" She is not finished. "What lolcats do, is they get people to communicate in a completely different space online. There is just so much to cats, their personality, and things you can play on. It evokes more creativity than loldogs or lolgoats could ever do.”
Within a day of the exhibit opening earlier this week, 12 of the 49 had already been sold. Manuel Archain’s,The Smallest Cat In The World - a photograph of an adorable little kitten sat in the shadow of giant mugs, pencils and other paraphernalia, and made to look the size of a bit of belly button fluff is available at £2,100. It’s partner, The Biggest Cat In The World, is slightly cheaper, and shows a smoky grey feline deity nestled in green mountains towering over an Eastern Temple.
For those with weightier matters on their minds, Lizzie Mary Cullen’s £450 watercolour, Murdoch Cat, recasts Rupert Brooks and Rupert Murdoch as frightened little kitties. “I found sumfinc secret. I eated dem,” explains a radiantly ginger moggie to her besptacled overlord, as she sits infront of a box marked ‘Super Duper Secret Docs’. You could call it ‘catire’, but then, it’s hard to believe the whole ridiculous thing isn’t.
Tom Peck's verdict:
Cat Rupert and Cat Rebekahm up to no good. This is the sort of satire that brings down corporations.
Morphism III - Dumbfounded
‘Eventually never comes’ is the conclusion one is meant to draw from this tortoiseshell doing The Snowman over some mountains. Except it does, usually in the form of a vet holding a syringe.
Tranz Cat Flickz Rubber Bandz
Paying homage to Eddie Izzard, a transvestite ginger tabby flicks a rubber band. Our lives are complete.
The Smallest Cat in the World
Look at that little kitty. He could fit in a thimble. Adorable. I want him. Ah, he’s two grand.
The tube map, with lolcats for stops. No Catford? No White Kitty? C+.
Click here for more pictures
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Contemporary art is a fraud, says top dealer
Family Guy, BBC2 - review: The Simpsons crossover highlights gulf between the cartoons
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture