A new exhibition in LA offers a look at the feminist memes you double tap on Instagram and scream “same” at, but this time they’re IRL. By Any Memes Necessary is a meme-centric art show about the realities of empathy and coping. The line up of meme makers for this show is truly droolworthy, including @tequilafunrise, @scariest_bug_ever, @versace_tamagotchi, @sensualmemes, @bunnymemes, @gothshakira, and @ka5sh. By Any Memes Necessary establishes the work of these meme makers as not only internet masters, but also artists. We spoke to the show’s curator ka5sh about curating dank memes, the future of the medium, and how they can help build an online and offline safe space.
Where did the inspiration behind the show come from?
The inspiration came from me being frustrated that people weren't taking what I was doing seriously. Me and a lot of my friends are making very specific memes. Memes that I felt like were art. They are memes that come from sometimes really dark places, but we use them to get through it or cope with it. And it would make me so angry when people would like take them and not credit the creator or like remove the watermark or just remake them and pass it off as their work. Like these are art pieces and I want people to take what we are doing a little bit more seriously. We are turning our thoughts and problems into funny relatable content that's wild. That's amazing.
Empathy and coping aren't typical words that are associated with memes. Do you think memes are a medium that can bring people together?
Yes. I remember finding Goth Shakira and @scariest_bug_ever when @versace_tamagotchi tagged them in one of my emotional sad memes and he was like, you guys all need to follow each other. And I saw that they had their own like amazing style of writing and creating memes about things that were never really discussed in meme culture. And these things that they were talking about I'm sure we're experienced specifically by them, but people are still able to find something in the memes and go "lmao same. Woah, I'm not alone. I'm not the only one that's sad as hell and addicted to the internet. I'm not the only one who's had traumatic experiences and don't know how to deal with them in a healthy manner. I'm not alone. I'm not 'crazy' for feeling this way. Woah, same."
What do memes represent when they move from URL to IRL?
I think memes moving URL to IRL gives us memers and content creators more options. Because I'm sure almost 99% of us are broke and can't figure out how to monetize what were doing so I think shifting the idea from. This being just memes and becoming art will open more doors
Do you envision memes hanging in the Whitney and MOMA one day?
Of course. I remember my friend was saying memes are apart of the neo-Dada movement. And I didn't know what that meant, but it sounded tight, so I googled it and I feel the same way, like this is the next wave of art. Memes have existed since the beginning of time, says the definition of memes and meme theory, so it's only fitting for these to be put into galleries. I'm Andy Warhol rn with the mf pop art content memes.
There are so many dank memes out there. How did you choose the ones that are appearing in the show?
God I know, I wanna put ever mf meme in the world in there. There are so many I'm missing out on I want to include so many people in this, but I feel like the people I picked for the show are the pioneers of the new meme as an art form movement so I think anything that give me is fire by default.
You're a meme maker yourself. Can you tell us about the process of making a meme, from conception to posting on social media?
It's hard to describe my thing because sometimes a meme comes to me in a vision and I'm like FUCCCCCCK THIS IS SO FUNNY and I make it. I like to play with different levels of irony and formats. I wanna make a book so people that art memers can understand what it is I do. Like mixing mediums, I do that with irony. So if I see a trend of one format I'll take that and flip that idea with something else old or new or just completely random. Sometimes I sit on like a caption for days and can't find a picture to express that thought so I surf apps looking for the perfect picture to express that thought. Then sometimes I just go through my phone and look at my saved pictures and make something surrounding that.
What was the last meme that had you screaming?
Ugh honestly it's so hard to make me like SCREAM, seeing every meme ever all the time makes you broken, and only weird shit makes me laugh. Like normal things. Like I found my friend’s dad on Facebook and he was just a normal guy named Bob. That made me laugh for hours.
By Any Memes Necessary opens February 10 in Los Angeles at Junior High gallery.
Top photo by @sensual_memes
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Mo Johnson is a twenty-one-year-old women’s studies major at The George Washington University. Her writings on sex, relationships, and what it means to be a millennial woman can be found on her blog. Follow her on Instagram.