Anyone who uses social media has come across it at some point – the meme.
There are the classic animal memes, featuring cats and 'Doge', or the more recent "2020 Challenge", in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, or the man skateboarding along to Fleetwood Mac's Dreams or "How it's started / How it's going". This paragraph is, arguably, evidence that the visual medium does not lend itself to a written description.
Now, this ubiquitous element of internet culture is the focus of an art exhibition titled Memennial 2020: A Biennial 4 Memes.
The artist-led initiative will debut in December across three cities, Seattle, Dallas and Sydney, and will include meme screenings, shows with physical artworks and an online exhibition with digital art. Writing and analysis around meme culture will also be included.
On the Memennial website, the organisers elevate the role of the meme beyond a visual expression of humour: “Memes move elections / Memes move revolutions / Memes move consciousness / Memes move laughter out of our dark cavernous guts”.
Adding: “They serve as a coping mechanism during the first global pandemic in our lifetimes. They subvert discourse faster than any other medium. They create society.”
This first biennial for memes is founded by artist Anam Bahlam, who told Artnet News, “Memes are free and author-less and make me think about society a little differently. So I wanted to honour these aesthetic creators.”
Bahlam will curate the show with Soomi Han, and together they have selected the artists in the exhibition, including Hannah Epstein, Rowen Foster and Sylv Hannah.
They are also accepting submissions via an online open call, where individuals from around the world can submit memes, digital art, object-based art and writings on memes until November 22.
Defined as a replicable idea within a culture or society, the internet meme has taken the form of image-and-text combinations featuring animals, cartoons, TV shows or stock images. The results are shared on social media as jokes or reactions, and often "go viral" or spread quickly online.
More information on Memennial 2020: A Biennial 4 Memes can be found on biennial4memes.com