WTF is Art Issue #4: Iz degrade myself more?

Alright, so it’s been awhile since I’ve wailed on something someone’s called art.

So here it is people, issue #4 of “WTF is Art”.

As I was tag surfing, something I like to do, yanno check out what other artists are creating and what inspires them I found this:

Call for Lolcat Art Submissions – The LolΒ Arts

We are looking for artists to participate in a formal LOLcat art show – the first Internet meme art movement of its kind. The exhibit will open on Thursday, October 23rd in San Francisco. (You do not need to live in SF to participate.)

Each artist will create work inspired by LOLcats in any media.

The field is ripe for your artistic interpretation of this pertinent symbolic currency.

If you are one of those rare few who don’t know what Lol cats are, then RUN.

Just drop whatever you’re holding and run for your life, your grammar, and your sanity.

Trust Me, I’m doing you a favour.

For those masochists among my readers, you can see what I’m talking about here.

Right, so who the hell am I to say what can and can’t inspire someone? Fair enough.

In fact, I’m sure I could come up with a few anti-Lolz inspired pieces myself, but regardless of how fair I try to be, all that comes to mind is that it’s F-ing Moronic.

I mean, if this truly is a symbol reflecting the values of society then I’m jumping ship and joining the anarchists. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats, hell, I like all animals. Maybe it’s that fact that causes me to get so nauseated when hundred of pet owners’ brains drop into their feet when their pet does something cute. If it is a comment on society, it’s that nowadays the pets are probably smarter than their owners.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m scared that society and the art community are degenerating so badly that art galleries will be chucking out the DaVincis, Rembrants, VanGoghs and Pollocks of the art world and replacing them with portraits of Snowball Snugglemuffin the 3rd doing something cute.

Come on people, this is EXACTLY why artists were signing urinals and selling them. It was and seems to still be the fact that society is so F-ing stupid and will buy anything labeled art.

I think the saddest thing about this whole thing is that, yes, for a second I considered it as a means of getting easy exposure.

Screw that.

If that’s the way things are going to be I’ll happily live my life as a starving artist or hang up my brushes forever.


12 thoughts on “WTF is Art Issue #4: Iz degrade myself more?

  1. Um…the grammar is supposed to be bad. That’s half the fun.

    Ha! I just remembered that I made my LOLjon at that site.

    And sure, it may be moronic in some cases, but I believe that at least half of LOLcat “artists” are aware of this and most likely don’t even own cats, and simply modify the text. That would make the “art” ironic. Isn’t that a theme in creative circles?

    “I can haz Anhceint of Dayz naio? May be a Neuton?”

    It also appears that some of the proceeds will be going to charity. So I don’t know if it’s EXACTLY why people signed urinals and sold/labeled them as art.

    And since you’ve reacted so strongly to this particular facet of the LOLcat phenomenon, I assume you must be unaware of this site:

    I’m sorry if it seems I’m defending this meme, but really, I just can’t take it seriously.


  2. I’m going to agree with Mark on this one.

    Yes, they are stupid and some can be amusing in their own right despite their flaws. Some are so stupid they come around the corner back into funny again though.

    While I’m sure that some of them are done in earnest “awww isn’t that a cute snugglekitty”, like Mark said, most are done with the full knowledge of their own banality/idiocy/mediocrity/etc. It’s part of what the viral internet meme culture thrives on.

    And I feel that saying people will be tossing out the Rembrandts and Van Goghs and replacing them with lolcats is somewhat extreme. Sure society as a whole should receive a swift kick in the head but I wouldn’t worry all that much about lolcats taking over the local gallery. Memes like lolcat (or the numa numa song, or “all your base are belong to us”) are all flash in the pan. The people that create them will be distracted by something new and shiny soon enough. Interest will fade and they’ll be relegated to a footnote on a wikipedia article on memes.

    Overall I understand your distaste and where you’re coming from but personally I think you’re overreacting somewhat.

    Sure the grammar is enough to makes english majors like ourselves weep at the bastardization of the lingua pura but lighten up a little and just turn your brain off for a bit. It’s not serious and shouldn’t be given more than a second thought.


  3. While I understand you two defending it, I think you’re both too enamoured of internet memes to fully appreciate the nature of her argument.

    What she seems mainly concerned about is the idea of legitimization of the meme as something beyond that. Whether ironically driven or not, this showing will undoubtedly receive some measure of media coverage, and, since there are undoubtedly numerous idiots out there, it may be interepreted as more substantial of a concept than it is.

    I think that, as an artist, this sort of thing is more frustrating to her than it would be to the rest of us, but if you think about it from a literary perspective, you can understand her meaning.

    M, don’t you die a little inside when you see another Harold Bloom book being taught as truth (they’re using his “The Best Poems of the English Language” as a textbook for some classes here where I work.)?

    Don’t you both just cringe and want to kill people when you hear people in a theater (not children) laughing about the trailer to “The Love Guru,” “Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” or “The House Bunny”?

    Don’t the continued presences of Clive Cussler, Danielle Steele, and Harold Robbins on the bestseller lists make you angry?

    This is the continued dumbing down of our society, and I’m bloody sick of Sonic playing MIA’s “Paper Plains.”

    And yes, I am aware of all internet traditions.


  4. Yup ironic art is a theme in creative circles.
    Just like I could say it’s ironic that it takes this type of blog post to get anyone to comment on my site.
    (But I wouldn’t want to get chided for misusing the word).

    Sure it’s great that “some” of the proceeds will be going to charity.
    I mean isn’t that the “in” way for people to justify all kinds of things now a days?
    Well that and it makes for a handy little tax write off.
    You want to support a charity?
    Mail them a cheque, because the 10 or whatever cents from each sale isn’t going to do jack.

    And you’re right. This isn’t exactly why people signed urinals.
    Things hadn’t gotten this bad yet.
    Perhaps what society and the “art” community needs is for someone to come along
    and draw a LOLcat on a urinal first, sign it and THEN give the urinal to some homeless person.
    But I’m sure even that statement would be lost on them.

    So yes, I am reacting strongly to this and no, I wouldn’t say I’m overreacting either.
    It’s precisely this passion that helps make me the artist I am, for whatever that’s worth.

    Here’s a few links for your perusal:

    lolvant garde-bringing you the inevitable convergence of contemporary art and internet slang.

    What people are saying:
    “They’ve spawned a book, and now they’re staging what will surely be the most
    important and revelatory art show of all time ever.”

    Marianne Goldin’s lolcat art show
    Her artist statement is also on that site.


  5. ok well i actually thought about what my position would be on this little discussion. I was going to explain why i understand this frustration, even how this is a good drive for your creativity. This seems to have inspired you to know what don’t want your art to be. But personally, I don’t take the lolz too seriously. There are “LOLZ” in all forms of art. Like J said, there are enough examples out there to make the case.
    I don’t think its overreacting if you have a passion for the visual arts (in this case).
    But I’ve seen some LOLz that were funny, i must admit; “WHAT” -right M? And most of them are really cute…(the burrito one?) How can you take these seriously? I know I’ll never take it further than that. But that’s just me. Some people do (like Amanda demonstrated) and that’s what’s frustrating.


  6. I defy all of you to go to that third site Amanda linked to and not be disgusted.

    If you’re not disgusted by reading that “artist’s” statement, then you’re missing the point entirely.


  7. I defy.

    I suppose I should answer for what I’ve typed, although neither of you seemed to realize that I wasn’t actually defending this particular expression. But I feel that there’s probably a good discussion afoot and so I’ll go ahead and defend lolcat-art anyway. Sorry my response is so long, but I hope everyone appreciates it in the spirit in which it is posted.


    First, I’ll address your analogy of art (lolcats) to literary criticism (Bloom).

    In my experience, Bloom has never been taught as the truth, but as a perspective. And whether or not I die inside is somewhat of a ridiculous point to make considering I own four of his books. They were all bought by me, for me, to be used by me. As I recall you’ve said in the past, Bloom is a great counter-point for an argument. I guess we’ve both helped to “legitimize” him.

    And if a student is stupid enough to believe that Bloom is “the truth” and not just a perspective, or a teacher stupid enough to teach Bloom that way, then it is they who have both failed in their readings of literature and whatever it may have been able to teach them about anything, not Bloom, as much as I love to disagree with him.

    But to detail my own personal reaction to Bloom, I’d have to say it would be one of anger over what I consider to be his wrong-headed arguments on originality that ignited my passions and to be honest, I’ve never despised anything that has set them aflame. And if he can get such a reaction from me, doesn’t it make him good material for the classroom? At least it shows a level of interest on the part of the frustrated student.

    And using his choices as a textbook in university a bad thing? Although I might not agree with all his choices, or the way in which he made them, let’s take a look at the authors he focuses on in the Western Canon since I don’t have the particular text you mentioned at hand: Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, Montaigne, Moliere, Milton, Johnson, Goethe, Austen, Whitman, Dickinson, Dickens, George Eliot, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Borges, Neruda, and of course, Shakespeare. All suitable for university and none demonstrably as flippant in nature as a lolcat. I’m sure Bloom would go on to say that there are other works worth reading as well…

    Your comparison ends up falling a little more than flat. For example, I’d say Bloom easily knows three times as much about literature than the two of us put together. He’s memorized epics. He’s defended the classics while they’ve been removed from both public schools and universities. If anything he’s attempted to retain the status quo, if not the value, of literature and its canon. Given that, I’d suggest he might have more in common with Amanda’s perspective on lolcat art than mine.

    In other words, I’m perfectly happy that Bloom is publishing, and if his words are taught as “the truth” that makes me no more disappointed than if anything else had been taught as such. To be explicit, it makes more sense to attack those who teach Bloom as truth than it does to attack Bloom himself. Bloom can be attacked for his own merits without anyone else getting in the way between me and him. Others can take care of themselves.

    And about those movies and authors. Yes, I’m depressed to see such examples of humanity enjoying these cultural artifacts but I also realize that there’s nothing I can do about it. Sadly those types of movies have been around since the silver age of film. And those authors don’t really make me angry, more like annoyed, or some such variation of that mixed with the depression I mentioned about film. I imagine that there’s always been authors who have disappointed the critics completely and yet pleased audiences far and wide. And they’ve most likely been entirely ignored in the present or have entered the Canon. Or perhaps both as may be the case.

    (Also, on the whole, these examples make hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions or billions, I assume lolcat-art is nowhere near this level of affluence)

    But on a whole, what can I do about it? At best I could produce works of criticism, film, or literature that would be different from Bloom, Sandler, or Cussler. At worst I could attack them, and say they’re illegitimate. But what if someone were to turn around and say that of my work? I would’ve begun a slow descent down a slippery slope which would end in hopelessness. In fact, I’ve been there before. It’s not that these works are illegitimate, but just poor examples of art in my opinion.

    Thus lolcat-art.

    So, no internet meme can enter into the realm of art or become legitimate? Or is it just lolcats? And for that matter, what particular part of this lolcat art is illegitimate in your opinion?

    For example, there is technical skill involved from what I can tell of the drawings in the gallery Amanda posted, so it’s probably not that. Is it the medium? Unlikely, given that they’re essentially ink sketches with the text placed on top. My assumption is that it must be the subject matter that offends so greatly.

    And honestly, the subject matter of art, or the content of art, has been put through the wringer many times long before this particular small showing at a small gallery/knick-knack shop in Vancouver appeared which seems about ready to make a small tour across the states if there’s enough interest.

    This is what makes me wonder what the fuss is about.

    If lolcat-art made it’s way into, I don’t know, a print newspaper or even a television news station, then you might have justification to be worried given your perspective about art. As of yet, I’ve seen only a few blogs, a blog for a newspaper, and various personal comments, like this thread for instance. Really, the most attention this “movement” could possibly get would be from Lore in his Wired column.

    I wouldn’t worry about how “legitimate” this meme becomes. It is already as legit as it can get. No sense in worrying since you might as well give up hope now.

    And “dumbing down of society”? Since when was it intelligent? I’m not exactly a lover of humanity, nor am I a complete misanthrope. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be able to make themselves into whatever they want to be, more or less, and I believe that most people, if they so desired, could get through a book of Eco’s with some effort on their part. They just don’t desire to. Brown on the other hand…

    That being said, lolcat-art isn’t something that’s being imposed as a government initiative (there doesn’t seem to be any grant money involved) or some imposition that the few have made on the many. It’s a choice that society has made and appears to be quite amused, if not overjoyed, with. To take that choice away would be wrong much as their choices disappoint me.


    That woman’s artist statement is actually pretty good and seems to have anticipated your type of response. Although I doubt how serious it is. Considering J’s last comment, “we” aren’t missing the point, you are. It is a joke. Read statements #s 4 and 5. Although I don’t agree with her statement about what she calls her “art” (NOTICE THE QUOTATION MARKS) when she says it can’t be explained or accounted for, considering it is being evaluated and judged here. For whatever that is worth.

    She also says that this particular show is a departure into pop-art. I wonder what she’s departing from?

    The thing is, none of these sketches are going to be stolen by master thieves from an art museum which insured it for a hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unless perhaps they become the only remaining artifacts in existence that prove that our society existed.

    And “things hadn’t gotten this bad yet”? Aren’t the urinals already signed and sold? What’s one more urinal more or less?

    And the homeless thing? Melodramatic much? The fact is, art and most of our culture has been at the expense of the poor. We waste time and resources on a daily basis when we could be feeding the hungry and sheltering those without a home. In my opinion you can’t damn an art movement for those reasons without damning the society which produces it. “Attention, attention! Stop reading that book, watching that movie, playing that video-game, someone is without food, someone is without shelter!”

    Asserting that an example of what someone else considers art which YOU don’t happen to like as a drain on society and an expense that the homeless end up paying for is myopic. And it’s not exactly fair or honest to assume how much or how little they are giving to charity. Let alone claiming essentially that they’d step on the poor, laugh about it afterward and then go on to misunderstand your statements. I’d go so far as to say that these assumptions and theoretical examples of yours are entirely more ignorant than anything factual you’ve pointed out about the artists.

    I suppose yours is a hypothetical though, and given the imaginary situation, I’d say it might be pretty cool if the homeless person could sell the urinal for a hefty pile of dough. It’s about as plausible as your conclusion, if not more so.

    Before, I’d say you were exaggerating your concerns about art so people would take what you’d felt into consideration. Now I think you might be overreacting.

    And I’d suggest there are better things to react to.

    As you know, I wouldn’t be able to click the submit comment button without making a homily of some kind related to Blake, an artist and writer I hold in high regard and who was much maligned by the critics of his time.

    Here are a few lines of his work:

    Opposition is true friendship.

    Without Contraries is no progression.

    Frye went on to interpret these things in such a way as to speculate as to why Blake criticized those things which were much closer to him in spirit, such as Swedenborg, Rousseau, or Locke, compared to someone such as Hobbes whom he most certainly must have been aware of, yet never wrote about. Frye continues to explain that it’s because the apparent falseness of Hobbes and his model of tyranny, Leviathan, is obvious and can do away with itself since it reveals its own wrongs.

    Hobbes in this case is not a contrary of what Blake represents in art, philosophy, or whatever part of human culture that one would care to address, but a negation, a deadening of anything worthy of value and a process which sucks a way our ability to view anything with the eyes of an artistic visionary. Even addressing it at all justifies its existence and it becomes a deadening of vision.

    Frye concludes that the contraries that Blake writes of are not polar opposites, but rather works or authors that may eventually be redeemed together in a vision of human culture rather than the anxiety of its own destruction.

    I’ll conclude the sermon by asking you to make an analogy and hope that you come to your own conclusions. Are lol-cats and their examples in art a negation or a contrary to whatever you consider your art to be? (I for one think of them as a very minor contrary to you and your work.) If they are in fact a negation, they can happily be ignored since they give away themselves and their inherent values or lack there of. On the other hand, if lolcats are in fact a contrary, in other words, a disagreeable but valuable friend, then you must find a way to have an informed dialectic with whatever they represent.

    As a small addendum, for whosoever is interested, being a so-called disciple of Frye, I’ve always considered Bloom to be one of my most worthy contraries. Not to mention Atwood, Derrida, Shaw and Vonnegut.

    And your worth as an artist? It may be only the appraisal that you make of yourself that matters, but I believe it’s also who you choose as contraries to yourself that help define you as an artist. Passion is only so much juice and gasoline. A commodity to be sure, but not the art or the community itself.

    Surely you could find much better than lolcat-art as a contrary.

    And I can’t believe I worked in Blake and Frye. But I think that goes to show that just about anything can be redeemed. It may be that it’s unfortunate that stupidity is an essential part of our culture but I fear it must also be redeemed in some manner if the rest of our human traits are to contain anything of value in our artistic endeavors. But such views are simply an opinion.


  8. Wow, I’m chastened. No really, I am.

    Anyways, I don’t work in a university, I work in the high school upgrading section of a college (a glorified high school, in essence, but with older students and/or immigrant students).

    Thus, in this context, you don’t have people who have the critical/linguistic background to know whether a text is correct in its assertion that certain poems are, in fact, “The Best Poems of the English Language.” If I were in a university, I would have no issue with its use, but for borderline literate students at the grade 10 and 11 levels to be given a book with that kind of title annoys me.

    But that’s irrelevent. I think you had way too much time on your hands to post something this long here, when you could have been updating your own long-neglected blog.

    If you’ve got time to chide us (if only as a devil’s advocate), you’ve got time to get back to posting semi-regularly.


  9. Mark, I’ll simply acknowledge receipt of your response and say that I’m not in a good head space lately perhaps resulting in my melodramatics. I’d go into more details, but online is not the place to get into it. I will however, thank you for being friend enough to call me on things that you feel I should frustrate myself over.


  10. J.,
    Okay, your comments about Bloom make a bit more sense, but there have been titles like that when it comes to anthologies since they began publishing them. I guess I’m just surprised that the title is so mundane compared to something like Genius.

    I suppose if any of your students had any interest in the subject you could suggest they talk to you about Bloom’s judgment after class. But I’m gathering from your response that that would be a rare occurrence indeed.

    Yes, one good chastening deserves another and as a result I’ve actually got a new post on my blog. In my defense, I thought of posting my response on a fat cur, but as far as internet traditions go, I felt that might appear more like an argument than a conversation.

    I understand. And you’re more than welcome.


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