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Is 2017 the year that memes are recognised as art?

LA not-for-profit space Junior High teams up with meme-maker @Ka5sh for an exhibition that proves memes are far more than an internet phenomenon

2016 was undoubtedly the year of the meme, so it only makes sense that 2017 sees the internet phenomenon crowned as a legitimate art form.

Tomorrow, Los Angeles non-profit community space, Junior High, will open by any memes necessary a, you guessed it, exhibition dedicated entirely to memes. Curated by Instagram meme sensation, @Ka5sh (and sponsored by @sonny5ideup) the show will explore how the internet generation (aka us) is finding empathy and ways of coping through highly (often painfully) relatable, two-dimensional images.

Featuring memes from six meme-makers, including @versace_tamagotchi, @tequilafunrise, @sensualmemes, @scariest_bug_ever, @bunnymemes, and @gothshakira, curating it was surely no easy feat. There’s no shortage of both brilliance and absolute shockers on offer, with @Ka5sh revealing that his favourite is the Kim K format where she’s ‘dropping hints’: “That is the best and any remix of that never gets old to me”. 

While often criticised for a lack of attention span, our generation is using memes to understand, critique and share thoughts on important political and social issues – a way to communicate with each other via the internet’s ability to turn almost anything viral in a time where the phrase ‘if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry’ has never been more pertinent. And while the simplicity of memes might make them easy to shrug off, it would be foolish to underestimate their power of engagement – just as many other forms of art have done for centuries.

Ahead of the show’s opening, we speak to @Ka5sh on why the art world should start making wall space for memes.

What was behind the decision to curate a show based on memes?

Kash: I wanted to bring more legitimacy to memes because I got frustrated that no one takes what we do seriously. It started off as half a joke but I (did this) so people would consider what we were doing as art.

What can we expect from the show?

Kash: I’m honestly not sure what to expect, this seems like a meme convention. It started off like half joke and half me being serious. A lot of meme-rs are coming out for this so that’s tight.

How did you pick out the contributors?

Kash: I feel like everyone I picked are pioneers of the emotional, longest, feminist "woke meme" genre and I appreciate what they have done to the meme culture.

Can you tell us your thoughts on the connection between empathy and coping and the internet?

Kash: It’s amazing – I've seen thoughts that I thought only I had conveyed through memes on Instagram and it felt so good to know I'm not alone feeling like this. I just made a meme about hating emails and everyone was like ‘wtf! yes, same. me too’ and it feels good to not feel crazy.

What do you hope people take away from the show?

Kash: Hopefully people will see meme makers’ art not just as faceless content machines but as a new wave of artists in 2017.

Lastly, why do you think memes resonate so much with our generation? Kash: I think because our attention spans are short, it's super convenient to consume content like this. Also, memes are a take on pop culture and something that everyone can participate in, so I think that’s also a cool thing.

by any memes necessary will open in LA at Junior High on 10 February 2017. Click here for more information