As the inaugural UK City of Culture this year, Derry has played host to such paragons of culture as the Royal Ballet and the London Symphony Orchestra and, next month, the pinnacle of internet art forms will be celebrated with a visit from the 2013 Internet Cat Video Festival.
The first ever Internet Cat Video Festival was held last year at the Walker Art Center in Minnesota, US. This celebrated art museum is one of the nation’s ‘big five’ museums of modern art – up there with MOMA and the Guggenheim – and features works from artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Yoko Ono.
The Internet Cat Video Festival (or #catvidfest as it’s referred to on Twitter) showcased clips to an audience of over 10,000 last summer and this year’s festival will take place from 28 August, expecting 13,000 visitors this time around.
The festival is also embarking on a bit of a world tour and will arrive in Europe for Derry’s CultureTech festival. Taking place from 9 to 15 September, CultureTech is Northern Ireland’s largest digital media and arts event, hosting over 150 sessions and events and expecting about 30,000 visitors.
Screenings for the Internet Cat Video Festival will take place from 8pm at Cafe Soul, Derry, on 12 September, with additional pop-up screenings in various locations throughout the week. These screenings are free for all the family (cats, too) and fancy dress is encouraged.
The internet infiltrating the arts
Part social experiment, part film festival, #catvidfest involves a curated programme of feline-focused internet clips submitted online. These are divided into various categories (no pun intended) such as documentary, animation and foreign film, and there’s a People’s Choice vote to determine the best in show.
Last year’s winner was ‘Henri 1, Paw de Deux’ by Will Braden, which seems to capture the festival’s balance of serious film appreciation and fun.
“I’m sure that there are some really interesting debates to be had about the nature of art or the online/offline nature of internet communities. The whole festival is about celebrating how technology and the web are changing arts and culture,” said CultureTech festival director Mark Nagurski. “If I’m completely honest though, we just think that this is going to be huge fun.”
Doing all the things compelling art should
This isn’t the first time the internet’s favourite animal has been put up on an art gallery pedestal, either. At the start of this year, London’s The Framers Gallery curated ‘LOLCat Teh Exhibishun’, though this exhibition focused on still images.
When video comes into play, we can truly capture the beauty of our feline friends. I mean, who can deny the captivating artistry of a cat wearing a shark costume cleaning the kitchen on a Roomba?
“Internet cat videos are doing all of the things compelling art should: they raise questions, challenge assumptions, anger people and create emotional connections,” said Walker Art Center curator Scott Stulen, who will be in town for the Derry event. “The Internet Cat Video Festival is a platform to use this popular content to create an un-ironic and genuine experience. Simply, this is more than a collection of cute cat videos, but rather an embrace of an internet phenomena and experiment to transform a solitary online viewing experience into a real world social event.”
“It’s not about watching cat videos, it’s about watching cat videos together,” he concluded.