Memes as Art: Clusterduck in Kunstforum
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For the first IMPAKT On Topic issue of the year, we invite you to delve with us into the obscure and tempting world of memes. The occasion is given by a beautiful article by Jutta Zaremba in the latest issue of the German art magazine Kunstforum. The article is dedicated to the former EMAP/EMARE resident artists at IMPAKT: Clusterduck and their artistic research project #MEMEMANIFESTO.
According to the original definition first proposed by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, memes are ideas that travel and spread faster than others by means of reproduction and evolution. In a mass media environment, memes can be anything from popular images to short scenes from movies and television series, sketches or music from advertisements. Since the late nineties, memes have found an ideal ground to flourish in the “spreadable media” (Henry Jenkins) environment provided by the internet. Viral videos, weird pictures and insider jokes spread quickly within a medium that allows instant manipulation and sharing.
Since its founding, interdisciplinary collective Clusterduck has been increasingly concentrating its research efforts on memes, resulting in the creation of several transnational chats on various online platforms and leading to a thorough investigation of the processes and actors behind the creation of Internet-related content.
#MEMEMANIFESTO is their ongoing transmedia project exploring the occult meanings and communicative potentials of Internet Memes. The project was born out of one simple idea: that memes are much more than mere “funny viral images.” Clusterduck explores memes as important elements of new, online-based subcultures and as the founding stone of a new language for the digital age.
The project wants to affirm the importance and power of memes and give everyone the tools to harness this power. Based on the aesthetics of online conspiracy theories, ancient grimoires and cutting edge contemporary digital design, #MEMEMANIFESTO is a guide for memetic production, a highly refined documentation of the contemporary memetic landscape and a collective investigation about the hidden sides of the Internet.
#MEMEMANIFESTO was produced in the framework of EMAP/EMARE residency 2020 at IMPAKT, co-produced by Creative Europe.
In 2021 Aksioma and IMPAKT co-produced Clusterduck’s publication The Detective Wall Guide and exhibited the research so far at Aksioma Art Space.
Internet culture is appealing, sexy, and speaks to a lot of people. Yet, at the same time, projects like Clusterduck’s #MEMEMANIFESTO highlight the importance and power of new digital languages that goes beyond being ‘funny’ and ‘entertaining’.
Post internet and digital aesthetics have put a clear mark on contemporary art shows over the past few years. The internet is an important realm in our society with a huge influence on culture, politics and society in general. This raises important questions about how to curate and present Internet based art and visual culture like memes. How can we respond to these developments in art projects, with the unique or analytical perspectives that we expect from the arts, while keeping a critical distance from the strong hype tendencies that Internet culture is subject to?
Interested to hear more about the subject?
On 19 February these are some of the central questions during the online conference: Contemporary Curating: Radical, Digital, Diverse. We will speak about the new challenges in contemporary art today, including:
- How do we make sure that art responds to the pressing changes brought about by developments in technology and politics?
- How to present the newest digital art beyond fleeting hypes?
With a keynote by the director of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Turin Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and two panels with co-founder of the Athens Biennale Poka-Yio, director of the Niet Normaal INT Foundation Ine Gevers, artist Renzo Martens, director of [ANTI]MATERIA Doreen A. Ríos, digital anthropologist, strategist and curator Wade Wallerstein and curator and professor of “Digital Art” at Politecnico University in Milan Valentina Tanni.
Image credits: The Detective Wall Guide. Presentation of Clusterduck at Aksioma Art Space. Photography: Domen Pal / Aksioma.