Phase I

[Researcher as Student]

I initiated my exploration into the language of Internet Memes as an Art and Visual Culture Education doctoral student by looking at two of the most prominent types of Internet Memes:

  • Animated GIFs
    • The vernacular language of the internet (Stryker, 2011).
    • The most relevant instance of internet-specific art (Brown, 2012).
  • Image Macros.
    • Widely recognized as one of the most accessible ways for users to engage participatory online culture (Decker-Maurer, 2012).
    • These “seemingly simple images can both amuse and effectively represent rhetorical positions” (ibid, p.7).

1. Art Crit & GIFs

A series of four Animated GIFs that samples pieces of contemporary art and remixes them with critical theory to explore notions of stagnation and elitism in what is otherwise meant to be understood as socially engaged discourses in art production.

Every State.All the Time


Selected Actants: Leon Golub, Regina Jose Galindo, The State, Giroux’s (1992) account of Golub’s art, Foucault’s notion of The State as punitive, My own reading of Foucault’s notions of The State as punitive, Interrogation to Confession as narrative endpoints, proprietary software [Photoshop].

The series was conceived as a group of loosely associated Learning Objects to be disseminated through Twitter, using hashtags to find potential audiences that might be enticed to investigate further the stories behind each artwork and speculate as to the meaning behind the captions.

2. Literacy of the Glitch

A website composed of seven Glitch Portraits meant to function as a lesson plan on the aesthetic, poetic and strategic possibilities of The Glitch as an agent of technological critique (Merkman, 2011).

Selected actants: Assorted glitches as source material [some procured, others found], Wordpad effect as deployed on Mac’s Text Edit, a bicycle, the streets of Tucson, Halo video game, Glitch studies, a video-conference on digital art pedagogy, YouTube’s transcribing tool, basic HTML as written by a novice.

3. Internet Memes: What if we’re not just gags and we’re actually meaningful visual culture artifacts?

A visual essay featuring Image Macro characters reflecting on their perceived role as the quintessence of throwaway culture and the possibility of transcending it.

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Selected actants: 38 different Image Macro characters, the voices and roles each embodies in the web, XX beer commercials, Star Trek, The Big Lebowski, the Cohen brothers, John Goodman, meme collectives, Meme Generator App for Android,  relevant literature.

The essay’s author virtually disappears behind a stream of internet culture and remix practices as self-aware memes and quotes commingle to bolster Internet Memes’ place within visual culture and their potential benefits for art education.

Major Shortcoming

Other than Internet Memes: What if we’re not just gags… no meme collective was engaged by any of the content generated during phase 1. Even in the case of the visual essay, the inherent collectivity of Internet Memes was merely referenced and not truly enacted.