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Is the internet meme the art movement of the decade ?

Renaissance, Cubism, Pop Art, Impressionism and.. the internet meme?

Is the internet meme the art movement of the decade ?  Renaissance, Cubism, Pop Art, Impressionism and.. the internet meme?

When one thinks of the definition of art according to google, it’s understood to be a product or activity done by people with a communicative or aesthetic purpose — something that expresses an idea, an emotion or, more generally a world view, a piece of work that the majority is able to look at and see themselves in. In the 1400 - 1600’s this was Renaissance Art, in the early 90’s it was Cubism, in the 1950’s it was Pop Art, in the past few years (2000 -2019) was it the Internet Meme?

Although the word meme originated from an English ethologist called Richard Dawkins in 1976,  internet memes first sprouted as a concept in the mid 1990s. Initially they began as short humorous, relatable clips or images a large part of which were created on the site 4chan which were accompanied by text that was shared between people mainly via email and occasionally in the form of videos via Youtube. As social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and later on Instagram were born , so did the form of the internet meme evolve. The generation of the late 90’s which the internet meme was originally introduced to, was now accompanied by a completely new generation with entirely different senses of humour and internet platforms. This was when the internet meme began its revolutionary run, in the 2000’s. It gradually developed not only in different forms including gifs, but also portrayed a form of humour that at times made no sense. 

“Amid these trends, a particular style of expression has spread among young people. Rather than trying to restore meaning and sense when they’ve gone missing, the style aims to play with the moods and emotions of an illegible world,” commented Elizabeth Bruenig of the Washington Post.  

In the early 2000’s one of the most popular memes was the troll face which was a character wearing a mischievous smile that the internet took to portray as a troll in comics or to identify oneself as such in particular discussion. Although there didn’t exist much sense to the image, it was one of the most viral memes of the decade, and today senseless meme worthy tactics like these dominate the internet from bananas taped on walls to miniature designer bags. 

Yet although the internet produces a great variety of these pointless memes, it has also evolved with a great number of them which are created from a breed of dark humor aimed at shedding light on topics of mental health or politics which may be quite daunting to speak of seriously. Britney Spears’ 2007 mental breakdown made quite a few memes within the last decade; Donald Trump’s inept presidency and his strange relationship with his wife have also been the protagonists for Twitter’s swift meme makers; the recent meme of the woman yelling at a cat which gained over 100,000 shares on social media was derived from character Taylor Armstrong emotional, telling her experience of domestic abuse on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; and even the severity of global warming has been a part of a great number of dismal yet realistic memes. 

One may say the internet’s habit of creating a joke from situations that are serious might be considered insensitive or even distasteful, but could this form of satire be compared to a breed of contemporary art ? The purpose of artwork is to communicate ideas politically, spiritually or philosophically , whether to invoke feelings of pleasure or at times discomfort, and although the method may seem quite simple and effortless does not mean its impact on the mass is. There are people who spend their days searching the internet for memes which may be relatable in some ways to their personal lives and even corporations such as Know Your Meme, who have documented and researched over 11,000 memes and their origins within the past two decades.   So although they may not collectively be considered an official art form right now, imagine in a 100 years, there will probably exist experts who are tasked with decoding and studying this ancient form of communication.