What’s in a meme? That which we call #BeastJesus, by any other meme would look as terrifying, and yet, the moment that sweet old lady had taken upon herself to restore the precious Ecce Homo painting, she transformed it into the Unholy-Mother-of-God-WTF-Is-Wrong-With-His-Faaace?!! Instant Internet classic, born of good intentions, paving its way straight into our nightmares. But wait… There’s more! Here are 10 art history and contemporary art-inspired memes that we love to hate and hate to love.
Image credit: Cheezeburger
The botched Ecce Homo is, of course, one for the ages. Immortalized in 8Bit, Halloween costume, SNL , other art, tattoo and… prayer candle? There’s literally no stopping this monster. Jesus Christ! Indeed, it is a beast!
Marina Abramović Made Me Cry
Years of preparation, painstaking daily rituals, hours of sitting still at the MoMA atrium, peering into the souls of lined-up visitors — all that effort put in by the grand diva of performance art, and most of the time, people bring up, “All those people cried for some reason, huh?” That’s mostly thanks to the famous Tumblr that plucked the teary and the sniffly directly from MoMA’s Flickr stream, shot by Marco Anelli. For the record, your humble author sat and didn’t cry. Not even a little. Well, maybe a little. Damn you, Internet! Can’t I have one intimate pseudo-spiritual experience without it being turned into a joke, before I even get the chance to be disappointed in my idol? Oh wow. There’s a Marina Abramovic Made Me High Tumblr too? I give up.
The reason why this Joseph Ducreux Self-portrait of the Artist in the Guise of a Mockingbird circa 1793 won’t go away is because rappers keep writing lines susceptible to hilarious reinterpretation in archaic dialect. But it’s not just rappers. Anything colloquial and vaguely risqué becomes amusing when translated into formal language. See also: “I have passion in my pantaloons and I have no fear in letting you witness it. I have large levels of sexual appeal and I am aware of it.” Can’t wait for Ducreux to drop the next banger, most eloquently. It never ends!
Art Student Owl
Relatively young meme Art Student Owl, since achieving legitimacy at the /r/AdviceAnimals subreddit, has been busy mocking pretentiousness, laziness, routine faux–rebellion and nonchalant delusions of grandeur — the character traits many art students fall victim to before becoming completely useless as human beings. But the self-confidence is quite admirable, innit? Yeah. ART. Nothing like skimming through a couple of Art Student Owls to suddenly make you painfully aware of your own aesthetic-philosophical shortcomings and feel like a smug pompous jerk. Schooled. By owl.
What my friends think I do… Contemporary Artist Edition
Now, the main reason why this meme is a problem is that whoever called SHOTTY for “contemporary artist” decided that a righteous representation for the epitome of brilliant contemporary art should be… Duchamp’s urinal. Really. An appropriated piss pot. Very clever. Very definitive. Very beautifying the vulgar and whatnot. It is truly a great work of art, but the only problem is, it’s really, really old. Can’t we think of a younger thing?
Pepper Spray Cop Meets Art History
Actually, we’re really glad to see the resurgence of the Pepper Spraying Cop Through Art History meme — not because seeing him saunter through the greatest hits, belligerently spraying Mona Lisa, David and God in the face is endlessly amusing, but because there’s a reason it’s back this season. The UC Davis students who were victims of this weapon-happy copper have been compensated!
Junior Art Director
For creative people, becoming an art director in, say, the advertising field can be a perfectly respectable and satisfying career path and experience for your artistic self and your peers, unless, of course, you are a jerk who overestimates his actual capabilities as said art director and projects a completely unjustified sense authority. Like this guy. You know this guy. You hate this guy.
“Realistic” Drawings of Things That Should Never Have Been
It all started when artist Dave Devries decided to turn ordinary children’s drawings into extraordinary “realistic” paintings. He filled in the blanks between crooked contours with bulbous meat and skin, rounded out the eye-circles until they bulged horrifically and turned stray scribbles into extra appendages. What a terror! No. We all drew like this as kids, and that is not how we pictured our creations evolving! But it didn’t stop there. Here, for example, is an image that absolutely shouldn’t have existed, ever. The Forever Alone Rage Face, made flesh. Kill it. With fire. There are, of course, scarier things, like this IRL Beavis and Butt-Head. There must be a protocol for crossing from 2D to 3D! Think of the (inner) children!
Techno Viking is not an art meme, technically. Yet, Wafaa Bilal made it one when he brought it back out of YouTube obscurity (What’s “YouTube obscurity” these days, 6 months since the upload date?) by plopping his “head” onto the lawn of All Saints Park in Manchester for AND, the Festival of New Cinema, Digital Culture and Art. His inflatable Techno Viking head would puff up with an automatic pump of air every time the hashtag #TechnoViking was detected on Twitter, thereby literally breathing life into a meme that just won’t die.
All right. Let’s just call it, right now. Because we’ve lost count of James Franco’s regular appearances in our Internet browser for this art thing and that art thing and everywhere a movie-music-whatever-thing-thing; because of the onslaught of JPGs and YouTubes and tweets about the next thing he’s doing so frequently rain down upon us that rarely do we have a chance to really delve into each Francoism; because with his overexposure and his miraculous, simultaneous ability to still be charming, he has transcended “James Franco” and his identity as a hyphenated artist into the digital plane. He might as well be an Internet meme himself. #ThatsSoJamesFranco, isn’t it?