Minneapolis — You could hear the meows nearly a block away, and also the “awwws.” The laughter too.
On Thursday evening the Walker Art Center, one of the nation’s most prominent institutions of contemporary art, hosted the inaugural Internet Cat Video Film Festival here. An estimated 10,000 people turned out for an event that was, from its inception to its closing credits, an online meme made flesh (and fur).
The crowd — easily double what organizers expected — packed the lawn outside the museum, spilling onto the sidewalks across the street. There were local cat lovers and out-of-state fans of Fluffy; many wore kitty-theme T-shirts or simply ears and whiskers. Some took real cats on leashes. A few dogs came, for irony.
They all settled in for a screening of cats behaving badly, or cutely, or mysteriously, sometimes all at once. That much of the audience had already seen the clips on YouTube did not seem to diminish the enthusiasm. Quite the contrary…
It is an axiom of Internet life that the cat video is king, so perhaps it was only a matter of time until something like this sprang up. Museum officials were quick to note that it was a playful, not curatorial, offering, less Cannes than I Can Haz Film Fest, as the Lolcats might have it. But the festival did feed into the desire, driven by social media, to translate digital culture and create community offline. It explored the ways that august institutions can employ the Web as they seek new audiences. And it highlighted an age-old rift, bringing some potentially embarrassing behavior out of the shadows…
The Golden Kitty award, chosen by visitors to the Walker’s Web site, went to Will Braden for his two-minute opus “Henri 2: Paw de Deux,” about the existential angst of a black-and-white French puss. “This goes to show that the shared love of cat videos isn’t just a virtual thing, isn’t just a matter of a few clicks, but actually something people can share in real life,” Mr. Braden, 32, said. “I think this legitimizes it.”
A filmmaker from Seattle, he now makes his living from Henri, le Chat Noir, as he’s called. There is an online store that sells $1,000 worth of T-shirts and mugs a week, he said, and a book — the philosophical musings of Henri — due from a Random House imprint.
Read the whole article, immerse yourself in the feeling of an art festival created entirely by nutty netizens like us all – and our small companions.