Dear Cem A., you have been active on the Internet and more specifically on the social network "Instagram" since 2019 as the founder of the account "freeze_magazine". How did you get the account and what demands did you have and still have on it?
I wasn’t conscious of this when I started the launch of the account, which was a form of procrastination for me at the time, coincided with the end of my studies and my struggle to find work in London as a non-EU citizen. Now looking back, I see that a lot of my frustrations were channeled into memes. The rise of the account admittedly brought me some privileges that I didn’t have before. I am always in the process of trying to recognise these privileges as well as thinking about ways to share the platform with as many people as possible. Working in the arts at my current capacity brings new challenges and forms of discrimination, which I would like address on the account as much as possible.
The rapid consumption of memes is certainly one aspect that has led to the great breakthrough of this genre - you can perhaps compare them with new forms of satirical caricatures like those that emerged in the 19th century. What makes a good meme for you? And which memes do you think work best?
In my opinion, what defines a meme is how it spreads. From this point of view, it is possible to describe 19th c. caricatures as viral images as well. But when it comes to internet memes specifically, I think it’s important to create a balance between people who are in on the joke and outside. The accessibility of the joke always has a delicate balance. It needs to be accessible to an audience while being not too obvious.
With your memes/your account, you pick up on aspects that were also important for the Fluxus art movement - in a sense, as a continuation of the idea that emerged in the 60s. I spontaneously associate both approaches with humor, an open concept of art, and networking possibilities. Beforehand, you had already told me about your interest in Fluxus, what do you associate with it?
I think it’s possible to draw parallelisms between Fluxus art and contemporary meme culture. They don’t only share humour as a mutual element but also carry anti-commercial sensibilities. It is not really possible to make a sponsored meme. The minute a viewer becomes suspicious of promotion in a meme, they would lose interest. Similarly, they both share an anti-art sentiment and not-so-complicated modes of production and aesthetics. And finally, they are both more focused on the process rather than aiming to create grand artworks. This applies to the fluidity of meme culture very well.
I think it would be too short-sighted to label your memes as institutional critique. Nevertheless, it is the hard to grasp “art world” that you humorously debate in your memes, while at the same time moving within it yourself. Where do you see the future of memes in the context of museum reappraisal? Are they “objects” that should be "exhibited" institutionally at all, or how would you like to see your art and digital art in general dealt with in the future?
I appreciate you not categorising memes as Institutional Critique. There are certainly similarities or ways in which memes can be used to criticise institutions, but the possibilities are not limited by this. In this process, finding common ground between digital culture and institutions with physical spaces is fairly important. My approach is to not refuse these spaces which would bring more recognition to digital culture but rather create hierarchies that place the digital over the physical. I would not be interested in making a painting of a meme, for instance, but find different ways to situate a meme in a physical space which would recognise the digital meme as the primary.
Dear Cem, thank you very much for this insightful interview!