Are LOLCats and image macros art?

Are sites like Quick Meme Internet incarnations of Andy Warhol’s The Factory?

Somebody had to make the argument at some point: Image macros are art.

It seems absurd on its face. But in this video from PBS’s Idea Lab, Mike Rugnetta makes a compelling argument for those jokey images with superimposed text, which at some point seem to have displaced cats as the fuel powering low-brow Internet culture.

By its end this skeptic was pretty much converted. Image macros (not memes, as Rugnetta calls them) really can be a form of art.

What do you think of Rugnetta’s argument? Oddly enough, the top comment on YouTube has an insightful take on the question. Is this what happens when PBS viewers comment on YouTube?

“Trying to retrofit meme culture into art is an interesting thought experiment, and totally valid,” wrote porcupineschool. “But I don’t think the real question is whether or not memes are art. What interests me is how this incredibly dynamic, generative movement of visual culture sprung up overnight with almost no involvement from the art world at all. So it’s not a question of legitimizing memes by calling them art, it’s a question of whether ‘art’ is still relevant considering that memes happened without it.”

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.