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The Cats Will Play – at the Minnesota State Fair

3 Sep

By: Pat O’Brien

Looking at cat videos on the internet seems at once both amusing and silly. There are famous cats (more of that in a minute), and not-so-famous cats who happened to do something funny once (see: video of the cat licking the turned-on vacuum). Watching these videos alone in your own home (or at least alone-ish) is one thing, but watching them with 13,000 other people who’ve also already seen them is quite another.

The cries of “crazy cat people,” and “you need more to do” have surely been uttered thousands of times before and since August 28th, as the Walker Art Center‘s  2nd Annual Internet Cat Video Festival made national news. This was partially due to one small but gigantic—in internet cat land—happening just before the videos themselves got under way: two of the most famous cats, Grumpy Cat (real name: Tardar Sauce) and Lil Bub were introduced to each other.

When the same meeting occurred on stage, and had the audience not been implored to stay quiet (due to Lil Bub’ fear of loud noises), it stands to reason the decibel level in the crowd would have been deafening. Instead everyone just stood there kind of shocked. “Is this really happening?” and “Oh my God!” could be heard in the area surrounding me and I’m sure somewhere there was the sound of a cute overload meter cracking into a million pieces. The best part about all of this was the utter sincerity. Nobody was there to love it like they “love” Journey or “Diff’rent Strokes” reruns. Attendees were genuinely excited to be together and feel like a part of something that is ultimately flat out fun.

There were some hiccups, as the beginning of the night moved too slowly – and Host Julia Klausner seemed out of place and unfortunately completely misjudged the crowd (she repeatedly tried to inject irony where it wasn’t welcome). The rest of the night moved along quickly and early missteps seemed to be forgiven. The Q&A session with Will Braden (creator of Henri, Le Chat Noir) was informative and he had a few funny answers – but otherwise the first hour of the production could have been completely cut out.

Via Instagram: staciaannmpls

This night at the Fair did prove one thing: watching cats on the internet is not like watching any other animal. There is something oddly magnetic and the impossibility of watching just one, whether you want to or if you’ve paid to. The talk was incessant before the show started and continued afterward. Watching Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat meet was the equivalent of the scene in Heat in which De Niro and Pacino finally share the screen at the same time – fascinating and not one bit of a letdown. This, of course, is regardless of what these famous cats thought – which was obvious and complete indifference.

In the end, much like Henri says he’s his own cat, the Internet Cat Video Festival is its own thing. As the festival is sponsored by the Walker Art Center, one of the premiere contemporary art museums in the United States, the curators may have been afraid of how they would be perceived by the art world for creating this event. Is it art? Maybe. Is it foolishness? Maybe. …but maybe it’s both. One thing is for certain: it makes everyone happy. For most people, the question about these videos as “art” never enters the picture. People forgot their troubles and surrounded themselves with 13,000 other people who spoke the same language. This hardly happens anywhere else. The goal is just a bunch of people hanging out together being entertained by cat videos – and there wasn’t a person in attendance who could honesty say that didn’t happen at the end.

As goofy and low brow as it may seem on the surface, it’s an incredibly unique and special experience in a way that is difficult to describe only because nothing like this has ever happened before. It’s perhaps made of fluff (pun not intended), but is more important than it seems. Despite an almost complete lack of humans in the films, it is indeed humanizing the internet.

Via Instagram: staciaannmpls


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