This week we have an interview with well-known meme artist, N@t@. We tracked her down after she wrapped up her longest running meme to date, Introspection (better known as “What I think, What others think”).
CR: Tell us how you first started working in meme arts.
N@: I was first inspired by chain letters. The promise of being part of something bigger than myself was captivating and I was instantly drawn to the form.
CR: Some of your early work was called avant-garde, but you were not very appreciative of those comments. What caused your reactions?
N@: I’m glad you brought this up. I am somewhat embarrassed by the way I acted back then, but what can I say? I was young and childish. The incident at Galleria des Memes was extremely inappropriate, but it was also a learning experience.
In any case, I still stand by what I said then. I firmly believe that the term “avant-garde” is the worst [expletive] thing that can be said about my art. Meme art should never aim to be ahead of its time. It is the rarest form of art in that it should always strive be accessible and “Now.” Complicated meanings, Past, and Future should have no currency in this world.
CR: Tell us about your evolution as an artist.
N@: Well after the Galleria incident, I distanced myself from chain letters. I enjoy visual components and chain lette weren’t the right medium for that. After that I experimented with cats and learned a lot through the process. Babies and puppies were a natural progression from there.
Of late I’ve tried to explore different methods, which led to video work and my participation on the “Profiles” project [more commonly known as “Things people say”]. Following that, I went back to traditional visual because I worry that video is not best medium at this time due to its barriers to entry.
CR: You said babies and puppies were a natural progression from cats, what do you mean by that?
N@: It’s interesting that you mention that because on the surface it is a natural progression, like I said, even though I was very hesitant to go in that direction. I thought “cuteness” was a fickle tool in the meme arsenal; it’s just difficult to execute effectively without coming off as cheap. In the end I decided it was important to work with that challenge.
Ultimately, I learned that the cuteness shared by these figures is actually tied to a deep-rooted component of the human condition. That realization was a big step for me.
CR: So when people critique your latest work, saying that it has been over done or played out, how do you react?
N@: I think creating something that is so approachable, so communicative and is adaptable to so many different people’s backgrounds is a great achievement. I’m not so audacious as to call this perfection, but I do believe that this movement towards platform memes should be recognized for it’s ability to be simultaneously simple and profound.
CR: It’s been great to hear your perspective on your work, for one last question: who you admire?
N@: As a part of my art I try to find inspiration anywhere possible, but I still think that what Charlie Sheen achieved last year was beautiful. I have not seen another single example that spread to so many different media and touched so many different demographics in such a short period of time. I have heard and understand the critiques that a meme artist should not be so public, but I argue that this is an antiquated idea that needs to be abandoned in order to push the limits of our art form.
Look out for our next interview with $teve, the meme artist that consulted on the Kony 2012 project. We’ll ask him how he evaluates the success of the project and get his reactions to criticisms from the meme community that his work on the project makes him a “sell out.”