Cats, the Internet, and the Lively Arts

Cute Kitty, Yes?

SOURCE: Flickr user Christian Holmér

This holiday season, our thoughts turn, of course, to Internet cat videos, and their implications for the live performing arts. Well, at least mine do, as I read up on the second annual Internet Cat Video Festival in Minnesota from this past August.

After all, there MUST be something we can learn from an outdoor film festival, drawing 10,000 people at $20 each, to watch videos they could easily watch at home for free (Hyperallergic offers a great overview of the festival, and why it matters). Is it kitsch? Is it craziness? Is it cat fancy? Or is it, perhaps, the opportunity to share something fun and unusual with interesting strangers in the same space and time?

The festival is presented by the Walker Art Center, as part of their Open Field initiative. And while it may be a stretch to label Internet Cat Videos as contemporary art, it’s not even a stumble to find the social, public, crowdsourced, giddiness the event provides.

Live performing arts organizations have been wringing their hands for decades now about how to lure people to social experiences of their work in the face of free, high-quality, Internet-available alternatives. I’m not suggesting that they all show cat videos (although, perhaps). But there’s value in exploring the difference between mediated experience and live experience in a social setting. Whatever you believe that difference to be (or whatever your audience tells you, because really, you should ask them), celebrate it, emphasize it, brag about it.

According to at least one Internet Cat Video Festival participant, the difference isn’t all that complicated. “It’s hard for me to make sense of it, except that it just feels good,” says she in the event video. “It makes you feel good. I don’t think it has to get any more complicated than that.”

To that end, please enjoy an hour-long video of one of the featured guests at this year’s festival, Lil Bub, as he lounges by a yuletide fire.

Happy holidays, everyone!