Youyou & Meme & All Our Memules

Here in Special America, we have a practice of sourcing others in order to better source ourselves. Our radical appropriation practices extend to the use of popular or pseudo-popular images in our performance presentations. We brand each image SPECIAL AMERICA, creating dialogue between image and text. These images diversify our media identity and comprise a slideshow currently numbering 167 images, each of which is projected for 8 seconds before it fades into the next image. The typical effect is static text over changing images.

Here’s how we describe the slideshow in our performance script (as prepared for a manuscript treatment of three exemplary scripts):

(The Special America slideshow begins. Popular and lesser-known media imagery appears on a screen behind CLAIRE and JEFF, sometimes projecting directly on their black clothing as they pass before the projector. Each image is stamped with the phrase “SPECIAL AMERICA.” Images are arranged by composition and theme, and include screenshots from films—The Blood of a Poet, Eraserhead, Melancholia, Them, Dr. Strangelove—, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Ai Weiwei, Juggalos, Morrissey, Mark E. Smith, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Santorum family at a 2006 concession speech, revellers on the White House lawn after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, The Yes Men, Anonymous, factory line workers making Guy Fakwes masks, Stephen Colbert interviewing Kenneth Goldsmith, James Franco reading about himself in The New York Times, a Walmart greeter, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Providence, San Dimas, Sea World, Jay-Z, Mickey Mouse, a flock of starlings, 84-year-old Occupy Seattle activist Dorli Rainey after being pepper sprayed by a police officer, Guantanamo Bay, the Scientology building in Los Angeles, Ron Finley, Willie Nelson, Barack Obama, Nancy Reagan and Mr. T, Hillary Clinton and Socks the cat, Elmo, Jackson C. Frank, Mike Kelley plush sculptures, Emily Dickinson, Pussy Riot, Pee Wee Herman, a pug in a yoga outfit, Ben Roethlisberger, a child in prayer, Superman, the Gowanus Canal, The Mona Lisa taking a selfie, Banksy street art before and after being capped by Omar, Don Van Vliet, David Bowie, Edward Scissorhands, Rob Ford, The Wilde Boys, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Cirque de Soleil, childeren watching The Teletubbies, The Dalai Lama in a USC cap, Miss America, etc.)

The question is, are these memes? If not, do they have meme-like properties? Previously in this class, we talked about how a particular meme (as in an image macro) might have variable images. Does the fact that the text is relatively consistent in our slideshow make these images more or less meme-ic? Would they need a second line of text to be memes? Are some of these images potentially memes (particularly those with gestic content), while others (e.g., landscapes) are not memes? Or does the fact that the images appear online but do not circulate virally make them non-memes? Would they need to be made by other people besides Claire and I in order to approach memehood? Would we need to use the standard meme font to be more meme (pronounced me-me, here)? Can we make a meme construct that is not a meme (a memule?), or, to paraphrase (perhaps out of context) Talan, does a meme only become a meme when it’s a meme?

I’m still not sure how to answer these questions, but this course has definitely helped me formulate them!

Here’s a sequence from early in the slideshow

 sample sequence 1.1

sample sequence 2.1

sample sequence 3.1

sample sequence 4.1

sample sequence 5.1

sample sequence 6.1