Meme Tactics

[paragraph on what memes are] [paragraph on the exhibit highlights] [paragraph on the zine library] [what i liked!]

Memes are elements of culture that pass to one another. What happens when memes are used for civic good? Meme Tactics: How Artists Innovate Media to Make Unheard Voices Go Viral the newest exhibit at the Center for Media at Risk, takes a simultaneously global and local approach to meme tactics.

Curated by Josué Chavez, Kira Simon-Kennedy, Mikail Wright-Kwon, and An Xiao Mina, the exhibit follows three artists working to defy narratives in plain sight. I was familiar with An Xiao Mina’s work on memes and digital culture. Her book, Memes to Movements (2019), addresses some of these issues on a larger scale, but primarily focuses on the “digital” world. But the exhibit challenges visitors who may normally think about memes and virality as digital terms to think about their application to physical projects. International in scope, the exhibit uses its traditional definition - a meme as a unit of information, containing meaning in its image. Internet memes also have a physical presence that extends outside digital platforms. To “go viral” does not require [insert more about the definition of the meme here]

This exhibit features three artists and collectives - Amy Suo Wu, Elyla Sinvergüenza, Xiaoshi Qin + Hera Chan - working in Cuba, ????, and ????, respectively - and their efforts to address govt censorship. Wu’s focus on analog stenography, or secret writing hidden in plain sight,

While libraries in exhibits tend to be viewed as secondary or additional to the exhibit, the Zine Library for Meme Tactics is essential for learning more about the exhibit’s content. Of particular interest are The Choice of a Translator (2018), a transcript of a talk on censorship and steganography given by Wu in Beijing, 2017. Concerned about a suspected government spy in the audience, Wu and her translator Zhuxin Wang were able to simultaneously give the talk in English and Mandarin, evading and self-censoring more radical meanings of the talk in the latter language. Visitors can read the English transcript and the Chinese translation translated back into English, reading for modifications, or words deliberately left out of the talk in Mandarin. Wu’s book, “A Cookbook of Invisible Writing” is also available

The exhibit encourages us to consider virality, and the power of “memetic expression” for civic good.

The Meme Tactics exhibit will be on display in Philadelphia at the Center for Media at Risk, part of the Annenberg School of Communication at University of Pennsylvania from now until AUGUST 2020. The exhibit is on display in New York at Cuchifritos Gallery through October 20, 2019.

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