Are cat videos art?

The Walker Art Center takes center stage tonight at the Minnesota State Fair grandstand with some decidedly lowbrow fare, Internet cat videos. The show is sold out.

It all started last year when the Walker was overflowing with thousands of people who turned out for the Cat Video film fest.

Here’s a sneak preview:

“Some cat videos are art; some aren’t,” said Cat Video Festival juror and Hyperallergic editor Jillian Steinhauer. “There are some really great cat videos made by famous artists, and some fantastic cat videos on YouTube that rise to the level of art, and then there are lots of others, which are a mix of hilarious, boring, and terrible.”

“I’m not sure I ever know what art is, but I’ve heard a fair amount of film industry professionals trash talk the internet cat video fest and I just don’t see what’s wrong with it,” writes filmmaker Susan Marks. “In my opinion, cats are very cinematic and often understated clowns and therefore make great subjects for short films. Perhaps industry professionals, especially those in the film festival side of things, take themselves a tad too seriously and the internet cat video fest is a nice reminder to lightened up.”

Steinhauer isn’t concerned that the festival hurts The Walker’s reputation. “If the Cat Video Festival is the Walker’s highest profile event, then it shows that they want to reach out and engage with their community. How many other museums have managed to reach this many people? How many people know the name of the Walker thanks to Cat Vid Fest? That seems like an indisputable good thing.

“I think new patrons of the Walker will have joined the museum knowing about the festival, and also knowing that there’s a lot more to the Walker than cat videos. The museum has a strong reputation in the art world, and as far as I know, the festival hasn’t done anything to change that. I think the festival is as good of an introduction to the Walker as any,” she adds.

Marks applauds The Walker for getting people out of their house, “As indie filmmakers we are often told that it’s tough to get people out of their homes to watch film in communal way, so it’s especially impressive that a venue as big as the Grand Stand at the Minnesota State Fair is hosting an event filled with thousands of people coming together to watch cats on films.”

What do you think? Should we be concerned when one of Minnesota’s most important cultural institutions becomes known for curating internet cat videos, or should we welcome the distraction from more substantive matters? Are cat videos art?

  • Melody

    Our relationship to the other species on this planet is very important, as we know; the first words that children learn and the first things they seem truly excited about are often other species. And there are few creatures more well-suited to live with humans than cats. They have been worshipped since Egyptian times; there is something about them that makes us want to continue that tradition I think. Hence the International Cat Video Festival. It is a guilty pleasure–but looking at it objectively, we know there is a purpose here…we just don’t know what yet. Maybe the cats do.