A punchy new form of art criticism in relatable meme-format
A picture is worth 1000 words, and a meme is worth even more (because it’s got text). A meme is probably worth 1007 words. They’re everywhere online; from a subculture creation to being made by the world’s biggest brands to help make them seem more relatable – memes have become a part of our digital and visual diet.
@freeze_magazine – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Frieze empire of magazines and fairs – is a must-follow for anyone working in the art world. Whether it be poking fun at the curator-artist relationship, mocking International Art English, or highlighting serious misdoings in the industry – Freeze’s memes hit the mark every time. With nearly 85k Instagram followers they’re showing us that memes are more than just a quick laugh to be had online, and have opened their first IRL exhibition of memes in Berlin.
We spoke to Cem, the brains behind Freeze Magazine, about how it all began, ‘The Party’ in Berlin, and memes as “digital folklore”.
Introduce yourself and Freeze Magazine – how would you sum up what it is you do?
My name is Cem but people usually recognise my as @freeze_magazine on Instagram. I started the account back in September 2019 as place to just play with memes and share them with friends. My “work” primarily involves making memes and sharing them daily on Instagram and collaborate with artists, researchers and organisations on memes as much as possible.
As the account started growing, I have initiated new projects with collaborators as well. For instance, we just released a zine titled “The Meme Kit” in collaboration with Meme Studies Research Network, Mira Calix, Naomi Falk and İdil Galip. Past projects include co-curating Curated Playlists in collaboration with Andy Marsh, a series of guest curated playlists based on their album covers and Freeze Dating, a dating service based on your taste in memes.
Most recently, I opened an exhibition titled “The Party” in Berlin at Weserhalle which deconstructs the Wojak character and explores my experiences in the past two years through a semi-fictional narrative.
What’s your process for making a meme?
This process probably varies from person to person. For me, there are three ways to make a meme. I follow art news and make a list of things that could be turned into a meme. Then when I have time, I scroll through meme templates and see what fits. Sometimes I see a meme and make a new version of it on the spot. Or when it’s a collaboration, we stick our heads together and exchange thoughts and images until we come up with something.
Why should we be taking memes more seriously? What should we be taking note of?
Memes are now (or always were -in different forms) a part of our daily life and culture. Some scholars describe memes as digital folklore. As we are evolving into a more digital-first society, they deserve to be looked into more closely and critically. A better understanding of meme culture would also make us more digital literate.
Tell us about The Party and the mission behind it?
It was an artistic and curatorial challenge to imagine (internet) memes in a physical setting. Past examples I have seen generally reduced memes to physical prints or paintings and this was a route I didn’t want to take. Instead, I thought it would be interesting to build a meme in life size and explore how we can interact with it.
How have people reacted to seeing these memes IRL?
We installed the exhibition in a way that it is best experienced from the street. So the exhibition is open 24/7. It was motivating to hear people’s thoughts during the opening and see how passers by react to it. The fact that the exhibition was based on memes and art historical references meant that every generation from Gen Z to baby boomers saw something different in it. I also really enjoyed seeing how the images from the exhibition fed back into the internet and started circulating on shitposting accounts.
What’s next for Freeze Magazine and yourself?
We are planning sequels to past projects as well as working on new projects such as a children’s book and maybe an institutional exhibition? Who knows? These past few weeks and the opening of “The Party” was definitely a turning point. I appreciate all these opportunities that were possible thanks to @freeze_magazine and I would like to make more ambitious projects while respecting the ethos of memes.
Author: Verity Babbs