NEW YORK TIMES: Cats Are Works of Art (but You Knew That)

Rolling out the (yawn) red carpet: The Internet Cat Video Festival, created by the Walker Art Center, has its New York debut on Friday. (Above, a screening at the Minnesota State Fair in August.)

Published: October 24, 2013

THE video reel opens with a big cat squeezing itself into a narrow-mouthed urn, a miniature comedy that ends with the cat’s tail poking sinuously out the top. Later, there is a poignant encounter between ahair dryer and a blind kitten, which flails its paws at the heat, wind and noise. Elsewhere, a black cat plays the villain, rudely swatting a pill bottle off a dresser, then turning to the camera to deliver a contemptuous yawn.

Such videos are clearly a staple of popular culture, but are they also art?

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, a well-regarded contemporary-art museum, takes the position that they are both. Its Internet Cat Video Festival, a traveling show that features an 80-minute reel of clips culled from 10,000 submissions and edited by museum curators, has been shown around the world, concert-style, to throngs of fans, some dressed in cat costumes, and others with live cats in tow. Now in its second season, the event will make its New York debut on Friday, for one night only, at Warsaw, a nightclub in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (Its slogan: “Where pierogies meet punk.”)

“Cat videos seem to transcend language and culture,” said Scott Stulen, the Walker curator in charge of the festival, whose life as a mild-mannered museum employee was upended last year when people turned out in droves to see his humble video reel, and far-flung cultural institutions started clamoring to screen it.

“People are really passionate about this,” said Mr. Stulen, who will be on hand in Brooklyn as M.C.

The sold-out show (the $20 tickets were going for $40 on at Warsaw will be tailored to the local residents: a New York band called Supercute! will play, and five feline-focused cinematographers from the tristate area will answer questions. Lil Bub, a dwarf kitten with a lolling tongue who has achieved viral fame, will be there — presumably for as long as she can stand it — as will Will Braden, the creator of Henri, le Chat Noir; he’ll show a new Halloween-themed video about his world-weary French cat.

Mr. Stulen will present a new cut of his reel, now with clips from more than 90 videos. “It’s going to be a unique version for Brooklyn,” he said.

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