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Oakland's Cat Craze
Adam L. Brinklow | Photo: Courtesy icanhas.cheezburger.com; Douglas Long | May 10, 2013
Why is the Oakland Museum of California so interested in YouTube cat videos? More reasons than you might think.
People in Oakland take their cats pretty seriously. But not nearly as seriously as the folks at the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis, whose Internet cat video festival, #Catvidfest, will play on the Great Wall of Oakland Saturday, May 11. That event will be preceded by a (sold out) VIP cat video party and benefit for the East Bay SPCA at the Oakland Museum of California on May 10. We asked #Catvidfest creator Scott Stulen, along with several OMCA curators, to expound on the significance of Internet cat culture. Here, they give their rationales for why cat videos belong in a museum, if only for one night.
It's about art: "The festival has found a home in museums because it says something about what curation really is and the role of a museum in the age of YouTube. Judging a cat video is like judging any other art form: Is it something compelling and original? Do the form and content match? Does it feel candid or staged? And is it something that bears repeat viewing?" —Scott Stulen, producer of #Catvidfest
It's about science: "The cat behaviors that people find odd you can find roots for in the survival behaviors of wild cats. Cats are trying to use wild behaviors to fit into a human world, and they've adapted to behave in a way that appeals to a human construct." —Douglas Long, OMCA senior curator of natural sciences
It's about sociology: "YouTube has changed cat culture. Cat people are not in isolation anymore. Humans like to see anthropomorphism, and when we see cats we see ourselves. Our own mortality is constantly ringing in our ears, and we're always trying to figure ourselves out. Maybe we can if we figure them out first." —Cynthia Taylor, OMCA assistant director of public programs
It's about being humane: "The goal for the day is to try to sign up 200 people to save more kittens' lives. There's a lot of fun, but there's also an important message about giving cats a second chance, and it's about sharing your love and passion about felines with great people." —Laura Fulda, VP of Marketing & Devlopment at the East Bay SPCA
And it's about being ridiculously hilarious: "We can't have a straight meeting with this festival, it doesn't matter if we're with board members, the press, whoever, we can't stop cracking up. When we confirm a detail we say 'purr' or 'meow.' We're making little cat noses with egg plates. Everyone has cat fever." —Taylor
"We're calling ourselves the 'Mew-seum' for this. We're putting the 'cat' back in California. Cat-lifornia. I came up with that pun. I should be ashamed." —René de Guzman, OMCA senior curator of art
#Catvidefest plays on the Great Wall of Oakland Saturday, May 11, 3-10 PM.