WHILE it’s not true that 15 percent of all Internet traffic is cat-related, as the Friskies cat food company asserted in 2013, it does make a convincing urban legend.
“For some reason, cats took off, and then it’s this avalanche that just sort of keeps piling up,” said Jason Eppink, the curator of “How Cats Took Over the Internet,” an exhibition that opens on Friday at the Museum of the Moving Image. “People on the web are more likely to post a cat than another animal, because it sort of perpetuates itself. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.”
The exhibition — which may well be the first mainstream museum installation entirely dedicated to cats online — is made up mostly of images, videos and GIFs of cats and is meant to be a cultural deconstruction of their enduring popularity. The show takes a high-minded look at anthropomorphism and what it calls the “aesthetics of cuteness” as well as a low-brow wallow through cheesy trends — like the LOLcats who demand cheezburger — and bad puns, like Caturday, a fad that had people posting cat pictures on Saturdays.
The cornerstone of the exhibition is a 20-year timeline that traces the history of cats on the Internet to 1995, when a news group — a bulletin-board-type online community that was an early form of social media — coalesced around the members’ love of cats. From this began Meowchat, where people swapped role-playing messages posing as their cats, talking in a sort of baby talk. (Predictably, some members of the news group grew revolted and left to form a splinter message board.)
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