I Can Has Art Show?

Hurford Humanities Center Associate Director James Weissinger '06 co-curated "Kat Culchur," an exhibition exploring the unique relationship between humans and felines. Organized by the Philadelphia artists of FLUXspace, the show debuted in London's Tate Modern art gallery this spring and is now on view through August 15 in Philadelphia.

You might not expect to see “Lolcats”—the popular computer-generated images of furry felines with grammatically incorrect captions—at London’s Tate Modern art gallery.

Yet these and other cat-related miscellany were displayed in the Tate’s Turbine Hall this May as part of “Kat Culchur,” an exhibition co-curated by Associate Director of the Hurford Humanities Center James Weissinger ’06 and organized by Philadelphia art organization FLUXspace. Weissinger and FLUXspace were participants in the Tate’s “No Soul for Sale—A Festival of Independents,” which brought together 70 independent art spaces and artists’ collectives from around the world. Delaware Valley residents can see “Kat Culchur” for themselves as it runs through August 15 at FLUXspace’s Philadelphia headquarters.

Weissinger had previously worked with FLUXspace on a project about Historic Yellow Springs in Chester County, Pa. For this show, he and seven fellow artists shared their own concepts of  worldwide “cat culture,” particularly humans’ fascination with cats. Weissinger considered questions of domesticity. “We are the only animals who take other animals into their houses and live with them,” he says. “Why do we do this? Why do we name animals, and pamper and infantilize them?”

The FLUXspace artists used these questions and other ideas to design a faux-anthropological exhibition. “Using the admittedly insane frame of a post-apocalyptic future where cats don’t exist, we created a futuristic museum looking back at cats, to get at how humans and cats live with each other right now,” says Weissinger.

Besides the Lolcat images, “artifacts” in the “Kat Culchur” show included primary texts, such as an 1860s New York Times piece about London cat shows, recent research about the psychology of a cat person, and even made-up articles from the near-future, including an obituary for the last domesticated cat on Earth and a New Yorker “Shouts and Murmurs” piece written by Weissinger. The exhibit’s centerpiece was a miniature moon bounce for cats, an artifact “misinterpreted by the future,” built by Philadelphia artist Leslie Rogers.

During the weekend of the “No Soul for Sale” festival, 93,000 people from across the globe came to the Tate. Weissinger and the other FLUXspace artists acted as docents for curious “Kat Culchur” visitors.

For Weissinger, the most exciting aspect of the experience was being in the Tate from 10 a.m. to midnight and interacting with so many international visitors and artists. “It was like a temporary town that had popped up,” he says. “It was a bazaar, a fair, and a networking space all rolled into one.”

-Brenna McBride