The meme is an elusive concept, most commonly described as an idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from one person to another in the cultural ether. Like "Gangnam Style", Beast Jesus or Nyan Cat, the meme can live with one foot in the physical world and the other in the digital realm.
Justin Crowe, a ceramic artist based in Kent, Ohio, couldn't be more excited about the meme's sharing potential. That's why he's started a Kickstarter project we can't help but love -- Meme the World. Participants receive a mug decorated with the international symbol of the meme (a cat) and a set of simple instructions:
1. Use cup
2. Photograph your experience
3. Upload photo to memetheworld.com
4. Pass the cup to a new person!
Crowe wants to recruit as many people as possible, ideally circulating 200 mugs that will travel from person to person, inspiring hilarious moments documented on the Meme the World blog. He has already launched a small-scale version of his project, and participants from San Francisco to London have shared their meme-able moments on the site.
Now Meme the World is in full swing, supported by artists like Peter Pincus and Rachel Jernigan who are offering their artwork as prizes for anyone who donates to the endeavor on Kickstarter. The giant art project aims to raise $5,000 to keep the mugs coming, but the real goal is to inspire. As Crowe says in the Kickstarter video:
"I believe in the cultural value of creativity, and this project aims to spread those ideas. The coffee mug is like the physical world idea-sharing cousin of Facebook. I want to organize an event that uses these two mediums to bring people together to share what they believe in."
Find Crowe's Kickstarter here and let us know if you'll be meme-ing the world along with him in the comments.
We bring you the wondrous portrait of Mitt (and Ann!) made by the relatively unknown painter, Richard Whitney. If you thought Shepard Fairey's HOPE poster made an impression, wait until you see Mitt in oil. More on the painting turned meme here.
Does the beloved Beast Jesus really need an introduction? Arguably the best thing to ever happen to the internet, Cecilia Gimenez's botched "Ecce Homo" fresco took the web by storm with his never-ending beard and haunting eyes.
Psy -- the man who conquered YouTube -- was the object of many a meme this year. While pony dance parodies were the most popular, we like the internet art that came after Psy hosted his live reddit chat.
Classical art meets hip hop in this hilarious meme featuring the french portrait painter, Joseph Ducreux. The internet stumbled on the unique gesture and pseudo-grill of Mr. Ducreux and promptly added some relevant rap lyrics. Ta-da, an art meme.
Ikea Monkey turned Beast Jesus. We couldn't resist this LOL-able image, bestowed upon us by Twitter genius and journalist, Justin Ling.
Like any good sidekick, Paul Ryan followed in the footsteps of his leading man, Mitt Romney, and earned himself a portrait too. This one is a bit more sensual though, and as a result, earned a good bit of attention for its romance-novel cover appearance.
Marina Abramovic made everyone cry when her retrospective, The Artist is Present, hit MoMA in 2010. But in 2012, we got a taste of the internet's take on the exhibit, when "Marina Made Me Cry" became uber-popular on tumblr. Hoards of people, including Jemima Kirke (of 'Girls' stardom), were shown shedding tears in the presence of Ms. Abramovic, and so the meme-ing followed.
Lindsey Lohan was the subject of much internet fodder in 2012, but just before the year ended, we stumbled upon a heartwarming image of young LiLo, before the party fouls and hotel debt debacles. Plastered with the quotes of her blockbuster hit, 'The Parent Trap,' the image was something we will remember fondly.
'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, so the daring Ms. Woolf took to the internet to give her two cents on popular culture and events. Here's what she had to say about #GangnamStyle.
The LACMA Rock, otherwise known as the 456-foot-long Michael Heizer sculpture, "Levitated Mass," earned itself a twitter account this year and attracted the interest of many Instagram-happy Los Angeles citizens. The internet readily accepted its existence.