On Museum of Internet, Félix Magal pulls art from the digital debris
Now with over half a million likes on Facebook, Museum of Internet has become the leading stream of Weird Facebook.
Housing cat GIFs, canine street sellers, clandestine McDonalds branches, existential crises and everything in between. The page is described as a gallery stream of “Images that make the internet awesome”. Presented without context, the artefacts tap into the consciousness of randomness which unites scrollers everywhere.
Some are straightforward – cute cats, funny accidents. Others are more peculiar – strange highbrow/lowbrow juxtapositions viewed through the pixelated cut-and-paste lens of cyberspace. Emilie Gervais and Félix Magal launched the page together – building a digital museum to display their findings. Gathering together thousands of inscrutable viral sensations, the page continues to grow rapidly. We spoke to Félix over email to discuss the aesthetic appeal of his online netherworld.
Firstly, tell us about the background to the page? What was the initial idea behind it?
I created the page at the end of 2012 with Emilie Gervais. In 2012, memes and internet aesthetic images were only found through by digging through a lot of the internet. Instagram meme pages didn’t exist. The central idea was to put and archive in the same place the images that make internet awesome. A place where everyone can go and where people already were so Facebook was the perfect place to confront users with this kind of aesthetic.
As meme curator, what do you look for in an artefact for the page?
We always try to post timeless images. The thing is when you are an admin of a page and you are trying to find content trough internet you don’t have to find the newest meme, but the dankest meme. Our only limits are made by the rules of Facebook where everything is strictly limited so no nudity and no violence.
In what ways do you think your work is similar to the work of a physical museum curator?
This is a really hard question, and I can’t say it is similar. Only maybe in the sense that we present pictures of works on behalf of our institution, who is internet. For now we are trying to give our vision to what is the internet aesthetic, but I hope that in 20 years when we come back to the pages it will help people to understand a part of our society in some way.
How would you describe the role of a curator in the internet age?
One word: Serendipity. Images can take all forms and be everywhere. You just have to look and be curious of everything. Like for a time I used to go really often on Alibaba (the biggest Chinese marketplace on internet) because some packshot products can sometimes be so deep… look at this real size Dinosaur.
How does the MoI website work with the random photos?
So another part of the project is the website where everyone can drag and drop and image they like, so when you go to the website you can found super weird photos of everything. It can be totally NSFW so look behind you before opening the website.
How do you think digital consumption has adjusted the conventional idea of beauty in art?
We have really small attention span, so we have to get something in less than 3 seconds. It’s just a stream of content everywhere you look. You move onto something new before you have no time to process the last thing.
What do you think it is about the pieces you pick out which have made the page so popular?
I think and it’s the fact that there is no advertising. We don’t try to sell anything we just want people to have a good time looking at what the internet does best.
How important is a lack of context to MoI?
It’s important to let people work out what they want from the images. If you look at the comment section, users often create better content with the same images!
Do you have any favourite posts from the past few months?
Right now, I think this one. I live in France and we have our elections this week – we are all really scared of the far-right.
What’s next for you and MoI?
I think the next step for the Facebook page is to cross the barrier of the million followers, after that we really don’t know maybe make a book or something!
Félix Magal will speak at the IAM Weekend in Barcelona which runs 27-30 April.