“Memes have exploded to the forefront of pop culture. Election 2019 was a meme festival and the Indian meme scene has benefited a lot over the last year,” says Anuj Nakade, a Pune-based student of law and, possibly, India’s only meme curator.
At Meme Regime 2.0, curated by Nakade, the audience was given a background of the cultural phenomenon of memes as an art movement and the event made memes accessible at the same time. It was held at TIFA Working Studios on Sunday.
A meme, which could be a funny text, a darkly satirical video, a completely nonsensical image or a mix of all these, is passing through the internet at the speed wifi. Nakade says that mythology memes are big in India, though the gold medal, over the past year, can be given to #JCBKiKhudayi.
The latter is inspired by the JCB machines that dig earth at construction sites. For reasons that nobody can explain — which is one of the characteristics of memes — images of people posing in front of the giant yellow machines or videos of crowds gathered around it went viral, garnering millions of hits, likes and forwards. JCB, the company that makes the machines, responded by tweeting on May 27 that they were humbled by the love.
The event also included a curatorial walk through some important memes, a screening to understand the history of memes, a presentation and a question-answer session. “Memes, by far, are the most democratic form of art in our time and they have been getting more absurd, referential, cryptic and downright dank as we move ahead. The core idea of the project is to theorise and understand the dynamics of meme trends, definitions and bizarre meme evolutions in detail as well as touch upon the exclusivity, critique, sources, perks, downfalls and boundaries of memes as jokes,” says Nakade’s curatorial note.
Nakade has been making memes since 2007, beginning with a picture of Doge (a Shiba Inu species of dog) on which he had pasted a chef’s hat and written ‘Onion-cut much fry wow’ in colourful text.
“I thought it was funny and it got hundreds of likes. You need one initiation meme and then you are sucked in and it is like a spiral. Initially, I used to share memes on Facebook but, eventually, moved on to sites such as Reddit,” he says.
He has conducted Meme Regimes in Pune before, and other cities across India for people attempting to understand this phenomenon. Corporates and showbusiness are especially concerned about memes because, “you want to get memed intentionally and not unintentionally when you are making a product”.