No, that title isn’t a spelling mistake. We aren’t going to be talking about “memes” here boys, well, actually, we are. But our main topic is the bastardization of memes, “post-memes” if you will.
Or as they shall be called further, “menes”. Now, this term isn’t my own. I’m sure it’s from Ylilauta, actually. Nowadays it’s used quite frequently in Finnish memes as a bastardization of the word “meme”. So what is a mene?
I’ll define it for us:
A mene is a meme that parodies or otherwise references typical internet memes. For example, sadfrog.jpg (left) is a meme and sadfrueg (right) is a mene.
A few more examples of menes based off the meme of sadfrog.jpg:
As you can see, the original meme has some obvious meaning. The frog is sad, thus the picture can be used as a reaction image or a simple character of reference. However, the mene versions of sadfrog have no inherent meaning other than the fact they are bastardizing the meme itself. They’re a reactionary response to the popularization of memes such as sadfrog.
So what does this have to do with art?
Well, a meme/mene could easily be considered art. Indeed, some Polish guy studying art in France on Krautchan.net /int/’s board has recognized this in the following water colors:
Now, I’m sure he would love to tell me about how he sees memes as art, and how he sees his own memetic art, but since I have no idea how to contact him, I’ll do my own analysis.
The artist, henceforth known as “Art Bernd” is doing his own mene creation. However, unlike menes that bastardize, his parody of memes is to make them serious. If I remember correctly, he showcased these at a student art exhibit.
In any case, Art Bernd’s work shows us many of the artistic merits of menes, notably:
Menes exist completely outside the mainstream and thus much like early modern art have no commercial appeal. In addition, due to their inherent anonymous-creator nature, they can never be bought or sold or put onto t-shirts. While Art Bernd may exhibit his pieces, ultimately he knows the original works are not his own and that he is simply attempting to explain something impossible to explain.
The mene is a personal work of art. Requiring very little skill to create and little original thought, a mene is born from a split second stroke of genius, much like those random quips one thinks of during conversation. The mene is art and humor for the masses by the masses.
3. Lack of inherent meaning
The mene is absurd. While a meme has context, it is usually created out of something in particular such as a humorously worded phrase, or a specific event. The mene on the other hand defines itself through “not being” a meme. Much like how Duchamp tells us a urinal is art because it isn’t art, a mene is a meme because it isn’t a meme.
Menes make memes funny by getting rid of what makes a meme funny in the first place, the context behind it. An example below, once again, the meme (good_thread.jpg) on the left and the mene (le white man.jpg) on the right.
The meme has a lot of context. It’s the picture of a notorious krautchan.net poster who would frequently employ the bold words superimposed over him. The mene, however, works to destroy the context and replace it with something different entirely. In this, it becomes funny in what it isn’t doing, rather than what it is doing.
So memes exist, menes exist, but what about parodies of menes? Surely we have gotten to the point where many menes themselves are becoming memes. For example:
This picture is an offshoot of sadfrog.jpg/pepe the frog, but it has almost become just as popular as the former. Due to the frogs mischievous grin, he is now not defined through the lens of sadfrog.jpg, but has his own identity and offshoots.
If a mene can turn into a meme at any time, is there something beyond a mene? A post-post mene? Something so devoid of meaning and context, but still wholly personable? I believe there is.
This picture is so absurd, so lacking in context, it must be what we’re looking for. I give credit to a krautchan poster from Jersey for this picture. Unlike menes, it doesn’t reference a previous meme. It is reactionary against menes themselves in being original. However unlike a meme, it has no context, it is born of nothing. In this way, memetic art is simply becoming art.
Who knows what the future will hold for poorly drawn .jpg amphibians?