Preview: “Dank Memes: Stories of Cultural Viruses” at Non-Fiction Gallery

Most of us associate the word “meme” with those hundreds of share-worthy Facebook photos bearing captions that poke fun at politicians and celebrities. However, Dank Memes: Stories of Cultural Viruses, a new exhibition at Non-Fiction Gallery, focuses less on the lighthearted side of memes and more on the cryptic (sometimes troubling) meaning behind these ever-multiplying social concepts that spread instantaneously in the internet age.


“Eyes Emoji, Slice of Pizza Emoji, Slice of Pizza Emoji” by Emilie Selden


The juried show, which opens with a reception at 6 pm on Friday, July 22 and runs through August 1, brings together 15 works by eight selected artists, including videos, photographs, paintings, drawings and found-object sculpture. Artists were invited to submit “their interpretations of the cultural viruses circulating around us” while the three judges sought to pick “the best, the brightest, the dankest meme-inspired works,” the gallery said in a statement about the show.

“Put simply, memes are cultural viruses,” the statement continues. “Those memes which worm their way into the minds of the many are the best, the funniest, the dopest—the dankest. But do they also reveal our swelling tendency to shut off our brains and simply let the virus flow in?”


“Remnant of Man” by Joe Bigley


That somewhat ominous last question surely sets the mood for some of the exhibited works. In the whimsical yet troubling “Remnant of Man,” artist Joe Bigley took a brown vinyl recliner chair with a torn seat and attached a pair of new-looking hiking boots to the recliner’s raised footrest. Narrative explanations are bleak if conjectural at best: Did the owner of those boots literally vanish after his mind and personality disappeared from watching too much reality TV in his favorite chair?

Another curious entry is “Eyes Emoji, Slice of Pizza Emoji, Slice of Pizza Emoji,” by Emilie Selden, one of three drawings Selden is showing that were created with graphite and marker on grid paper.  Two wide-open eyes with prominent black eyelashes stare back at the viewer with triangular pupils that look like slices of pepperoni pizza. It’s an inventive and enjoyable image, as long as you don’t over-think it as symbolizing 24-hour government surveillance or other loss-of-privacy issues linked to the digital age.


Still from Andrea Coates’ “It Also Rises (Who I Am)”


In a video by Andrea Coates, “It Also Rises (Who I Am)”, abstract colors and shapes come and go as a woman’s voice intones “Who I Am,” suggesting a confusion over self-identity, perhaps induced by the overload of media images inescapable in today’s wired world.

Some of the works, despite the show’s “dankness” theme, offer reassuring illustrations of nurturing human bonds. In Jean Egger’s “Girl Talk,” done in acrylic paint and graphite, columns of abstract pink shapes manage to suggest feminine solidarity in a world gone mad.


Dank Memes: Stories of Cultural Viruses opens with a reception on Friday, July 22 from 6 – 9pm at Non-Fiction Gallery. The show remains up through August 1.

Author: Brad Swope

Brad Swope, a college composition and literature instructor, has lived in Savannah since 1989. He is a former newspaper reporter whose interests include art history, music and the great outdoors.

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