Devoted to a juried selection of cat-themed YouTube videos, the festival began at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2012 as “a modest celebration to bring online communities together in the real world.” It went viral, drawing more than 10,000 fans to the Walker for a an outdoor screening. Since then, it has toured to the CultureTECH festival in Northern Ireland, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and SXSW in Austin, among other venues.
The Canadian tour of the Internet Cat Video Festival comes to Canada courtesy of a non-art organization: the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. In September 2013, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies collaborated with the Montreal SPCA to bring the Walker’s program to the Cineplex Odeon Forum in Montreal for three screenings. The ticket sales from those screenings benefitted the Montreal SPCA.
Now, the Canadian Federation of Humane Socieites is expanding the video program in a Canadian tour that will extend over spring, summer and fall 2014. The Internet Cat Video Festival will make its Toronto debut at TIFF Bell Lightbox on April 17. The screening will be introduced by Laureen Harper, wife of prime minister Stephen Harper and a cat foster-mom and volunteer for humane societies across the country.
After Toronto, the Internet Cat Video Festival is planned to tour to Charlottetown, Saskatoon (June 15), Guelph (June 19), Vancouver, Regina (August), Fredericton, Ottawa and Red Deer (October 29).
Kim Elmslie, communications manager at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the staffer who initiated bringing the fest to Canada, says that she hopes to invite people in each city to submit their own cat videos as well. The winner of each city’s cat video contest would screen before the Internet Cat Video Festival tour reel, which is roughly 70 minutes in length. Each screening would benefit the local SPCA and the CFHS.
Some video highlights of the Internet Cat Video Festival include Lil BUB, Grumpy Cat, keyboard cat, and NONONONO cat. The Walker’s past presentations have also included films by Canadians, including Cats and Pants by Toronto-based artist Jennifer Matotek.
Though its curators have admitted that the festival initially generated tensions in the art-museum context, they believe it continues to be worthwhile inside and outside of art’s fields.
At the session “#catvidfest: Is this the end of art?” at SXSW 2013, art historian Katie Hill, creator of the first Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker, spoke about the event’s importance as an unironic and collective experience, one that brings online experience offline.
“People want to connect and are really hungry for something real,” Hill said. “This is not ironic, we are not making of anyone, and this is why it works—because people crave the non-hip, the unironic, or just a genuine experience that’s joyful. The festival produced a simple platform for this affection to be shared, and thus it was successful.”
“To accomplish sincere, shared positive experience, you really need to mean it and not just be trying to prove something or make a point,” Hill continued. “This authenticity of sincere and transparent good intention is not common in contemporary art, nor is it in society for that matter. And that’s what makes [the festival] unique.”
More information about the Canadian tour is due to be posted soon at facebook.com/justforcatsfestival.
This story was updated on March 11, 2014, with more details from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.