Obviously there is a correlation between cat veneration and world-altering technologies: the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids; we built the internet. History must be telling us something important here: that feline charisma is timeless and unfakeable, and therefore conducive to YouTube celebrity.
Its art-film bona fides established as long ago as 1947, with Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's experimental documentary The Private Life of a Cat, which chronicles the having of kittens, our modern cat video has proliferated wildly, by now prompting at least one bombastically cheeky longform magazine article purporting "to say something definitive about the relationship between cats and the internet," and, more enjoyably, touring festival celebrations thereof, like the one making its Bay Area premiere Saturday and benefitting the East Bay SPCA.
Begun last year by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where it drew some 10,000 enthusiasts, the Internet Cat Video Festival is simply a curated collection of viral cat videos. It is hard to say what makes a viral cat video particularly festival-appropriate, but the answer probably is being a viral cat video. The festival itself has since gone viral, in its way, and so on Saturday, May 11, after cat adoptions and live performances all afternoon, and a costume contest at 7:30pm, the OakCatVidFest will project adorably and hilariously familiar videos onto the Great Wall of Oakland.
With its shark-suited Roomba riders, its vocal sour cream appreciators, its chatty players of patty cake, the cat-video continuum is vast, or at least vast enough to make cultural space for the gaffe-affirming vaudevillian Keyboard Cat, the pixilated space-faring rainbow-trailing Pop-Tart-bodied Nyan Cat, the existentially despairing Henri, le Chat Noir, and of course Maru, who really loves boxes. These venerable performers play devoutly to their audience, over and over again.
One key difference between sharing cat videos on the internet and going outside and seeing them projected with a like-minded audience is security in the knowledge that the you're not a half-feral recluse after all. Or maybe you are, but then aren't we all?
The Oakland Internet Cat Video Festival takes place from 3 to 10pm Saturday, May 11, 2013, in Oakland. For more information, visit oaklandcatvidfest.com.