FARGO – Lights. Cameras. Cat-tion!
The Plains is following the lead of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which scored a surprising hit two years ago with the first installment of the feline festival.
The program is pretty much all in the name – the evening features dozens of cat videos found online.
While the concept is pretty straightforward, the notion of making an event of it wasn’t a natural consideration.
“I don’t watch cat videos, so I didn’t have a good sense of their enormous popularity,” says Sarah Schultz, director of education and community programs at the Walker.
Schultz and others thought it just sounded like a good way to spend a summer night, sitting on the Walker’s lawn and watching videos of cute cat antics. She figured maybe 100 would show up, but the initial event drew 10,000.
“I was definitely flabbergasted,” says Plains’ Director and CEO Colleen Sheehy when asked what she thought of the show’s reception. She was so impressed she went down to Minneapolis last year to see the fest as part of the Minnesota State Fair.
“It was so spontaneous. It was this outpouring of cat love and frivolity,” Sheehy says. “I love hearing about surprising museum programming.”
“Surprising programming” is an understatement. The event became a much-buzzed-about phenomenon, prompting some to ask why a major art organization was showing Internet cat clips.
“As a contemporary art institution, we are always looking on the horizon to what is happening in contemporary culture,” Schultz says. “Clearly the Internet has democratized what we share and make and has really been this vehicle for popular culture and what we think about as fine art. The Cat Video Festival is less about ‘Why are cat videos art?’ as much as it is about what is the experience of sharing a creative form we love together. It’s as much about the social experience as it is about the art experience.”
And it’s a national, if not universal, experience. Other museums around the country have followed the Walker’s lead, and Scott Stulen, who curated the first festival, took it to the media showcase South-by-Southwest.
Stulen will be in Fargo on Thursday night to emcee and talk about the project.
Sheehy expects Thursday’s show at the Fargo Theatre to draw around 500 people.
While cats are the stars of the evening, people aren’t allowed to bring their pets into the Fargo Theatre.
At the Walker’s events, Schultz says people dress up and come out with families and friends to watch the clips.
Davies High School senior Leigh Bauer will be there to see her own video shown as part of the locally produced “Valley Cats” segment.
Her clip features her cats, Lily, Chase and Miley, being left home alone and deciding to throw a party.
“It’s kind of weird,” says Bauer.
Sounds more like “Frisky Business.”
While Schultz isn’t a cat person, she’s developed a fondness for a certain type of cat clips.
“I like cat pratfalls,” she says with a laugh. “I like to see cats fall. I like to see them leap into midair and see what happens.”
So why do cats make for better watching than other pets?
“Cats don’t have any facial expression. They’re very deadpan, as opposed to dogs that show a lot of expression,” Sheehy says. “There’s something about cats that we think they’re plotting against us.”
All of which makes it easier to sit back and enjoy the antics.
“Sometimes you just have to have fun,” Sheehy says.
If you go What: Internet Cat Video Festival
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway
Info: Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children. www.plainsart.org, (701) 232-3821