Jillian Steinhauer | Longreads | September 2015 | 15 minutes (3,800 words)
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The position that an epoch occupies in the historical process can be determined more strikingly from an analysis of its inconspicuous surface-level expressions than from that epoch’s judgments about itself.
—Siegfried Kracauer, “The Mass Ornament”
The spectacle creates an eternal present of immediate expectation: memory ceases to be necessary or desirable.
—John Berger, “Why Look at Animals?”
One evening in the summer of 2013, I joined 11,499 other people—give or take—at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand to sit and watch cat videos. I had spent the day leading up to the Internet Cat Video Festival (or CatVidFest, as it’s nicknamed) wandering the fair in extreme heat, eating assorted fried foods on sticks, watching butter sculptors, and paying money to take off my shoes and traverse an artsy blow-up castle with “rooms” of saturated color (think Dan Flavin goes to the fair). Hours later, dehydrated and probably sunstroked, I met up with a journalist from Minnesota Public Radio for a brief interview. He wanted to talk to me because I was an art critic, and because I had served as a juror for that year’s CatVidFest. Read more…