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Teacher Resource: Beyond the Meme

October 29, 2013

youmustbenew[1]

January 2011

What’s a meme? The word meme comes from the Ancient Greek words mīmēma, meaning “imitated thing,” and mimeisthai, meaning “to imitate.” Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins introduced the term as a way to describe the spread of ideas and culture. Dawkins considered memes to be things such as melodies, catch-phrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches. Internet memes are similar in that they are a form of culture that spreads, however, they are purposefully altered over time and may exist in a variety of formats (image, text, hashtag, video, or gif). One of the most familiar internet memes may be Condescending Wonka. Take a look at how this meme has been altered over time:

While internet memes are creative and fun, we can push our students to use technology and social media in a more artistic way. Many of them are already using these technologies, so it’s just about giving them a little direction and guidance to go beyond their clever memes and explore their artistry in a 21st century style. Here are a couple of lessons that use Instagram as a way to explore this idea of creating and sharing digital art.

Insta Appropriation

Memes can be a fun, relevant tie in to the idea of appropriation in art history. Start a lesson discussing Andy Warhol, Sherrie Levine, or Richard Prince, then compare their processes to current memes. Let students discuss how these are the same or different. Using Instagram, take and share a photo. Let the students take turns appropriating your image, almost like a game of visual telephone. Each student will appropriate the previous student’s image, modifying it slightly. You can use a hashtag to keep track of the images submitted. A few of the DMA education staff members tried this out using the hashtag #DMAofficeAPPROPRIATION. Take a look at how our images transformed over time.

Day in the Life

This is a great way to talk about the history of photography, and specifically documentary photography. You can discuss how cameras and access to cameras have changed over time and what that means for the visual record of a culture. In the late 1800’s, few people had cameras, taking a photograph was a time-consuming endeavor, and the amount of photos taken was small in comparison to today. Now, almost everyone has a camera (on their phone) or access to one, and little time and skill are required to capture a moment. Challenge your students to become documentary photographers and really consider how the photos they take of themselves are a representation of them. Each student should take one photo a day that gives a peak into the lives they lead. This project could last anywhere from a week to a semester! Encourage students to use the hashtag #DITL followed by their last name. For example, Danielle used the tag #DITLschulz and I used the tag #DITLfuentes to document each of our lives. Take a look at some of our images:

Find us at TAEA

Want to learn more about this topic and get more lesson plan ideas? Danielle Schulz and I are presenting at this year’s Texas Art Education Association’s annual conference. The conference will be held in Dallas next month, so make sure you register soon!  Our presentation is Saturday November 23rd at 1:00 pm–we hope to see you there!

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

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