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"Half Cat", "Ceiling Cat", and "Catt"

Published onMay 27, 2022
"Half Cat", "Ceiling Cat", and "Catt"

Artworks by Eva & Franco Mattes

Text by Mona Schubert

Eva & Franco Mattes
Half Cat
2020
Taxidermy cat
42 x 15 x 24 cm
Installed at Fotomuseum Winterthur
Photo by Melania Dalle Grave and Piercarlo Quecchia for DSL Studio


Eva & Franco Mattes
Ceiling Cat
2016
Taxidermy cat (56 x 13 x 20 cm) and custom made hole (13 x 13 cm)
Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Photo by Katherine Du Tiel


Eva & Franco Mattes
Catt
2010
Taxidermy cat and bird, cage
55 x 40 x 40 cm


No other images are shared and circulated online as often as those of cats, the fluffy favorites of the internet. The taxidermic sculptures Half Cat (2020), Ceiling Cat (2016) and Catt (2010) by Eva & Franco Mattes refer to so-called lolcat memes – a social practice in which cat pictures with witty captions are shared millions of times on the internet.

High above the audience, the head of a tiny stuffed cat peeps out unobtrusively from a hole in the ceiling of the exhibition space. The original meme which served as the inspiration for Ceiling Cat began circulating in the early 2000s, when it first appeared on the image-sharing platform FunnyJunk.

In 2006, the sentence “Ceiling Cat is watching you masturbate” was added to the image: an insidious joke that evokes the dystopian figure of Big Brother and turns the cat into a symbol of the omnipresent eye of the internet that monitors everything and of voyeuristic image consumption.

Half Cat is based on the image of a deformed cat with only two legs and no ears walking along a street. It began circulating on the internet in 2010 with the caption “The longer you stare, the weirder it gets”. Since 2018 Half Cat has appeared online again with renewed intensity, increasingly under the Portuguese name Sinko Peso.

At first it was assumed that the strangely truncated image of the cat had been created by a technological error such as a Google Street View glitch or failed panorama shot, which is why the meme is often called Panorama Fail Cat.

Later, however, users of online forums were able to track down the original image of the four-legged cat with pointy ears, identifying its place of origin as Ottawa in Canada.

Half Cat’s unusual form is thus the product of skillful photoshop editing. Owing to the lack of clarity about its origins, Half Cat can be seen as a metaphor par excellence for the networked image – for copies of images that are constantly on the move and constantly manipulated.

—Mona Schubert

***

Eva & Franco Mattes are an Italian artist duo living in New York.

They were among the first artists to use the internet as a medium to create art. Through videos, installations and websites, their work responds to and dissects our contemporary networked condition, always approaching the ethics and politics of life online with a darkly humorous edge.

Their works can be found in the collections of the SFMOMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, Fotomuseum Winterthur, X Museum and the Walker Art Center.

Links to many of Mattes' projects can be found at their website: www.0100101110101101.org

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