Internet memes, once thought to be fun, silly, and casual, are increasingly part of a sophisticated communications strategy. These five artists and collectives find ways to negotiate power and assert presence by defying dominant media narratives in China, India, Nicaragua, and beyond. While memes can and do wreak havoc in our societies, notably on our electoral processes, we invite you to consider a broader definition of memetic expression that includes the promotion of civic good and social equity through visual, haptic, and interactive discourse. Here, artists find creative ways to amplify, build on, and disseminate messages from underheard social movements.
Josue Chavez researches media, translation, gender, sexuality, and labor in Asia and Latin America. He served as Head of Research and Development for China Residence and also conducted in depth interviews with artists and creative administrators. His critical writing has been featured in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology, and the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism. He joined the Hispanic Studies department’s Ph.D. program at Penn in the Fall of 2019.
Kira Simon-Kennedy is a Penn alum and co-founder of China Residencies, a multifaceted arts nonprofit supporting creative spaces and projects in China and beyond. She has been awarded fellowships at the Made in NY Media Center and NEW INC, the New Museum’s art, design, and technology incubator to work on Rivet, a global search engine for creative opportunities, and produces independent documentary films.
Mikail Wright-Kwon is a visual artist, designer, and researcher from the Washington, D.C. metro area whose practice focuses on intercultural interactions, folk art, and queer communities. His family business, The Jackson Family Art Show, an arts management company in the area, sowed an interest in the arts from a young age. After studying abroad at Heilongjiang University in Harbin, China for three semesters he transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park to complete his undergraduate degree in Chinese Literature.
An Xiao Mina’s writing and commentary have appeared in the Atlantic, MIT Technology Review, the Economist, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hyperallergic, and on the BBC World Service. She has exhibited work in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image, among other spaces. She was a 2016-17 research fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, a product director at the tech company Meedan, and author of Memes to Movements: How the World’s Most Viral Media is Changing Social Protest and Power.