GoMA and the Glasgow Film Festival were delighted to host the Scottish Premiere of the Internet Cat Video Festival 2014 a month ago. The event was an idea that grew out of early conversations with the Walker Art Center about their Open Field programme and the relationship to work about play, public space and encounter in GoMA’s exhibition ATELIER PUBLIC. The idea started to shape last year when we were able to bring Sarah Schulz, then director of Education and Public Practice at the Walker Art Center, over as part of the 2014 Velocity Talks programme. The idea then became a reality in discussions with Glasgow Film Festival for the GFF15 exciting programme and part of GoMA’s experimental Spring Programme for Gallery 1.
None of us were prepared for the interest in the Internet Cat Video Festival which followed the GFF15 press release last December. The wealth and quality of the film festival as a whole brought in a lot of coverage, with the Internet Cat Video Festival as part of that. Tickets sold out fast and the need for extra screenings at the GFT occurred. In the week leading up to the event the BBC were in filming for broadcasts on the Friday. During the two days there were great interviews recorded and plenty of great photographs from photographers present.
For GoMA the interest was in how the Internet Cat Video Festival brought people together into a shared social space around the simple act of watching cat videos together. The idea of ‘mutual curiosity’ is something the gallery has been exploring with aspects of the Public Programme and more recently through the Associate Artist programme. This combined with an inquiry into the role of GoMA as public building and the opportunities it opens up for programming led to a more experimental programming season in February and March of this year. There is also something interesting about the Internet Cat Video Festival as it doesn’t fit neatly into the art gallery, but neither does it fit into the film world. It slips between the gaps of them both, but for us that creates an interesting opportunity to explore with visitors.
For the screening itself we wanted to keep to the idea of bringing people together for the *unique* and *authentic* experience and decided not to screen it on a loop but make a festival of it. We were also keen to bring in aspects of the wider museums service, like the fabulous Open Museum and the library service, knowing that many of the audience had said they were first time visitors to the gallery (two people flew up from Bristol for the Sunday festival!).
The Learning Team also had a great time planning workshops and thinking up cat puns to describe them. Cats Protection also approached us before we had a chance to get to them and were very generous in their time and resources with a stall on both days. You can see a little of our preparation over on the Pinterest board, along with articles we pinned.
Audiences were slightly different each day and created a great atmosphere with lots of fun and poses. The festival were compered on the Saturday by artist Anthony Schrag and Sunday by Radio XFm DJ Fraser Thomson, with Fraser providing the soundtrack for the days with a little help from his breakfast audiences . The feedback was really interesting as people came for all sorts of reasons and it was great to see people immerse themselves in the festival. The Cat Wall brought out the craziest and cutest of the audience’s cats and it was definitely a close competition in each of the “cat”egories on both days.
It’s amazing what Internet Cat Video Festival sparked off. We had a PHD student who came for both days and will use the interviews she took as part of her thesis on cuteness; Radio 4 were up, recording for a programme about cats and their owners for later this year; and here are a few short films made over the two days.
Thanks to the Walker Art Center for lending us the work, to the Glasgow Film Festival team for all the support, everyone who volunteered and worked on events and to all the audience who made it the brilliant two days that it was.