The Rise of an Empire

By Hanne Mugaas
July 15, 2010

A recent New York Times article chronicled the rise of a company called the Cheezburger Network, the enterprise behind the popular blog of humorously captioned photographs of cats, or LOLcats. Images from the blog have been flying around the Internet for the last few years, most notably one of a cat paired with the caption “I can has cheezburger?”

The company, which has since expanded into other lowbrow photo and video blogs, will generate a seven-figure sum this year. If you think that a company called Cheezburger generating $1 million in revenue is a sign of impending apocalypse, let us remember that this is not the first time cats have played a role in the building of an empire. In 1894 Thomas A. Edison, Inc. recorded a film reel of two cats boxing entitled The Boxing Cats (Prof. Welton’s). Cats, it would seem, are perfectly suited to a mediated existence.

Artists, in turn, have not ignored the phenomenon. The British artist Mark Leckey recently posted online Flix, an animation of what appears to be the tail of the 1920s animation star Felix the Cat. Although seemingly abstract, the work itself may have roots in the culture of “I can has cheezburger?” When recently asked in an interview on if he spends a lot of time browsing the Web, Leckey replied, “That’s all I do.”

1.Chris Collins
July 23, 2010 6:13 PM
My all-time favorite cat video is Ben Coonley's "Valentine for Perfect Strangers." Who knew a cat video, in addition to being hilarious, could be profound, moving, and poignant?
2.Jacob Berezin
July 15, 2010 1:34 PM
In one of his lectures, Leckey points out that Felix was on the vanguard of feline dominated technology. He was the first image to be broadcast in NBC's experimental television studio in 1929.
July 15, 2010 4:24 AM
Funny. The Internet is the greatest tool for tracing repetition and imitation, yet even with LOLcats, also provides the opportunity for ownership.

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