Q&A with Jeff Fleisher of Blocked & Reported

January 10th, 2018 - 5:51 PM EST by Matt Schimkowitz

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Blocked and Reported Art Show logo in front of a backdrop of various memes.

f you’re reading this article, you’d probably agree: memes can take up a pretty big chunk of your day. And while they bring us laughter and inspirations as we scroll our way through work or school, there remains a question which has yet to be answered: Are memes an art form?

Well, as the role of memes and their impact on our society continues to evolve, so does our perceptions about the significance of memes and their relevance in the art world.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of noble efforts to bring memes to recognition as an emerging school of postmodern art, or “internet art.” In 2008, ROFLcon paved the way for bringing memes out into real life with a biennale convention of internet celebrities (a living gallery of memes, if you will), and from there, a handful of meme-themed expositions and festivals began popping up at art galleries across the United States and the rest of the world, from the annual Internet Cat Video Film Festival and MEMES exhibitions in LA to the more recent events like Rare Memes and What Do You Meme.

Man with a blue shirt and brown hair and brown eyes wearing a fox mask.

But going back to the question of memes as an art form, is the Internet culture leaking into our everyday lives that much? …Maybe, maybe not. But after talking to Jeff Fleisher, a 28-year old New York City resident who is perhaps better known by his Instagram handle @ctrlctrl, about his upcoming meme-themed art show in Brooklyn, it’s easy to feel like things are starting to change. We talked to Jeff about what goes into putting together a meme exhibit and what they might mean for memes going forward.


Q: The name of the show, Blocked and Reported, seems to set a particular expectation for the types of memes that will be on display. Is there an overarching theme behind the exhibition?

A: The name of the show was just something catchy that’s been thrown around online for a long time now and I just thought it would be fitting for an event based around a culture obsessed with blocking and reporting accounts, but also joking about blocking and reporting accounts too. Essentially, there is no overarching theme other than high quality content from some of the funniest people online and showcasing the contributors at their best. I guess the theme is “lmao.” Lmao.

Q: Who are the organizers behind the event? Is there a story behind how the idea for an offline "meme art exhibit" came about?

A: So, basically, I did most of the organizing myself for the event as far as location, reaching out to people and dealing with the venue itself. But everyone involved in the show has helped contribute in one way or another to make this thing happen. It’s a total group effort. Jacob who runs the account @wipeyadocsoff also helped me immensely as well with the technical aspects and display for the show.

The idea for the show came about last year when a massive meme art event happened in Los Angeles. That was the first time I had heard of anything like that and immediately wanted to do something in a similar vein for people on the east coast. I reached out to a few people and it took a long time to bring to fruition, but "Blocked and Reported" ended up being the end result. This event will be less formal than that LA show, as it’s at a bar and not a gallery. We want everyone to feel like they can hang out and get a chance to meet and talk to us if they want, but also meet other people who are into the same culture.

Q: Tell us about the curation process. How does one curate a meme exhibit? Did you alone choose the artists and the artworks for the show?

A: So basically I had a few people in mind for the show right away, people I had discussed doing this event with for the past year and people who I was just a major fan of. Joelle was actually one of the first people I reached out to (@namaste.at.home.dad). Same with Binny (@scariest_bug_ever). Everyone involved kind of helped me with that as well, reaching out to people that I may not have necessarily known as well and seeing if they were interested. Fatima (@djinn_kazama) helped me out a lot with that as well. Everyone has been super cool and nice honestly, and the show wouldn’t have fallen together the way it has without any one of us. I think we have a really well rounded group of content creators involved. There’s literally something for everyone at the show.

Blocked and reported flier features angry emoji and date and time of the event. January 11, 2017 at 9pm at 48 S4th St., Brooklyn NY

Q: What different types of mediums are you working with on the presentation side?

A: The medium will be digital, we have projections and there will be some things for sale as well (whatever each contributor makes or does creatively and decides to bring with them).

Q: What different types of mediums are you working with on the presentation side?

A: I don’t organize a lot of events, but I imagine we say lol a lot more during the planning process than the traditional media event would. Not an obstacle, we just like to laugh sometimes.

Q: The exhibition revolves around a tight-knitted community of content creators and meme curators on Instagram, which has become a powerhouse platform in today's meme culture. In your view, is there a stronger sense of community and collaboration among Instagram content creators in comparison to other major meme hubs / social platforms, like, Facebook meme pages?

A: Honestly, Facebook meme pages are kind of over. At least for me. I loved a lot of specific pages on there, but it’s become over saturated. Instagram has some problems, too, but for me, it’s the best platform and the only one I keep up to date. However, we can all agree, no matter where it’s from, a good meme is a good meme. I also like what a lot of people are doing with Patreon, as well. I believe Brad Troemel (@bradtroemel) has been credited with opening that door for content creators to source payment for the hours of work they put into free entertainment for everyone online. Support your local meme artists if you can.

Q: We've noticed a growing number of offline art exhibits, of varying scales, that take memes out of their digital habitat in recent years. Would you agree?

A: Yes, there are some events that have been doing that recently. That show in LA I mentioned earlier, By Any Memes Necessary, as well as a bunch of others on the west coast. Where I live in Bushwick there is an awesome recurring event run by @yung_nhilist and @th0tcouture called "Cooler Online," which features content by women and QTPOC content creators. I think that’s really important and what they do has been a big inspiration to me. It’s great that these events are popping up and I just wanted to contribute something to that, as it’s still a new and growing culture.

Q: Do you think it reflects the changes in how we perceive memes as a cultural force? What does it say about the current state of meme culture?

A: I think memes are just reaching the masses in a way where people are figuring out how to really capitalize off of them. I’m not sure if this culture reaching the mainstream is a good thing or not -- most likely not -- but it’s definitely giving a bigger voice to me and people who do what I do. It will be interesting to see how far this stuff will extend into real life in the future. We’ve all seen black mirror right?? lmao

Q: Do you have plans for more shows?

A: I’m trying to see how this even does before we plan another one, but yes, there are talks of possibly doing it again sometime. Nothing’s set in stone one way or the other at the moment, but I will say there are a lot of great content creators out there who aren’t in this show but that I would still love to work with someday in some capacity. Anythings possible.

Q: What's your favorite meme from 2017? Or alternatively, what's your favorite meme of all time?

A: This is the best meme ever made thanks.

Image of a person in a purple, muscular dinosaur costume under the caption "when it's chicken nuggets for lunch but you can't run in the halls."

Jeff Fleisher is a bartender based in Brooklyn, New York and the owner of the Instagram meme account @ctrlctrl. Blocked and Reported will be on view at The Woods (48 S 4th Street) in Brooklyn, NY on January 11th, 2018 at 9pm. This interview was conducted via email by the Know Your Meme staff Matt Schimkowitz.

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