Curator Vikki Vassar assures me that the Just Winston-Salem Memes art exhibit at Dye Pretty on the first Friday — which also happens to be April Fool’s Day — is no joke.
“I mean, how would we make a joke?” she asks from her seat at the bar of the Silver Moon Saloon. “A group of people show up and there’s nothing there?”
Not a prank, but it still looks like one. The JWSM page began before fatherhood, when the world was wide open: downtown Winston-Salem was reaping the rewards of massive investment and development; a Confederate monument had just been demolished; and a guy calling himself Nightwatch had just become the city’s first real-life superhero.
Vassar says she doesn’t remember the first meme, just that she got bored, created the Facebook group and tagged some friends. The memes started pouring in as the group grew to over 4,000 members, occupying four moderators: Vasser, Jon Loer, Jerry Cooper and James Douglas. [Disclosures: Cooper and Douglas work as freelancers for Triad City Beat; this article’s author is a member and has contributed three memes to the canon.]
“It was a direct accident,” she says.
Since then, the page has documented and mocked every cultural touchpoint in Winston-Salem’s recent history — Bartsy, the Dixie Classic Fair’s renaming, Deactown, the stay-at-home uncle of “Jeopardy!” – with tangents on the city’s phallic skyline, Fam Brownlee, Brent Campbell, the Ardmore neighborhood Facebook page, the correct pronunciation of “Buena Vista”, the redeeming power of cigarettes and more.
Just Winston-Salem Memes Art Show
Friday, April 1, 6 p.m.
621 N. Commerce St.
Delve into the wealth of material and you’ll find social commentary, political opinion, the truth about power, the subversiveness of the long-running local. Enough Triad reporters regularly check the page a moderator once asked for a count.
“It’s become like Ground Zero for gossip,” Vassar says.
With popularity, the group has become more mainstream. For the gallery show, they avoided the more controversial topics like the Dixie Classic or Bartsy, a topic that became so hot that Vassar felt she had to leave the band for several months.
And while there’s no money involved — literally none, the founders point out — there are opportunities. In June, the Winston-Salem Dash will host “Meme Night,” based on the Facebook group, with input from moderators.
Now Vassar and Douglas are sifting through a pile of meme stickers they created to publicize the show: the WS/FCS Breakfast Club, the school of farts, a drunk guy explaining the Reynolds building.
For the show, they selected just 10 memes from the hundreds, if not thousands, that were posted on the page. Each meme was printed on an 11×14 stretched canvas for display at Dye Pretty. They are not for sale.
“I created gallery tags for each of them,” she says, including its original date and creator, “as if it were a real work of art – this That’s really the case. It’s just really fucking lowbrow. There’s something of an alternate history here, a bit of old Roman writing on the wall, a vox populi, voice of the people vibe. Vassar agrees that if Shakespeare were alive and working today, he would be creating memes.
“He would be the biggest shitposter on the internet,” she says as Douglas nods.
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