How do you describe your work to others that are unfamiliar?
It always comes as a surprise to myself just how difficult of a time I often have trying to articulate what it is that I do, depending on who it is I’m talking to and just how in-depth I want to get in my explanation. To make things digestible, I am a “content creator,” who focuses primarily on making comedic art in a more modern form of meme making and (very DIY) skits. As for the topics and themes of my content, it’s usually some kind of sub-cultural tourist’s social commentary with an absurdist flair, but I try to not limit myself completely. If I feel like something seems poignant or funny or whatever it is enough that I believe it needs to be created and shared, I do that.
In what fashion did your career as a meme artist begin?
Technically, I’ve been making memes since MySpace era. I used to make fake MySpace profiles trolling my friends and classmates by uploading weird, altered pictures that I made through Microsoft paint and they’d get sent around the school, confusing or entertaining people I knew or did not. I was introduced to “real” memes through 4chan (sorry but it’s true) back in 2006; creating them here and there until taking a major break from the internet and the rest of my life for almost a decade due to drug addiction. About a year after I got clean, I found a Facebook page called Useless, Unsuccessful and/or Unpopular Memes and posted multiple memes on there daily. They were wildly successful, but the page had obnoxious rules and admins and they’d end up getting deleted after being shared thousands of times. It was a maddening process and people started telling me just to make my own page. I was hardly aware of the (what was still pretty new) trend of Instagram meme pages but figured it out pretty quickly and kept to it. I created @Namaste.at.home.dad on Instagram in March of 2016, have since then ‘admin’d’ many other pages but primarily focus still on that page.
Are you based in Atlanta? How does your location affect your work in particular?
I am currently based in Atlanta. When I began the page, I was living in a neighborhood in Philadelphia called Fishtown which ended up being a massive influence on my work. I became known for my accurate portrayal of the hyper specific and particular practices of the various hip subcultures of my city, as well as the problems and unspoken truths typical of those who live in places like it; such as being a gentrifier, being a struggling artist or worse- having bay windows.
Unsurprisingly, these sentiments rang true to people from various hip cities across the world and this particular outlook became the primary source of my content. Since moving, I essentially live in almost total isolation aside from work. The city is very spread out and is hard to navigate as an outsider. The time and effort I’d need to put into acquainting myself with the culture and scenes of this city are unrealistic. I have to focus so much on my work that I’m unable to develop a social life and experience it. It’s tragic, honestly…well, if you’re me or if you’re over dramatic. I’ve been down here for almost a year and while this move was to bolster my “career” as an entertainer of the internet comedic sort with the “Adult Swim” gig, I feel my creativity is being stifled in almost every other way. I do believe it’s all temporary though. I’m doing a massive amount of work behind the scenes that hopefully I can bring to life ASAP.
How did the collective Bottom Text come into fruition?
Us meme people connect with one another, and after a couple of years, we started to get together and do things. After being in a few “meme art shows,” Fatima Khan, (also known as @Djinn_Kazama) hit me up asking if I would help them organize one of those shows down in Atlanta. I had no idea what I was doing but we put together a lineup of who we thought were among the best. When we were putting the art show together, I started thinking of potential sponsors, then remembered Adult Swim has a base there. Fatima (@djinn_kazama) put feelers out and got connected with our now producer, Rebecca, who brought us in for what we thought was just a one time, live gig, but we found out once we got there we were pitching a pilot. Apparently they loved what we had come up with on the spot and told us to get down to Atlanta ASAP so we could work on something official. As soon as I heard that I started saving all my money and moved to Atlanta within three months. We lost a couple of great people along the way, but after about a year and some minor changes, the first episode of “Bottom Text” went live on May 8th 2019.
What inspirations and motivations inspire your work?
I’m inspired by anything that I see as a widely recognizable truth that has not yet been documented, or at least in the way that I want it to be. What motivates me is feeding the collective conscious, the idea of others being entertained by my documentation of things they know they knew somewhere in their heads to be true, and the hope that by continuing to do these things that maybe I can be rewarded a bigger scale in which I may do them on. I’m sure there are other things.
Meme communities are one of the most tight-knit art communities of the new century. How do you think Meme art helps to sustain cohesion within online communities ( aka keep people together)?
When memes shifted from being solely ownerless entities to often identifiable and even literally name-branded, the focus shifted from these singular memes to who or what agenda was behind the meme page. Instagram made it easier for people to align their own lives and personalities with their meme pages (think @ScariestBugEver or @GothShakira) while Facebook began to foster more of these inclusive communities that attracted people because of their ability to provide large spaces for groups who may otherwise feel isolated and their strong dedication to spreading whatever social and/or political ideologies they do. The comment section of pages like these acts as a message board where people who clearly have something in common with one another can exchange information, thus influencing even more people to add to the conversation, reach out or take it upon themselves to find out more, or spread what they’ve learned or how they feel elsewhere. The latter phenomenon is responsible for the massive influx of new “niche” meme pages popping up and for the current trend in memes, as the trends are usually no longer so focused on one joke or image but a particular set of ideas or trends related to a certain subculture or lifestyle reflective of the admin/content creator’s own.
What difficulties exist within meme culture (in terms of your art process and in terms of the community around you)?
The nature of this medium is that you are combining words and images (both of those often holding fixed meanings to one person that may be vastly different than the next person’s) and releasing it to a widely unknown audience. They then have the opportunity to critique whatever their understanding of it is in the same space that it is being displayed; the comment section being directly under the post and caption. This juxtaposition then opens the floor up to criticisms or accusations of your spreading ideas that you may have never intended to spread and are sometimes the total opposite of what you’d intended to convey in the first place. While you too have the option to elaborate or dispute these accusations or misinterpretations, depending on who you are and/or the subject matter, your intent may not matter to some of those who’ve witnessed the exchange. As the internet becomes more acquainted with your work, the likelihood of this happening becomes much lesser.
Despite the many amazing people I’ve met through the meme community, it certainly isn’t without it’s shady characters. Whether it’s creating unnecessary drama, an unfair competitive environment for those of us who are trying to make a career out of whatever it is we’re doing, or infiltrating spaces and making them unsafe, a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is for people to pretend to be a certain way in order to get thousands of people to trust them. They also may not realize why this position is so enticing for people who want to do exactly that or the many reasons why they would. Without integrity, the possibilities on how one could use this platform for their own personal gain are endless- and they’re really not that hard to obtain. Some people do this by posting “reworked” (completely stolen) jokes that are proven to work, essentially catapulting themselves to the top of the list of the funniest or most creative and often being rewarded the fruits of other artist’s labor. Others take the concept of virtue signaling to new levels, using their constructed identity of “being the most politically correct” as an infallible shield for what, in reality, is often bad behavior. They can use this to bully others, escape valid criticism, even get away with abuse. The ability for someone to remain truly anonymous while constructing a believable facade that allows large masses of people to trust whoever’s behind it makes it hard to truly navigate the community. One has to be extremely careful of who they choose to trust.
Who are some artists/ meme artists who you’d recommend and/or inspire your work?
I try not to draw inspiration from people who do what I do because I want my work to truly be my own, however there are a lot of people in the meme community whose work I greatly admire. That list is long, and many of those artists are well known or people I’m closely associated with, so I’ll just leave you with some of my non co-working favorites that I think are massively not under-rated but under-known, and I’m going to do so without explaining their work because, well that experience is for y’all; @helpimtrappedinsideofatv, @premiles, @cocteautwinks, @sijbt, @holdspaceformytribe @thecallcenter @not.yr.boyfriend, @neatzsche, @dunstonfromdunstonchecksin, @struthless69 @vhsslut1997