In 2007, Carolyn Sortor was rehearsing a few lines from Macbeth for an amateur Shakespeare party when an idea struck her.
“I knew there’s some juicy dialogue with Macbeth, in which they talk about whether he’s a man or a beast, and at one point Lady Macbeth compares him to a cat,” says Sortor. “I thought it would be funny to have my cat play Macbeth, but I knew he’d be shy in a front of a crowd.”
An artist interested in experimental video, she set up a camera in her home and her cat purred his lines. Or, he just purred. Sortor’s resulting video will air as part of the locally curated section of the Dallas iteration of the Internet Cat Video Festival Wednesday night.
In its fourth and final year at Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center, this festival caught the eye of Video Association of Dallas and Dallas VideoFest artistic director, Bart Weiss. He’s no stranger to feline antics.
“You have to understand I have four cats,” says Weiss, who also has a dog. “I spend a lot of time with them in my office. They’ll sit in my lap or jump onto my keyboard and type out a word. I even had a cat who would hop on my phone in the middle of the night and auto dial someone.”
Besides, cats have a place in media history. From experimental films in the '60s and '70s by the likes of Joyce Wieland (Rat Life and Diet in North America, 1969) and Tom Chomont (The Cat Lady, 1969) to bits on late night talk shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, these critters have remained present in artistic pursuits.
“The stuff we do at Dallas Video Fest talks about technology and art and how we use media,” says Weiss. “This is how people use media.”
The thing that changed everything, says Weiss, was the debut of video cameras on cell phones. Now, everyone can be a cat auteur or a cat consumer. A 2013 statistic released by Friskies claimed 15 percent of the internet is cats. (Perhaps the only single thing beating cats is porn, which is commonly estimated at 30 percent.) The Internet Cat Video Festival, though, will be 100 percent feline.
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The program includes the one-hour reel from the Walker Art Center, as well as a handful of selections from local kitties. Most of the films are just a few minutes long, but span genres including documentary, musicals, science fiction, drama, comedy and experimental videos. Plus, there will be the kitty cat Macbeth.
“Something like this is unique in the world of video,” says Weiss. “There’s nothing annoying about them. They’re all nice and sweet and pleasant. It’s a wonderful moment in the face of this world we have now.”
For the Walker, 2016 is the final year of the festival. As to whether Weiss has plans to make Dallas the international stronghold of internet cats, he’s not saying just yet. But wouldn’t that be purrfect?
The Walker Art Center's Internet Cat Video Festival takes place at The Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd., on Wednesday, Aug. 24. Tickets are $15 at thetexastheatre.com.