Murailche : Exterior being and ego, being subjective and being objective or both being material and being mental become one.
1. Cats rule the world
The Netflix original series ‘Love, Robot, Death’ is a collection of omnibus sci-fi animations. One episode of that, there is a work that depicts the appearance of the earth where robots became a new human after the extinction of mankind. I’d like to warn you beforehand that the below phrase may have some spoilers. The cat not only imitated human behavior, but has already mastered the language, and came close to the robots with his special ‘cuteness’, and eventually revealed his true color. What if this wasn’t just a funny and nonsensical story of the animation?
How Dogs Think : People love me, People pet me, People feed me, People should be gods!
How Cats Think : People love me, People pet me, People feed me, I must be a god!
According to a data study in the United States in 2015, the keyword ‘Cat’ was the most searched word on the internet. And it has been steadily increasing to this day. Cats are called “the kings” of the Internet and rule the virtual world. Cats, once synonymous with bad luck and displeasure in case of Korea, have appeared on the internet and are the world’s most common ‘meme’ (an element of culture thought to be transmitted through non-genetic means, but today, It became a term used as a meaning of mainly buzzwords, famous pictures or short videos, etc.) What is the reason for this? What was at the bottom of their hearts to imitate them, to love them, and to admire them? Also, what was planted in the heart of writer Jo Se-min, who used the cat, who has become a top star in virtual reality, as the subject of his digital work? In this digital world of the Internet, what is the reason that we are aiming for ‘Nyang-a-Il-Chae’ (‘Cat and Ego become one’)”?

The cat on the wheel on the cat

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2. Tell me your wish

There is an old saying in Korea, which is ‘the time when tigers used to smoke cigarettes’. It means ‘a very long time ago’. As in this famous proverb, the tiger itself is comfortable like a friend, but it was also one of the main characters of a disaster that was so terrible that the word ‘Ho-hwan’ (虎患-term that explained the year that people or livestocks are attacked by the tigers) was created. A cat resembling such a tiger (actually, it belongs to a higher family than a tiger, but it is a rule set by humans…) was also recognized as a spirit creature and a cursed creature that brings misfortune. Two big shining eyes that stare right through my heart, two square ears like devil’s horns, a tiger-like skeleton and agility. Cats were both mysterious and terrifying. Because of the charisma that the subject exudes, anyone can empathize with the fear of wanting to be like him even if he does not theoretically solve it. However, what kind of psychology works in expressing it as a picture and even as a moving image?
According to Carl Jung, a renowned Swiss psychiatrist and theorist, humans symbolize what they perceive and express it through visual art or religion. The same is true of animals expressed in movements drawn on the Lascaux cave murals and Altamira cave murals. We can watch things because things are moving. That reflects the same view in the studies regarding the history of film and video. Because the reproduction of the movement is most similar to the real thing.
Jo Se-min also gave a specific ‘symbol’ to the cat in the artwork. He describes the appearance of the cat in his work as “a form of wishing for a small well-being.” The symbol of the cat is also connected with the symbol of his cousin, the tiger. As mentioned earlier, the tiger is an object of fear and admiration, so it is a symbol of guardianship who wants to be on our side to protect our family and our community. It is said that folk paintings depicting tigers were popular in the late Joseon Dynasty because there is a symbol that says, “Please protect us from poverty, terrifying beasts, diseases, and tribute bombs.”

Let me bless you

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However, in the 21st century we live in, Jo Se-min said, now, instead of a tiger that prevents a huge disaster, a cute fluffy cat that comforts the troubles of small things (which should be trivial) may be more needed. And a lot of people may have similar thoughts about what Se-min thinks. The word ‘meme’ can be seen to refer to something that is imitated and desired, as is included in the word itself. Jo Se-min’s digital work touches our small desires mixed with these ‘memes’. I wish I could be as free as a bird and cute as a cat even if I play tight. I wish a fluffy and cute cat like that would come into my arms and comfort me on this difficult day. The catchphrase ‘I am the only one without a cat’ clearly shows that the cat meme contains our desires. In this way, we symbolize what we want in modern society and spread them out on a new land called digital.

3. Survival in a digital world as being one

The word ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 and had a deep meaning in the beginning about a certain human cultural phenomenon that spreads indiscriminately like a virus. Today, it has been developed stably enough and can be accessed anywhere in the world at high speed. Especially in these days of being locked up inside the house due to an unexpected epidemic, digital memes are a better place to develop. People use digital devices to communicate with each other because the courage and patience of Orpheus who even died to see Eurydice again no longer exists. People connected to the Internet find more common ground to communicate and communicate more frequently. The development of communication through the digital world has been rapid, and there are tremendous discoveries that exist within it. In the digital world, anything is possible.

magpies and bicolor cat

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In the digital world, trust is stronger and the realization of the wind is more urgent than anywhere else. We generate the object we want to resemble as a meme. In the old days, what I wanted was drawn with a brush on Korean paper, but now it is expressed through digital painting and video, a combination of photos, and a short video. The trend of memes praising cats may be a way to pray for rest and well-being in modern society, where the digital itself and the real being are mixed without distinction.
What does the meme mean for true rest and well-being? As in the once-best-selling essay ‘I want to die, but I want to eat tteokbokki’, there is a possibility that people can change positively into very small things even in very negative situations. Artist Jo Se-min makes modern people smile a little with delightful paintings like ecstasy where everything is mixed. Until recently, it was terrifying to think of tomorrow, but if you smiled and wiped your heart out at the sight of a cat on the screen, and if you have the courage to try to keep that feeling even just a little bit, you will find true rest and good-bye, just as the artist wanted. This may come to you. If you create and maintain a quiet gray zone in your heart that is not biased toward black or white like this, then the striped fortune cat will jump out of the imagination and enter your mind and breathe comfortably.
Editor Kim Ju Young