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New Internet Meme: Cheers!

With my summer break between the first and second year of my graduate studies at San Francisco Art Institute in full force, I’ve taken a few weeks to visit some buddies in New York City and Los Angeles. Regardless of where I am or the break I may be on, my strongest identity marker right now is that “I am a Graduate Student.” It reminds me of that time I came out a few years ago and the only thing I could think of when I went to the grocery store, applied for jobs, or played my XBox was that “I Am Gay.” A week ago at a friend’s apartment in LA, I sat down to write this post. My mind wandered between thoughts about that strange solo show by Trisha Donnelly (former SFAI visiting faculty) I had just seen at Casey Kaplan Gallery in NYC and comparisons between Bravo’s Work of Art and my MFA program. Then I got completely sidetracked and produced the effect below.

Jeffrey Augustine Songco, "Cheers! from me to Chris." Courtesy the Artist.

When I was wrapping up my BFA program six years ago at Carnegie Mellon University, this new Internet thing called “The Facebook” came out. Cut to today and I, unlike most users nowadays, still associate Facebook (sans “The”) with a collegiate experience—friend-requesting the TA of my Social Psychology class, browsing blurry fraternity party pics to jog back the memory, and stalking random students (which, really, hasn’t changed). For now, Facebook is heavily marked as a “School” thing, so I find it very appropriate to now share a brand new meme sweeping Facebook profiles across the country that takes advantage of the co-authorship process I’ve been blogging about in my past posts. Let me introduce you to Cheers!

Jeffrey Augustine Songco, "Cheers! from Freddy to me." Courtesy the Artist.

Cheers! is an Internet meme where one individual photographs himself toasting an alcoholic beverage to the camera. That picture is then uploaded to an online social network like Facebook, where the toaster selects another individual to be the recipient of the toast (in Facebook’s case, by tagging the recipient in the photo). Cheers! The recipient then uploads two of his own pictures, one returning the toast and the other passing the toast onward to another individual. Cheers! Cheers! If at anytime other folks join in on the toast (by commenting on or, in Facebook’s case, “liking” the photo), the original toaster must toast to the new arrivals. Cheers!

Jeffrey Augustine Songco, "Cheers! from Jwoo to me." Courtesy the artist.

There’s a lot of booze in the world of Art. Alcohol is flowing everywhere—free wine at art openings, tequila bars-as-art at biennials, and cans and cans of beer in artists’ studios (right?). There’s definitely no reason to consume any of it, but at some point, there will undoubtedly be some kind of interaction with it. With that said, it’s no surprise that Cheers! was initiated by me: a graduate art student procrastinating from his Art21 Blog post on “RTV (reality television) is the new MFA.”

Jeffrey Augustine Songco, "Cheers! from ODACH to me." Courtesy the Artist.

A big idea that was introduced to me this past school year was that idea of circulation. There’s a lot of information out there in the world and the methods of distribution for such goods has become increasingly important. My professor and Chair of Urban Studies, Robin Balliger, shared this and other fabulous Anthropology concepts in a class titled Consumption and Commodity Culture. In the same class, Robin assigned the text What We Want is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art, edited by Ted Purves, a professor and Chair of Social Practice at California College of the Arts. The text includes a bunch of essays that discuss and critique a variety of artists’ projects that incorporate the circulation of ideas in ways that truly are a recent romantic notion of an artist—community participation and free food? Yes, please!

Jeffrey Augustine Songco, "Cheers! from Billy Mint to me." Courtesy the Artist.

Go on, make your Cheers! photo and circulate the love; you can raise your glass and toast to the future of fine art. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s ephemeral. And so 2010! If you Cheers! at me, you’ll automatically be part of a group show titled Cheers!: Meme Art, curated by me, of course. I love being a grad kid!

Jeffrey Augustine Songco just completed his first year in the New Genres MFA program at the San Francisco Art Institute. Born and raised in New Jersey, he spent his childhood dancing with the New Jersey Ballet and performing at Paper Mill Playhouse. In 2005, he received his B.F.A. in Art from Carnegie Mellon University.

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