When the Basel House Mural Festival comes to Wynwood Dec. 8-10 for Art Basel week, its centerpiece will be a bizarre spectacle: a huge, inflatable head of Kanye West nestled in a rainbow.
Standing 20 feet tall and fixed with a grin that’s far too jovial for a disembodied head, “#HappyKanye” is an interactive bounce house that will debut Friday, Dec. 8, during the free festival at the RC Cola Plant in Wynwood.
Responsible for the visual absurdity of a Kanye inflatable — Kanye is famous for his scowl — is the artist collective Hungry Castle, who specialize in bringing bizarre Internet memes into the real world. “#HappyKanye” is inspired by the 2014 Sad Kanye meme, a viral photograph that shows Kim Kardashian smiling in the foreground while husband West appears in the background, sitting on a bench in contemplation.
For Dave Glass, half of the Barcelona-based Hungry Castle team, “#HappyKanye” is a tribute to the hilarity of Internet meme culture.
“Sad Kanye totally blew up, and his face was superimposed on everything from dancing unicorns to outer space. So why not put a Kanye head on a rainbow?” says Glass, who goes by the artist moniker Danger Dave. “We wanted to flip that Sad Kanye meme and turn it into something positive. Our work is always about the brighter side of the Internet and real life.”
Glass says the public can explore “#HappyKanye” by “climbing inside his brain and stroking his ego.”
“His ‘ego’ is this sound-and-light toy,” Glass says. “We let people in, and you can make Kanye more happy by stroking the toy, which, again, is his ego.”
With his Hungry Castle cohort, Killian Cooper, Glass has been building real-life Internet memes since 2014. Past projects include an inflatable Lionel Richie head, inspired by a recent meme that riffed on Richie’s 1983 single “Hello”; a huge Big Bird sculpture , built from canvas and metal rods that dropped emoji-poop toys onto visitors; and Laser Cat, a 21-foot cat head that shot laser lights from its eyes . Laser Cat, Glass says, debuted during an April 2015 art event at the New World Center in Miami Beach.
Glass says he hopes “#HappyKanye” will be just as attention-grabbing as his other meme inflatables.
“What fascinates me is that anyone can be an accidental author of a great meme,” Glass says. “You don’t control it. People share them with me all day, and they make me laugh and smile, and we want to bring that happiness to others.”
The Basel House Mural Festival will take place noon-3 a.m. Dec. 8-9 and noon-9 p.m. Dec. 10 between Northwest 23rd and 24th streets and between Northwest Fifth and Sixth avenues, in Miami. Admission is free, but RSVP via Eventbrite.com for a free drink; SwarmInc.com
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