The Basilisk – A Lecture by Daniel Keller
The basilisk is a fabled chimeric reptile, known to be king of serpents and said to have the power to kill anyone with a single glance. According to one version of the legend, the only person to successfully kill a basilisk did so by wearing a suit of mirrors which reflected its toxic gaze back at the basilisk, turning it into stone.
The Alt-Right’s “Cult of Kek” is a semi-sarcastic 4chan-derived religion based around Pepe the Frog, Donald Trump and the frog-headed Egyptian god of chaos, Kek. The Kekist’s memes function much like the basilisk, harming the viewer with mere exposure.
The simple act of thinking about and considering such taboo and offensive ideas serves to normalize them. Debating against them only stretches the “Overton Window” of acceptable discourse. Attempts to suppress or publically denounce them tend to lead to a counterproductive “Streisand Effect”, where the memes gain a greater reach than ever before.
With social media having been elevated into the primary arena for political persuasion, it appears that, against all odds, Alt-Right Shitposter’s “Meme Magick” became a decisive force in 2016. In 2017, can we shine a mirror at this basilisk and learn how to apply these tactics to a metapolitical agenda which can stand in opposition to the chaotic nihilism of r/The_Donald, /pol/ and Frog Twitter?
DANIEL KELLER is an artist and writer born in Detroit and based in Berlin. His work has been exhibited at The New Museum, New York; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Fridericianum, Kassel; KW, Berlin; and The Zabludowicz Collection, London. He’s given talks at The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; DLD Conference, Munich; CODE_n Festival at ZKM, Karlsruhe; Swiss Institute, NYC and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.