The cat's meow: A Felix-focused exhibition by Mark Leckey
The beloved monochrome moggie is the inspiration behind new works from the British artist, on display at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery
Felix the Cat is an unexpected pioneer of television. As interest in the medium grew in the United States in the 1920s, the first experimental transmissions took place to broadcast an image of a decent quality. A paper mache model of the popular character made the perfect test subject – it was the right colour (black and white) and wouldn't suffer under the heat of the studio lights.
Felix has also proved a key inspiration for Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey, whose fascination with the feline began with a performance lecture he gave on the subject at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, entitled Mark Leckey in the Long Tail. Its origins as the first broadcast image resonated with the artist, who is best known for his explorations in sound, video and performance.
"I liked that it was a two-dimensional cartoon that became a three-dimensional doll, that then became this electronic entity that got broadcast out into the ether," says Leckey. "For me, Felix symbolises the way in which technology blends the real and virtual worlds."
This obsession has fuelled a new exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Running from 9 September 2016 to 26 February 2017, Zoo Logic by Mark Leckey showcases two key works inspired by the cat. The first is quite literally unmissable – a 10-metre-high inflatable Felix housed in the gallery.
The second is a major new installation titled FEELINTHECAT, commissioned by the Arts Council Collection in celebration of its 70th anniversary, formed of a dome shaped to resemble the character's head. Inside, two screens will play a looped film that chronicles Leckey's transformation into Felix, taking inspiration from a photograph of a Disneyland cast member dressed in a Mickey Mouse costume. The dome acts like a giant speaker, amplifying the sound, creating a truly immersive experience.
Zoo Logic by Mark Leckey is at the Walker Art Gallery, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EL, from 9 September 2016 to 26 February 2017; liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker