Thursday, January 20, 2011

My name in lights or why 15 minutes is now only 15 seconds.

Andy Warhol famously proclaimed that everyone will have his or her 15 minutes of fame. Now that the world runs on internet time, it looks like 15 minutes is only 15 seconds. 

I'll explain but first, a little Art Lobster history.  Last year, I wrote about John Baldessari's online conceptual art work titled In Still Life 2001-2010 which allowed me to create one of the most important works of early 21st Century art, Still Life with Levitating Lobster (2010, digital image). Now Baldessari is back with a new work at Sydney's Australian Museum titled Your Name In Lights.  The project is part of the Sydney Festival.  Why am I writing about a work on the other side of the planet when I've never even been to Australia?  Because once again, Baldessari is comandeering the internet to make his art bigger than its physical presence. Which means, I can participate.

Here's how it works.  You go to the Your Name in Lights Web site and enter your name and e-mail address. A few weeks later, you receive an e-mail that gives you the exact time when your name will appear on a big, lighted marquis hanging on the Williams Facade of the Australian Museum:

Then, either show up at the museum at your appointed time, or view your name appearing on the live, constantly streaming web cam powered by Microsoft Silverlight. (Full disclosure, Microsoft is a client of mine so I figured a plug for Silverlight is in order.)  Your name will be on the sign for 15 glittering seconds.  That's just enough time to capture a somewhat blurry screen shot:

My name was on the sign at about midnight Sydney time, January 21 which translates to about 6:00 a.m. here. That meant waking up extra early. I do what I can for art. I kind of wish it had been during the day because the video feed is a little better:

Now, back to the discussion about 15 minutes vs. 15 seconds.  The Web site states, "Your Name in Lights reflects the changing cult of celebrity in modern society and recalls Andy Warhol's prediction that in the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame."  But obviously, if you're trying to put as many names in lights as you possibly can in a defined period of time, you've got to reduce our collective moment of fame.  Nonetheless, even 15 seconds of fame seems to be rewarding.  Here are a few comments from people whose names have appeared in Baldessari's work:

OzBarb writes, "Thank you Sydney Festival and John Baldessari for this moment of "Fame". My partner and I celebrated the screening last night with Champaign and felt somehow very special :-)" 

Jenn proclaims, "Hi! Just got home after travelling to Sydney from the Central Coast to see me (and my family) in lights. Wow- so much bigger, brighter and bolder in real life (and perfectly on time). Thank you Mr Baldessari and the Sydney Festival - we loved it!!!!"

And Kim gushes, "Thank you Sydney festival. You have made our day. My sister Penny and I are laughing till the cows come home. This is the best."

So, to John Baldessari, we offer our fame-starved gratitude for making us all feel just a bit better about ourselves.

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