In 2011, however we are confronted with the phenomenon of ‘15 minutes of fame’ a term coined by American filmmaker and Pop Art painter Andy Warhol. The ‘15 minutes of fame’ was Warhol referring to the fact that if the world was regarded with the same rules as reality television, quite in the essence of Pop Art, that the focus of the ‘representable’ shifted and allowed for the mundane and common (for example comics or the Campbell’s Soup tin) to became art, that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. This is a phrase that is still prevalently used today. Which is made pointedly obvious in this new world of TMZ, where every celebrity is scrutinized so as to offer its audience a constant feed of nonsense and gossip, and Facebook (one of the most successful social networks) has become a ‘regular-guy’ version of TMZ for the rest of us. Everyone actually is enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, or in most cases infamy.
Belize has not been spared from this phenomenon. Many of us watch TMZ or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. We have also begun to spend countless hours browsing through countless photographs of costume parties, mindless gossip and updates on what our 675 contacts ate for lunch. Browsing Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn give us the illusion of having the whole entire world at our disposal via computer screens, smart phones or tablets. We are now choosing to garner exposure by this new virtual travel tourism. We don’t visit the museum or go to art galleries. We do not go to the theatre unless it is to further rot our cultural sensibilities watching people do atrocious renditions of pop music for a $10,000.00 prize.
What is my concern as an artist?
I believe that every person is free to choose the type of entertainment they prefer, just as long as it does not serve as a replacement for culture. KTV is sold out every show along with countless other viewers tuning in on television, whilst most art exhibits only gather an average of 40 to 50 persons. The cost of the ticket for KTV is $2.00 while art exhibits are generally free and open to the public. While karaoke discourages originality asking performers to do copies of other musicians’ songs (generally not local musicians either), an art exhibit is a rich display of original work. Why do we opt to pay to see a copy when we could freely enjoy something original?
What are the contributing factors that encourage us to make such decisions? I don’t propose to have the answers but I have made some observations that have allowed me to make some conclusions. Recently there was some controversy surrounding the construction of monuments on the roundabouts on the Marine Parade in Belize City. The Mayor decided to place a replica of the Mayan Temple from Peten, Guatemala Tikal on the Marine Parade roundabout. This is flanked by cannons which were the original pieces on the roundabout. It is bad enough, that cannons and Temples have no connection historically, but what is really dangerous was the Mayor’s statement in defence of the structure. She was quoted on the media to have said, that now the school children will be able to visit the ruins without having to leave the city. Can this cement structure ever compare to experiencing the majesty of Mayan architecture in the Belizean rainforest?
Also the media has been in frenzy over the World Series of Poker because of Bob Bou Nahra, a Belizean, placing as a semi-finalist. Bou Nahra wore a cap with a Belizean flag with the world BELIZE printed under it. The media said that he has done a great thing for Belize, by putting our country on the map. He gained immediate celebrity status for being an excellent poker player and wearing his Belize cap while being broadcast live on ESPN. It seems that we have become dazzled by acronyms of any kind in the pursuit of celebrity, that we have placed ESPN on the level of UNESCO. Have we lost interest in showcasing or consuming originality, or are we merely content with 15 minutes of fame?