Andy Warhol, Image via: NYTimes.
Is there anyone over the age of 16 who doesn’t find Warhol’s maxim about a future in which everyone will have 15 minutes of fame terribly overused? Not everything the artist has said needs to repeated ad nauseum, particularly those turns of phrase that seem to lend themselves to Internet culture. And even if 15 minutes isn’t as well known as I think it is, the fact that I can lodge the question suggests it’s a dangerous framework for an article on what Warhol would do on the web. Indeed, when we asked the same question this April on the blog, we avoided the maxim for this very reason.
To be fair, Rachel Dry does a reasonable job on her piece for the Washington Post, What Would Warhol Blog, though she still cites two meaningless adjustments to the maximum by ROFLCon founder Tim Hwang and Internet scholar David Weinberger. Both figures agree that an Internet appropriate version of the sentiment might better read: we’ll all be famous to 15 people or for 15 seconds. I agree with neither. For specificity’s sake I’d argue “people” should be replaced with “strangers,” 15 replaced with 100 (or more), and a timeline added of about 5-10 years. It’s reasonable to assume most people will say something on facebook or some other social networking site that will introduce them to a sizable number of people they don’t know over the course of a few years.
Not to nitpick, but 15 seconds of fame also seems inaccurate. It’s either far to short or far too long for the Internet. For one thing, a fairly large but short lived internet story will last about 2 days, which suggests a lot more than 15 seconds’ worth of fame. On the other hand, even if most people are their own story (a clever facebook status update solicits attention for a day or two), 15 seconds as represented by the amount of time people invest in a given subject may be far too much. According to the BBC, a Canadian research team found most people decide to stay or navigate away from a page in only 50 milliseconds. Absorbing a picture or a status update won’t take too much more time.
With all this said, Dry does get some great quotes from people who knew Warhol. Probably my favorite comes from Bob Colacello, who worked with Warhol for 13 years.
“With no exaggeration, the Internet would have suited his voice very well,” says Bob Colacello, the author of “Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up”. “But I don’t think he would have been a blogger — first of all, he couldn’t even type, and he evaded opinions. He wasn’t a person who was going to sit around a dinner table and say why he was for Obama’s health-care program. His idea of an opinion was ‘she’s a beauty,’ ‘he’s a beauty,’ ” Colacello says. “I don’t know what he would have blogged about.”
Although Colacello never explicitly describes Warhol interests as shallow, he certainly casts a dim light on Warhol’s evasiveness when it comes to opinion and investment in celebrity beauty. It’s nice to see a look at Warhol that isn’t only about building the artist’s reputation as an icon.