Enlightenment™ :: Peter Burke

24 October – 15 November 2006, Bodh Gaya, India

Enlightenment™ – a project by Peter Burke for Buddha Enlightened, a media art exhibition of site-specific works by 24 international artists, curated by Sanjiv Singh.

Artists from India, Cuba, Ireland, Holland, France, Slovenia, Canada, England, Australia and the USA produced work in Bodh Gaya a small town on a well-traveled circuit for Buddhist pilgrims who follow in Buddha’s footsteps, where he attained enlightenment in 500 BC.

Two weeks were allocated to making work, with a third week for the exhibition – but in India time is it’s own Lord and the deadlines were loose – to say the least. The artists were lodged in a hotel near the Siddhartha Bungalow complex – this was the artists’ hub with a restaurant, simple studio spaces, a digital media team and 12 assistants from the Patna and Agra art colleges. The venue became the indoor/outdoor exhibition space for digital media, video, dance, photography, sculpture and installation.

My project took place outside the compound, on the main street, in front of cameras and on mobile phones. Enlightenment™ was a strategic ‘advertising campaign’ featuring a supermodel, billboards, SMS messages and product launches. A total of 23,456,781 million Indians received text messages from Shelly Innocence (a virtual supermodel and self-professed guru), met her in person and saw her on TV.

Enlightenment™ is a continuation of Innocence™, which consisted of six billboards and a video projection in Melbourne’s CBD featuring Shelly (my fictional character/alter ego) and her website (www.shellyinnocence.com). Shelly’s Public Happiness Meter stood in the plaza at Flinders Street Station giving a reading of Melbourne’s Happiness Level and over 200 people gathered for a Happyflash event.

In the west, Shelly markets an extensive product range including Happiness™ – try it, Integrity™ – it’s not for everyone and Revelation™ – wake up to yourself. In India, Shelly’s transformation into a modern day guru and Bollywood star in the style of Kareena Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai enabled her to continue her exploration of the metaphysical aspects of life through popular culture.

In November 2006, over 3,562 people turned out to see Shelly (in a glittering sari and sporting the latest Nokia handset) launch her two brand new billboards in Bodh Gaya. The Jagran News, The Hindustan Times and Sahara TV recorded the spectacle and the ‘poster girl’ welcomed the media attention, posing for photos, signing autographs and distributing her mobile phone number.

Shelly’s billboards invited the public to ‘SMS Shelly for Enlightenment™’. Those who responded received personal text messages from Shelly on their mobile phones. ‘Hamesha shant raho aur roz khush raho nachte raho.’ (‘Be at peace with yourself and dance every day’).

‘It’s a world first!’ Shelly told Sahara TV during an in-depth interview. ‘And a personal calling’.

Research into India’s mobile phone culture inspired Shelly to target the Eastern market. Located in Bihar, the poorest state in India, Bodh Gaya has a wealth of fervent mobile phone users (not all have credit) and the first real ‘SMS’ (Special Message Service) was produced in the town – Buddha received his message of enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in 500 BC. Shelly proudly continues the tradition of inspirational messages and believes the connection between spiritual and digital worlds is an untapped market.

‘Text me – Enlightenment™ is free’, Shelly says.

Customer satisfaction for Shelly’s SMS service, however, rated moderately with mobile-savvy Bodh Gayans demanding more than a message of Enlightenment™. Shelly’s phone was inundated with voice calls – an unexpected consumer demand from males wanting to hear her voice, speak face to face, or go on a date. Offers of free Shelly wallpaper and ring-tones failed to pacify the masses and the digital diva was forced to respond with a public statement.

‘Get real, hai. Mai kush na hai mobile phones hai, mugha woh SMS bara special hai.’ (‘Get real. Mobile phones have a lot to answer for, but it’s the text message that counts.’)

The Enlightenment™ finale was a Happyflash event – 60 seconds of spontaneous, shared laughter. An estimated 324 pedestrians, street vendors, tourists, rickshaw drivers, bus passengers, dogs and cows gathered under a Shelly billboard to laugh while others laughed on their mobile phones.

Enlightenment™ continues to attract ongoing media attention, Shelly regularly receives emails and her website and blog have had over 2.6 million hits.

Shelly wishes to thank her friends and sponsors for their invaluable support.

‘Nameste. I love you all. Thank you. Especially my major sponsor, ANAT, for making my dream of Enlightenment™ come true’.




Shelly Innocence was interviewed by Sahara TV and featured in local newspapers:
Rakesh Prinjab with Shelly Innocence, Sahara TV (Bihar, India), Sat Nov 10, 2006
Supermodel or guru? Rani Kapoor, The Jagran News, Wed Nov 7, 2006
A guru called Shelly. Sunil Kumar, The Hindustan Times, Wed Nov 7, 2006
Peter Burke, Innocence™’s Publicity Manager, gave a presentation to students at Patna Art College, Patna, Thur Nov 1, 2006

Shelly’s public appearances
Walkabout and Enlightenment™ launch, Bodh Gaya, Thur Nov 8, 2006
Walkabout and Tea Party at Buddha Enlightened exhibition, Bodh Gaya, Fri Nov 9, 2006

Shelly’s digital media services
SMS Messages Sent: 150 Received: 38
Voice calls Sent: 0 Received: 89
Free Shelly wallpaper and ring-tones were available upon request
Shelly’s launch was recorded on video, but due to constant power failures in Bodh Gaya (4-5 per day) the footage will be screened in Melbourne at a date to be announced

Support team
Leading up to Enlightenment™, a team of Indian assistants worked tirelessly to print Shelly’s billboards, translate her inspirational SMS messages into Hindi, select her wardrobe and liaise with the media. A makeup crew, photographers and security team accompanied Shelly at all times.

Shelly’s personal assistants
Sanjiv Sinha Shikha Sinha Ananjay Bhushan Vinay Kumar Mohit Kant Tomoyo Ihaya Carol Hummel Anna McLeod Maurice Frymuth Jozefrander Heyden Mukesh Jain Deepshikar, Kumari Marco, Mintu, Baldy, Dinar, Sanjeev, Sonju Students from the Patna College of Art and Agra Art College

Shelly’s sponsors
ANAT $2000 Bayside City Council, Melbourne $200 Bihar Tourism, India (in-kind support)

Shelly is dressed by the Splendid Saree Company

Participating artists in Buddha Enlightened
Sanjiv Singh (India)
Marisa Rueda (London)
Simon Ferdinando (Holland)
Gagan Vi (India)
Carol Hummel (USA)
Anna McLeod (Ireland)
Nelly Massera (France)
Renee Ridgeway (USA)
Rob Birza (Holland)
Sabine Blanc-DeCarpentier (France)
Jean Francios Gauoty (France)
Barbaro Repes Mesa (Cuba)
Majda Uratusa (Slovenia)
Tomoyo Ihaya (Canada)
Christopher Meyer (France)
Laura Martin (France)
Taiga Chiba (Canada)
Diane Hagen (Holland)
Bryan Mulvihill (Canada)
Durga Kainthola (India)
M.J. Enas (India)
Maurice Frymuth (Holland)
Jozefrander Heyden (Holland)

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