We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it? An accumulation of nameless energies.--Don DeLillo, from White Noise
To be not a man, but the projection of another man’s dreams—what an incomparable humiliation, what vertigo!—Jorge Luis Borges, from The Circular Ruins
Tupac. Coachella. Hologram. Taken apart, none of these things are new, or even revolutionary. But something happened in the wake of the Tupac hologram (henceforth: Holopac) debut at Coachella that I find utterly fascinating: people were awestruck (including yours truly). It provoked a kind of cultural zeitgeist awe that one rarely finds in this era. You don’t hear people of this generation utter the phrase “where were you when…” or a smug “I was there” in regards to most cultural ‘moments.’ “I was there” is not a brag in regards to seeing Gaga’s meat dress, for example, or Madonna making out with Britney at the VMAs. We were all there, on a zillion youtube videos and photographs posted minutes later. These utterances don’t occur nearly as often as I imagine they crossed the lips of prior generations. Woodstock. Altamont. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The Ballet Russe’s Rite of Spring opening night. San Francisco in the late 1960s. It’s increasingly easier to “watch” an “exclusive” moment on youtube, then hit ‘close tab’ and feel satisfied that you, too, experienced it. We’re no longer the protective owners of unique experiences.
Talk of taking Holopac on tour, or creating new holograms of dead legends rings a bit false to me. We are so quick to duplicate and capitalize on “original” moments these days, and the reverence is equally quick to dissipate. I would also posit that a Marvin Gaye hologram, or a Jimmi Hendrix hologram, won’t hold nearly the same “I can’t believe my eyes” as the Tupac hologram. Gaye and Hendrix are pretty firmly—for lack of a better word—dead. The genius in “bringing back” Tupac is the uncertainty that swirls around his legend, the conspiracy theories that he is living it up, smoking weed and drinking Hennessy on a Caribbean island somewhere, laughing at all of us all the way to bank. There is still a slight superstition, if you will, upon first seeing the Tupac holgram, that it justmighthave been the real thing. This inspires, as Freud wrote in Das Unheimliche: “certain things which lie within the field of what is frightening. The uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar.” Freud also wrote:
Many people experience [the uncanny] in the highest degree in relation to death and dead bodies, to the return of the dead, and to spirits and ghosts. There is scarcely any other matter upon which our thoughts and feelings have changed so little since the very earliest times, and in which discarded forms have been so completely preserved under a thin disguise, as our relation to death. Since almost all of us still think as savages do on this topic, it is no matter for surprise that the primitive fear of the dead is still so strong within us and always ready to come to the surface on any provocation.
I mean, c’mon: even a recreated Jimmi Hendrix LSD guitar-on-fire schtick seems a little…benign compared to this first incarnation of the ghostly, godly Tupac, rising barechested and glowing over a desert of people, under a sinister fog of marijuana smoke.
The term simulacrum was first recorded in the English dictionary in the late 16th century as “the representation of a god” in something like a statue or painting. Only later did it gain the association of “an image without the substances or qualities of the original.” Plato would be banging his head against the wall re: HoloTupac. Baudrillard would applaud in DeLillo-esque way, I think: we are only projecting meaning and memories onto Holopac, onto this collection of light waves and dust particles. We are recreating the man in image and in memory, and here we have the perfect intersection of Freud’s uncanny and Baudrillard’s simulacrum. And what of those of us who watched a video of the Holopac? What intersection is that? Are we also truly experiencing this representation? Baudrillard writes:
The transition from signs which dissimulate something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing, marks the decisive turning point. The first implies a theology of truth and secrecy (to which the notion of ideology still belongs). The second inaugurates an age of simulacra and simulation, in which there is no longer any last judgment to separate truth from false, the real from its artificial resurrection, since everything is already dead and risen in advance.
Everything is already dead and risen in advance. Call me old-fashioned, but I say: let Holopac rest in peace. Leave him to wander the deserts as a shirtless specter that only appears during rainbows, or potentially sipping on gin’n’juice while he records more “posthumous” albums.
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- hlewisallways said: Thank you very much, indeed.
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