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The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Hologram

posted Jan 30, 2013, 9:52 PM by Ellen Pearlman

The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Hologram

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has given holograms 15 minutes of fame with its Pepper’s Ghost/Startrek “Beam Me Up Scotty”  projection of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur.

It didn’t come cheap and was the result of four months of work between Dr. Dre’s production company, James Cameron’s Digital Domain, AV Concepts andMusion Systems.  AV concepts licensed Musion’s foil projections technologyMusion Eyeliner, which has been around since it was first introduced to the public by Virgin Airlines Richard Branson in 2006. It is a high definition video projection system where a 3-dimensional moving life-size hologram appears on a live stage projected onto an extremely thin foil.

Snoop Dogg performs with an image of Tupac near the end of the Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre set, closing the third and final day of Week 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

2006 Launch of Virgin Digital Music with Richard Branson as hologram

It was an original performance just for Coachella, and had Tupac mouthing words (such as “Coachella”) that didn’t exist until he was well into a post-mortem state. In once sense it is high-tech puppetry redolent of seances, but its also indicative of something more profound.

Mark Hansen, a critical theorist at Duke University talks about this embrace and onslaught of new technologies saying,

“The computational revolution is altering the infrastructure of our lifeworld profoundly and thereby changing what it means to be human and  also what is involved in practicing the humanities today. I believe that the humanities must embrace technology and that humanists must enter  full-scale into the informatics revolution by, for example, contesting  the meaning and value of information and rethinking what it means to be human in a realtime, digitally-networked, global world in which we often cognize in concert with intelligent machines.”

Hansen understands the flashpoint between traditional cultural 
theorists and the tsunami of the digital and networked worlds. This is 
an under developed area within most art practice programs, and digital 
media programs. The first focuses on theory, often starting with 
Euro-centric philosophical and critical forms. The second hammers home 
programtic structure and exactitude.

He emphatically states

“Theorists simply overlook the non-representational, experiential, 
and massively diffuse impact of technologies on social and cultural 
life.” 

Holograms are not a new art form. According to the Center For 4D Arts (3D+ Time) Margaret Benyon, followed by Harriet Casdin-Silver and Anait Stephenswere the first three artists to make their own art holograms.

From left to right these images are “Equivocal Forks” by Harriet Casdin-Silver, by Anait Stephens, “Ti-Girl” by Margaret Benyon (the portrait is of Margaret) and “Cornucopia” also by Margaret Benyon

The first art performance of Musion style holography was Jesper Just’s 2005 opening salvo at Performa 2005 with his piece True Love Is Yet To Come. It was a 22 minute piece at the Weiss Studio in NY performed on a curved stage, so the holographic projections looked  real but also ghost-like.

Courtesy Performa, New York / Courtesy Jesper Just
Copyright © Jesper Just 2005

What is clear is that this Coachella performance has brought holographic projection closer into mainstream consciousness as just another aspect of technological innovation that will enter into the parlance of the everyday.


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