And so it begins. It’s been two weeks since Prince’s passing, and technology company Hologram USA is already considering a projection in his likeness.
“We are mourning the loss of Prince along with his millions of fans,” CEO Alki David said. “If at some point in the future his estate and the fans feel a hologram performance would be a fitting tribute, we’d be honored to celebrate the Sexy Motherf***er in every way.”
This obviously wouldn’t be a first. In 2014, Michael Jackson was brought back to life for the Billboard Music Awards. In 2012, Tupac was resurrected for what may have been one of the most memorable, if not unnerving (as exhibited by Tyler the Creator’s reaction), performances to ever be held at Coachella. Ol’ Dirty Bastard joined his Clan on stage at Rock The Bells, and Faith Evans recently hinted at the possibility of a Biggie hologram.
Writer James Montgomery addressed the growing phenomenon in a piece written for MTV months after holo-Pac graced the stage, stating: “Once this becomes a little less cost-prohibitive, given the wild popularity of deceased stars like Elvis or Michael Jackson, I can see Las Vegas shelling out a lot of money to have these sort of ‘live revues.”
As predicted, it didn’t take long for venues to hop on board. In 2015, a Billie Holiday hologram was also announced to perform at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater.
“It’s also interesting if you look at the current stars of today, someone like Madonna or a Paul McCartney,” Montgomery continued. “Are they looking at what happened with Tupac, and are they thinking, maybe I have to rewrite my will and sort of include something that says, ‘I don’t want my likeness projected in 3-D holographic form at any point in the future.’”
Losing anyone is difficult to cope with, but there’s a certain sort of loss experienced when we say goodbye to an entertainer. Our favorite artists are akin to family, there for us during our darkest moments and attaching themselves to memories of our best. And while it makes sense that anyone would jump at the chance to see their dearly departed one last time, it all boils down to a fine line between commodity and commemoration: Are technology companies creating these phantasmal clones to honor our fallen luminaries, or are they simply capitalizing on the vulnerability of their mourning fans?
In 2012, National Post writer Matt Gurney argued that celebrities should be left to pass. “The technology is undeniably impressive,” he said regarding Tupac’s Coachella hologram. “But Shakur is not a fictional character, owned by a studio, but a real-life human being.”
He then capped it off perfectly.
“Unless a deceased performer left approval in advance, while they should be honoured by showcasing their work, they shouldn’t be treated as co-performers for the living.”
Sometimes it’s best to just say goodbye. In Gurney’s succinct words: “Let the dead rest.”