Friday, October 29, 2021

ghost slavery (the revenant meme)

Seem to be on the verge of meme-isis with "ghost slavery" which pops up regularly when the subject of pop holograms of deceased performers gets an airing

viz, this Washington Post piece on the profitable afterlife of Whitney Houston by Steven Zeitchik

interestingly if you flick through the comments below the article, the vast majority find the whole phenom creepy, morbid, unsettling, exploitative

it is the ultimate expression of Momus's retro necro

here are choice portions of the WashPost piece, with incredulous outbursts from me in BOLD

"The Grammy-winning legend died more than nine years ago. But in Las Vegas beginning this week, Houston took the stage with a complement of breathing performers, shimmying and shimmering and of course singing some of the most famous pop songs of all time in “An Evening With Whitney,” a live concert with a Houston hologram.

"This is what Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and manager, wants; this is what BASE Hologram, run by the former Clear Channel executive Brian Becker, wants. Soon enough, we will find out if this is what America wants — whether we crave Houston in colorful regalia on a buzzing stage, delighting audiences as she did so often when she was alive, ascending us to new heights of afterlife performance, or, maybe, just plummeting us straight into the uncanny valley.

"The show in many ways shatters the norms of techno-illusion. A two-minute deep fake is one thing. The dead dancing for us is another.

"“I don’t see it as resurrecting the dead but as celebrating a life,” said Becker over Zoom last week, pushing back, a little. “We want to build a great live show around her.”

"The “live show” is made up of a four-piece band and four dancers. “Her” is a computer-generated face of the singer in her prime that has been digitally grafted to an actress body-double, choreographed and shot months ago and now projected onto a scrim. Nothing on performance night can go wrong.

".... Several performances were held in the United Kingdom in early 2020, before lockdowns did to its star what death could not. The pause gave BASE and the creative team time to regroup, and now they are back with an open-ended, $80-a-pop run in Sin City.

"If all goes well, a tour will follow in 2023, delivering Hologram Whitney to one American road stop after another. 

"... The singer walks around the stage, she salutes the band and crowd, she slinks and dances, all in a dynamic, human-seeming performance. Oh, and there are wardrobe changes.

"... Holograms are not new in pop music. Nine years ago, at Coachella, Tupac appeared, via an old trick known as “Pepper’s Ghost.” (Technically, it’s an optical illusion.) They popped up again last year after Kanye West gave Kim Kardashian the holographic gift of her late father.

"They’re also not new to BASE, which has had hologram tours with Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Maria Callas.

"Some see exploitation in conjuring dead performers by hologram — “ghost slavery,” the journalist Simon Reynolds has termed it — either by damaging their supernal essence or by simply forcing technology to stand them up again and again on stages they never meant to grace. In America, you cannot defame the dead. But you can overwork them seven shows a week in a Vegas club.

"Pat Houston objects. She sees the production as a dream realized — a chance for a person to do in the virtual afterlife what she could not do while on earth.

"“Whitney would have loved the size of the venues and the ability to be in a smaller, more intimate setting,” Pat Houston wrote in an email. “Whitney’s touring was of course so massive when she was alive that she was playing arenas and stadiums and Super Bowls. But we often discussed the smaller venues and the ability to connect with an audience. She grew up singing in the church, so the connection to an audience was so important to her. She would have loved this show for its ability to be intimate with an audience.” INTIMATE!?!? YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING

"Becker points out that it would be hard to call it exploitation when the estate is involved creatively and sharing in the profits. HUH? THAT'S THE POINT, THE FAMILY CUSTODIANS ARE MILKING IT

"Reynolds also sees in the form a kind of disruption to the music ecosystem, since instead of new artists rising when old ones die, the old ones never clear out.

"The show offers a chance for people who never saw Houston in concert to do so. But their language is not yet developed. When the image pauses before a song, claps cheer her on.

"“It’s weird — like, you can’t encourage a hologram,” said Becker. (If the Whitney tour works, he has plans for other icon shows, estates-permitting; he also envisions living artists appearing by hologram in multiple cities on the same night.)  OLIGOPOLY AHOY!

"The social-media backlash has been noisy. Becker theorizes it is the boldness of the experiment, but something more primal may be at work: Seeing a late icon vital again reminds us of the thin line between life and death.

"To contemplate the Whitney Houston hologram is to feel instantly better about life — how nice to be reminded so viscerally of all we once loved — while also coming face-to-face with the uncomfortable truth at its center: It all goes away. Technology’s tempting of mortal physics touches deep.

"Harris’s experience is that the crowd softens as the show moves on. “They’re very quiet at the beginning, like, ‘how are we supposed to react to this?’ And then a few songs in they’re clapping and getting into it,” he said. “By the guitar solos, they’re cheers-ing and crying.”

"This, of course, is the goal. Watching Houston, we are meant to slip, if only momentarily, into the ecstasy of her presence, her talent, her alive-ness...." NO PRESENCE, NO LIFE, HERE!

No comments:

Post a Comment