Tupac Shakur 1971 – 1996 – 2012

INDIO, CA, 15 April — Tonight the late Tupac Shakur appeared at the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in a performance with Snoop Dogg.

In the spring of 1988 I was a freshman at the University of California, San Diego, studying performance art with Allan Kaprow, and I also took a social psychology class from professor Barry Collins. One of the stories Collins told us was of his youthful concert experience seeing the folk singer Pete Seeger:

Pete Seeger came out and started to play, he stopped after a few notes to tune his guitar, and then started playing again. After a few moments he stopped again, grumbled under his breath, “I don’t need this” and peeled off his denim jacket, tossing it to the side of the stage, and then started playing again, this time launching fully into the song.

Collins told us that he was enraptured. Seeger was so authentic, so real. Seeger was the greatest artist in the world!

In fact, Collins was so enraptured that he traveled to see Seeger again the next night and was horrified when,

Pete Seeger came out and started to play, he stopped after a few notes to tune his guitar, and then started playing again. After a few moments he stopped again, grumbled under his breath, “I don’t need this” and peeled off his denim jacket, tossing it to the side of the stage, and then started playing again, this time launching fully into the song.

Even before this mediated age of ours, we humans have always craved authenticity. To those who can perform authenticity well, we will shower money and praise.

It’s ok to perform authenticity, you are a “performer” or a politician or a celebrity after all! But for god’s sake, don’t get caught doing it! Otherwise the young Barry Collins’ of the world will be crushed and never again able to “hear” your music. Of course we expect Angelina Jolie to show off her amazing, slit to the crotch, couture dress at the Academy Awards, just don’t get caught doing what we expect you to do, or your sexy, high-fashion dress will turn into a ridiculous internet meme.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the week since Shakur’s 15 April appearance: many loved it, many hated it, many called it genius, many called it creepy, many marveled at the technology, many fretted about the fakeness. “Fake” as in not “real” or as in “not spontaneous.” The idea of “real performance” went out the window a long time ago, for Barry Collins it went out the window the night of that second Pete Seeger concert.

Still, at least if there’d been an earthquake, Seeger might have done something different. Nothing could have changed Shakur’s Coachella performance, unless Snoop Dogg fell into the screen and broke his image. Of course, you could argue that even the small possibility of Snoop Dogg falling into the screen and visually deconstructing the manufactured media image of the late Shakur is, in fact, a far more “real” moment than which self-help guru’s book Paris Hilton chooses to hold prominently on her way to prison and thus provide an enormous boost to his book sales.

Those who are upset or creeped out by Shakur’s Coachella performance are upset because they crave something, authenticity, that was lost long before they were born. They’re upset that Shakur’s performance wasn’t “real” or “spontaneous.” In essence they’re trying to label Shakur’s performance “fake” in the futile hope of convincing themselves that all the other moments of performed spontaneity they’ve experienced are somehow really real.

For generations the DeBeers Companies have taught us how to authentically say “I love you.” For generations media has taught us how to be an authentic woman, how to be a real man. In a world where your identity is constructed by the choice of which corporate logos you wear, drink out of, or drive, can anyone really be upset about a fake Tupac Shakur performance???

While we in the self-absorbed West wring our hands over the illusion of authenticity, in Japan they get it: Hatsune Miku is a virtual pop star for whom “real” people show up in droves to wave their glow sticks, dance, and have a great time.

Is Hatsune Miku “real?” Is her performance “authentic?”
Well… as authentic, I suppose… as Tupac Shakur… or Pete Seeger…

Oh yeah… it’s damn convenient the way everybody in the audience has a glow stick, isn’t it? Maybe they were manufactured too…

I’ve avoided talking about the technology on Shakur’s appearance because I wanted to focus on the cultural perspective. Yes, you’ve no doubt heard that it wasn’t a “real” hologram, but a “fake” 2D “hologram” projected on a 45° degree “glass,” essentially the trick movies and museum displays have used for eons, but writ large. Anyway, if you really want to know the tech details of how the late Tupac Shakur appeared at Coachella 16 years after his death, the video below explains the technology in full:

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Augmented Reality

Author:Vanessa Anne Blaylock

As a Virtual Public Artist my work invites virtual communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

3 Comments on “Tupac Shakur 1971 – 1996 – 2012”

  1. Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 03:52 UTC #

    aww, look what Pyewacket found! 🙂

  2. Jenni Roundfield
    Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 08:32 UTC #

    Vaneeesa, I think the video is actually how to look like Hatsune Miku, not the Tupac technology…but regardless, this is an interesting idea…we do so want our experiences to be authentic and even for me, the experiences I have had that are unique and particular to me are the best.

    A friend told me about a clip on YT from the Cochella festival, a party featuring the new Chevy Volt and presided over by Paris Hilton and a couple of other trendy starts. It looked totally manufactured for the moment, and that was what I was thinking about with my photo.

    • Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 08:42 UTC #

      Hi Jenni!!!

      What? What? Hatsune Miku isn’t 2Pac? OMG! Now I suppose your’re going to tell me Justin Bieber isn’t a puppet from the Jim Henson Studios? You’re blowing my mind! :))

      I do love your photo. And anyway, yes, it is kind of slippery: “fake” really isn’t very satisfying… but in some sense Paris Hilton selling cars is more honest that the more successful stuff that seems more real but is just better performed.

      Sadly, Hatsune Miku’s voice is WAY too screechingly high for me! 😛

      So, whatcha been up to??

%d bloggers like this: