This article argues that Virtual 2Pac, created in 2012 by Digital Domain Media Group in collaboration with Dr. Dre for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, represents an important twenty-first-century challenge to the relationships between performance and performer, film and archive, and death and the image. This essay traces the ghostliness of entertainers speaking from beyond the grave and the new interpretive problems that come to the fore when the performance is “live” but the performer isn't. Bringing together star discourse, media ontology, and sound studies, this article considers what digital cinema's capacity to create “original” performances means for questions regarding the real, the authentic, and the performer's aura. Virtual performers bring contemporary culture to a new extreme of celebrity commodification. With performances separated from the biographical performer, the entertainment industry may place actors and musicians in new contexts, distancing performers from the more challenging aspects of their biographies. In the case of Virtual 2Pac, this new practice appears particularly insidious, as the biographical Tupac Shakur's political activism and messy personal life become sanitized for the postmortem commodification of black masculinity.
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Katherine Fusco; Voices from Beyond the Grave: Virtual Tupac's Live Performance at Coachella. Camera Obscura 1 September 2015; 30 (2 (89)): 29–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3078314
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