Today’s article, published by the American magazine First Things, is a taster for a much longer essay (for once the word may be appropriate) which I've written to explore the implications of next year's extravaganza residency of what well might be termed ‘ABBA Immortal’ — a series of performances of the ABBA we remember, but with a spectacular twist: on stage will be not the living, embodied, breathing, singing foursome, but their holograms, the avatars of ABBA circa 1979. The much-anticipated series of events beginning in London from May 2022 will be, in effect, the world's first transhumanist pop concerts.
Perhaps there is no more obvious and immediate candidate for pop immortality, no more complete coming-together in a single combo of desiring, beauty, sweetness, innocence, knowingness, love and its loss. There can hardly be a case made for others capable of being presented as remotely smacking of injustice.
But there are those inevitable tedious ethical questions: Is the introduction to human culture of edgy concepts like avatars, cyborgs, transhumanism and posthumanism — all elements, we are told, of the ‘next phase of human evolution’ — appropriately effected with a CD and a bunch of gigs? Might not something so potentially earth-shaking, not to say controversial, be rendered misleadingly palatable by giddy pop songs? Ought such matters not be treated with gravity rather than glitz? Could ABBA, perhaps innocently seeing this purely in the nature of an interesting stage show, be paving the way for a new and darker digital world?
This, as you will apprehend from this relatively short article, is a topic whose meanings do not all suggest themselves at first sight. For the phenomenon of ABBA, saturated with the context and culture of their native Sweden, is an elemental pop story that erupted from a particular history and a particular political and cultural context. There is more to be said, but let us set out the essential case. A longer article on this topic will be published at an appropriate juncture in the near future.