When I was a kid, my favorite store was the hologram store. It was tucked away off the main street of the small tourist town I grew up in. I’m not sure how long it was open, but for however long it survived, it was the best part of shopping trips.
The inventor of holograms won a Nobel Prize. Salvador Dali was fascinated with them, most notably with an Alice Cooper hologram. In 1984, National Geographic put a hologram on its cover with stories about how lasers will change the future. Small holograms were all the rage throughout the ‘90s in trading cards, Air Jordan’s, and limited edition comic book covers. Now the only place we commonly see holograms is on the back of credit cards.
But the holograms in this store were far more ambitious.
The hologram store sold, as you’d expect, holograms. They were large framed pictures, usually of pop culture objects often costing hundreds of dollars (I remember a Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation that was quite cool, or rad in the parlance of the time). They all were sort of greenish. Some of the more advanced holograms also had backlighting, though not being a hologram expert I can’t tell you what those lights may (or may not) have done to enhance the viewing experience. I remember one that changed between several different classic movie monsters (
Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein edit: after further research I believe this hologram of the different states of Dracula is what I was thinking of) depending on where you stood. As a spectacle, it was dazzling.
I think back to the hologram store more often than I should admit. In some ways, it marked my first experience with the single-purpose store, which was a novelty in ‘90s, at least when it came to selling such a specific product. Did the tourists who flew in from all over the world to visit the nearby national park buy these holograms? I like to picture some old Swiss couple taking their new Ferengi hologram through customs and hanging it on the wall of their chalet.
The hologram store lives in mind in the same space as the Magic Eye store, though I can’t tell you which came first (or if there was ever truly a Magic Eye store, or if, as a phenomenon, it just took over other novelty shops). Magic Eye being those barfed out pixel rainbow pieces of art that required you relax your eyes before you could see the the true image, a 3D rendering of something, usually weed or dolphins, if I remember right. In stores, you’d often find some embarrassed kid huddled in the corner while their uncle stared at one repeating, “I can’t see it, I can’t see it, I can’t see it,” and their aunt yelled, “Just let your eyes relax, Jim!”
Like holograms, Magic Eye was also eventually used for all sorts of marketing. My favorite was an ad campaign where Campbells included the Magic Eye art on the inside of the label. Peel the label off the can and you’re treated with some 3D art. This often ended with insane results, like this Benjamin Franklin piece.
Even today, I like to imagine someone’s home outfitted entirely with this kind of 3D trick art. As though they invested their savings in the future of experiential art, this new way of seeing the world, in hopes we’d never look at boring 2D art again.
Currently reading: The Stand by Stephen King
Currently watching: Evil
Recently watched: Fifth Element (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️), Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Currently listening: Oneida Romance