Patrick Lichty – 355
Concept White Paper
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(225) 766-3811 email@example.com
An Alpha Revisionist Manifesto
technological sector, having a product ‘in Alpha’ refers to a product that is in
development, frequently little more than a fully developed idea in the process
of implementation. The ‘Beta’ stage
follows, which is the final consumer testing that precedes release of a product
(software, hardware, etc.) to the public.
This follows an industrial tradition that includes such New World
cultural icons as Detroit’s concept cars, but a promise of progress is no longer
enough for technological society.
We are now in a period of the Alpha Revision.
previous times such as the 1950’s, development was closely guarded, with peeks
of, or brief glimpses at objects-in-progress, only to climax in the glorious
debut of the newest Philco television, Chevrolet automobile, or latest motion
picture. In the past, the
industrial production culture guarded its developing projects closely. The need for primacy in the
promotion of ideas and products in the increasingly accelerated culture of the
80’s and 90’s technological markets became ever more pronounced, and required
announcements to be made while concepts were in the ‘Beta’ stage. The marketing of a product or concept
increasingly moved back in the development arc, and in that period the prevalent
timeframe was that of the final testing phases. In
contrast to this, the current technological culture is one
that feeds on hype and diminished expectations of the
was once a prime driver of society.
Philosophical and artistic movements have often looked to the past to
revitalize the present and strategize the future. McLuhan mused that artists lived in the
present, making them seem visionary while others looked to that very same
past. In the McLuhanist shift, the
present became the focus. However
at the turn of the second millennium the shift increasingly turns to the
future. History is hopelessly
ephemeral in the digital culture, the present is a bore, and it takes far too
long for projects to get out of beta.
The acceleration of culture demands the consumption of ideas at their
peak of freshness, instead of waiting two years from Microsoft’s announcement of
the X-Box for delivery of the physical object. So, to insure primacy of the idea in the
larger community, and to maximize mindshare for that idea, the concept must be
released as soon as possible.
reinforced by the inability of actual objects and events to satisfy our
expectations. The release of the
Playstation II in the USA met with 50% shortages of delivered systems from
projected numbers and even with the latest technology the machine has a scant
twenty-five games at time of release.
When the most current computer system is brought to market, the chip
manufacturers frequently have a version a little faster that is not quite ready
for release. But in the case of the
Pentium III and Windows 98, the new chip or operating system only reinforced the
discontinuity between the hype and any hope of its consummation.
being an artistic visionary is not enough. McLuhan’s present fails our
expectations of the future. At the
prestigious 2000 Ars Electronica technological arts festival, the top prize did
not go to any Internet art practitioner per se, to science fiction writer Neal
Stephenson. Fin de millennium
culture is not even satisfied with the next big thing; its interest is the next
blip on the radar two to ten years out. The new object of desire becomes
the next upgrade for failed
technological expectations; the
most up-to-date applied fictive piece that may or may not come to fruition; the
next cultural vaporware.
Lunenfeld’s essay, “Demo or Die”, he describes a culture at MIT of researchers
demonstrating their ideas so that they can continue in their acceptance,
funding, etc. through a ritualistic series of PowerPoint lectures
and prototype displays. This culture has bled into the art
world, as artists ‘demo’ their works with the same tools that corporate
executives employ to generate excitement about their “Next Big Idea”. In this way, the capitalistic production
culture of symbols in the dot-com world has inscribed itself on the artist, this
time the technological artist, and the Internet artist in particular.
artist has returned to the creation of objects, although contemporary projects
may be largely symbolic in nature.
With the lack of physicality inherent in digital art, and net.art in
particular, the art symbol is objectified in the form of the installation. However, as with the execution of the
physical object, the execution of the online installation falls short of
expectations, as is evident in the Ars exhibition’s refusal to give the top
award to any artist who actually created an installation. Due to numerous factors such as
quality of the machine used to see the work and so on, the qualitative
experience of the installation is
almost always a disappointment compared to the spark of imagination that an
alpha revision announcement
be said that this manifesto is merely another extension to the Conceptualist
legacy, and this is not an incorrect assumption. However, the cultural shift represented
by digital art is that the obliterated physical referent is reborn in the
symbolic, that the embodiment of the subject has moved from the cyborg to a
corpus of information. In so doing,
net.art pieces, even in the form of Brechtian descriptions of happenings, are
reiterated as symbolic objects through these shifts in discourse and
left as satisfying experiences in the digital are merely allegories to, and
functional prototypes of, works-in-progress that may or may not ever be created,
depending on interest and funding.
The Alpha Revision art project signifies that which is not fully
conceptualized or executed, even symbolically, except for the germ of an
idea. If there are the 50 or so
recorded concepts for such symbolic works (this treatise refers to digital art),
these are in fact works in themselves, and the art which could come from these
concepts is distinctly different and potentially less satisfying than the
convoked by the concepts. As with the alpha revision announcement,
the desire invoked by an upcoming product is far more powerful than what
the release of the work/product itself will engender. In fact, the conceptual
aesthetic of the
information world is linked to the creative potential imbued within the
description of an intervention or work, and not necessarily the work
option now exists to have the work one imagines creating spread through
the rhizomatic web of the electronic noosphere, for description is enough on its
own. Perhaps, due to a sort of
refusal to let go of past forms of expression, the artist will likely continue
to create occasional works, but far
still be in ‘alpha’ because the likelihood of having the power, time, or money
to execute them all is very, very slim.
is no longer good enough,
present is a disappointment,
future takes too long to arrive,
is now in alpha revision.