Wow! An edible drone with extruded vegetable spars that can be flown into famine-affected areas! Reworded press release posts popped up everywhere last week with this image attached. Ian Bogost wasn't buying it.
Bogost links prototype art created by venture capital seekers to to the long history of conceptual fine art, like Manzoni's 1961 pieces titled Artist's Shit. He draws a line from Manzoni to Windhorse Aerospace, who sold Facebook the concept of drone-based internet delivery for $20 million in 2014. Bogost explains how this VC bait works in theory and practice:
Conceptualism has one gimmick—that the idea behind the work has more value than the work itself. As it happens, that's not a bad definition of securitization, the process of transforming illiquid assets into financial instruments. Whether Windhorse's edible drones really work, or whether they could effectively triage humanitarian crises is far less important in the short term than the apparent value of the concept or the technology. If humanitarian aid doesn't work out, the company can always "pivot" into another use, to use that favorite term of start-ups. What a company does is ultimately unimportant; what matters is the materials with which it does things, and the intensity with which it pitches those uses as revolutionary.
• Tech Start-Ups Have Become Conceptual Art (The Atlantic / Ian Bogost)