At first glance, Andy Campbell’s “The Incomplete” presents itself as an ontological, sort of abstract piece of digital art. As Kutoof noted, the laptop opens and tabs are able to be clicked, but most bring up the error message: “the volume is corrupt and unreadable.” Opening Internet Explorer only reveals a webpage bearing the same image of a laptop. Seemingly, there is no story to be told — no interaction, no hypertext adventure. And if we rely on our notions of what storytelling looks like – with the story unfolding before us – our adventure does stop there.
However, there is more to be explored in “The Incomplete.” The only other icon that is able to clicked is the Recycling Bin. There is a folder called “Incomplete Files” in the Recycling Bin, but is unable to be opened. To access the files, you have to apply what you know about Windows XP (or just read the options off to the side). How does one access files that have been recycled? You have to restore them. To engage fully with the text, we have to engage with it as we would our own technology.
Once the folder is restored, the files can be explored (Alternatively, you can choose to delete all files before reading them). “Unlocking” the content feels a bit like a game now, navigating the file manager and unfolding the story slowly, piece by piece. Although it’s unlike most games I’ve played, it fits right in with Campbell’s other Dreaming Methods pieces: a little avant garde, a little abstract. And always, Campbell makes us work for our reward. Instead of answers, it feels like we just get more questions.
Clicking on “Unfinished 2” and then “Files” will reveal a grid of unopenable Word documents that must be dragged one by one to the side in order to reveal a scattered poem. Clicking on one of the named Word documents will bring you to a blank document, where you can type your own text. These particular files make me think of a poet who has an idea for a piece, but hasn’t put his words to screen yet. The potential is all there, but no actualization.
Other than empty Word documents and a file of a record player called “Hope,” there is one file in particular that interested me. Unfinished 2 > Garden (scrolling past neverending.doc) brings us to a garden. Clicking the rounded stone causes the laptop to shake, and a tree to erupt from the screen, as if the computer had sprouted to life.
I don’t see “The Incomplete” as a piece about technology as much as a study in potential — a look inside a writer’s mind which, nowadays, is found via his or her personal computer files. There are several blank documents, waiting to be filled, but also fledgling poems and bits of inspiration, hiding behind irrelevant files. And that tree, springing to life…well, that’s a metaphor for the creative process if I ever saw one.
And let’s not forget where this folder was found in the first place: the Recycling Bin, waiting to be deleted for good by a writer with too little faith in themselves.