Tuesday, December 09, 2003

This is not my Presentation Software

David Byrne, former Talking Heads frontman and all around artistic guy, is interviewed at Wired News today. The subject, his latest project, a new book and DVD set called Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, which makes use of Microsoft's ubiquitous presentation application, PowerPoint.

Wired describes his project, "His art presentations make babble of business-speak, and question whether the form of what we communicate can affect its truth: Rebellious flow charts stream backward, screens overflow with clip art gone wild, deliverables and leave-behinds assume surreal new roles, and renegade bullet points assault the viewer in a rapid-fire barrage."

When I first heard of this, I was almost disappointed that Byrne didn't use a better piece of software. Photoshop, Acrobat, Flash. I could think of a number of ways to create presentations that would result in a more polished and elegant experience. But when I read Byrne's comments, I realized that it was the ubiquitousness and simplicity of PowerPoint that fit what he was trying to accomplish. He says, "...because people make art out of all kinds of crappy things -- Lite Brites, or Pixelvision cameras. For every odd little tool, there's someone out there who's chosen that as a medium. And in spite of the limitations of a given technology, they turn it around so that each defect becomes a positive quality."

Answering the question of whether the availability of affordable image editing, presentation, and video software would democratize art, Byrne concludes, "It's true, but then again, it's not. Even before the advent of digital imaging, when large videotape cameras became small handhelds, the idea was that now everyone will become a filmmaker. And as technology progressed, this has become so easy that now you really can make a film on your laptop.

"New people do become creators; they jump in where they might not have before. Within the last few years, for instance, all of a sudden we have a glut of artists who do video installations -- perhaps too many. But some of this new work is really great; the simplicity and affordability makes it happen.

"I think this trend will continue. But just like the Internet itself, the fact that everybody now has access opens up this possibility for broader participation, but most of the time the potential isn't realized.

"Just because it's there doesn't mean people will use it."

Read the whole thing here.

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