Making sense of technology, art, and whether David Byrne loves PowerPoint

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 03/20/2005 - 15:56.

Could cultural consciousness icon David Byrne truly " PowerPoint"? Co-founder of the groundbreaking and fascinating Talking Heads, Byrne is known for creating globally relevant music and art, making it surprising he would go on tour championing the close-minded "Office" anti-intellect of big brother champion Microsoft, the icon of anti-culture. Yet, as Byrne posts to his website, I have been working with PowerPoint, the ubiquitous presentation
software, as an art medium for a number of years. It started off as a
joke (this software is a symbol of corporate salesmanship, or lack
thereof) but then the work took on a life of its own as I realized I
could create pieces that were moving, despite the limitations of the
"medium."
Before the talk, attendees were treated to some of
Byrne's EEEI PowerPoint art project, which was striking.


Once Byrne took the podium, the scene became disorienting, with blurring lines between art and communications, reality
and surrealism, genius and commonplace, as expected. Byrne
demonstrated
an innocent appreciation of the power of technology for creating
highly personal
art and conveying revolutionary concepts, all in the context of
Orwellian social submission - artistic freedom found within the
bowels of the beast. He uses PowerPoint as a digital canvas,
finding it simple to combine images, words and
transitions in a functional, primitive multimedia platform. Byrne was certainly not promoting Microsoft - he was
certain to point out
that the history of PowerPoint began long before MS was even
involved and his interest is actually EEEI - Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information - the title of Byrne's PowerPoint art production (which is available as a book and DVD set for $80).


It seems in the process of creating EEEI, Byrne became fascinated by
how PowerPoint has impacted society, allowing for the dumbing-down of
communications
and the communicator through templates, clipart, and built-in
contentwizards and auto-visual components - Byrne points out it is possible to use PowerPoint to
write about nothing and seem to know something, representing the
artificial
unintelligence which has become commonplace in the business information
world. Another interesting perspecitve on PowerPoint DumbDown is "The PowerPoint Gettysburg Presentation", by Norvig.


In Byrne's hands, the results from PowerPoint are quite different. In his presentation about PowerPoint he pursues visual and intellectual anti-business dissonance. His slides have difficult to read text on
busy backgrounds - posed with great humour - he is not here to sell the
Microsoft vision but his own, which happens to be created in an anti-art, non-intellectual format. The same can be said for Byrne's creativity in the music industry so ultimately Byrne's work today is "same as it ever was."

It was a coup that Akron was able to attract Byrne on this
brief and exclusive "tour", which more typically made stops in
hot-spots like Berkeley, Portland, Seattle and New York. Byrne
performed at the stunning new Akron Library
auditorium, which was well suited to his subtilely radical exploration
of art and technology.
In introducing Byrne, the Director of the Akron Museum pointed out they
purchased a copy of EEEI for their collection. He showed pride in his
museum, now well into a major reconstruction, and in the hip new
library complex where we sat, and that his city excels at the forefront of
cultural exploration.


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