03.12.05 Art@Akron Library: Everyone (Hearts) David Byrne

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Sun, 03/20/2005 - 12:45.

Anyone who attended David Byrne’s presentation “I (Heart) PowerPoint� will never think of PowerPoint the same way. Byrne gave his satirical presentation on the popular Microsoft program Sunday afternoon to a sold out crowd at the Mainm Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library as part of the Akron Art Museum’s Modern Masters Series.

As the crowd gathered, before Byrne was introduced, a PowerPoint presentation he had created using images, words and symbols accompanied by music played across the auditorium’s huge screen. Many of the slides depicted facial features; some were color photo collages of facial features. Other slides resembled clip art and images appropriated from advertising. Enigmatic symbols such as bull’s-eyes in brackets in black on a white background were also included.

When Byrne appeared he looked ready for business, yet slightly eccentric as he stood on stage at a podium with his two-toned shoes, dark suit, and crest of gray hair. Byrne explained during his talk that what we had just viewed was part of an installation he had exhibited in Japan.

PowerPoint has become so common in the business and academic world that most people now use the program without giving it much thought. Byrne explained that PowerPoint’s ubiquitousness is exactly what appeals to him about the program. As a visual artist, he likes its limitation and the ability he has to overload the program and create interesting errors. You soon realize that Byrne is being satirical and he probably doesn’t like PowerPoint at all. His presentation is a cautionary tale of how we have come to organize information. PowerPoint gives the information organized in it authority, though there may very little information actually conveyed. He is particularly critical of TV news and USA Today, which he feel convey information much in the manner that PowerPoint does. He says they convey the idea of news, but not always the news. He references NASA and their use of PowerPoint several times in his talk as evidence that even the most intelligent people can fail to use PowerPoint intelligently.

David Byrne’s tour seems to have very consistent (using the same slides and lecture at each venue) – at least according to a quick survey of on line reviews. Online reviewers themselves seem consistently reverent in their comments.

“I (Heart) PowerPoint� was presented in the auditorium of the library because the Akron Art Museum is currently closed for a major expansion project. Akron was the last stop for Byrne on a tour to promote his book Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information. During much of the show Byrne was as hilarious as the best standup comedians, discussing with a straight face PowerPoint slides he had found on the Web such as “Right Attitudes Toward the Poor� and “Make Marriage Fun�, and PowerPoint diagrams of great literature such as Hamlet and Lolita though he seemed to loose his train of though at one point. Maybe he was getting tired at the end of his tour?

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