David Byrne’s PowerPoint Art: Musician Uses Business Program for Ironic Avant-Garde Art


Heard on "Day to Day"

PowerPoint, Microsoft’s ubiquitous slideshow program, is used by business people all over the world to enliven their presentations — and maybe keep listeners awake — during long meetings. It’s become part of our culture, and now it’s been turned into art.

David Byrne, best known as the lead singer for the '80s rock band Talking Heads, has collected his PowerPoint art into a book and DVD with original songs, Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information.

Reporter Debra Schifrin spoke with David Byrne about his new work. The musician says he hadn’t planned to do an entire multimedia art project using the program, but he created a presentation a few years ago and says he was struck by the negative effect it had on the way people communicate.

But despite his initial disdain for the program, Byrne became intrigued by its artistic potential. He began turning PowerPoint's bars and lines, stock images and clichéd phrases into his creative playground.

The main idea, Byrne says, was to take the rational forms and structures of this business tool and use them in an irrational way.

"Artists are notoriously snooty and suspicious of anything coming from the business community," Byrne says. "So I have all kind of built in prejudices and suspicions that are working against me, that would naturally steer me away from anything like this. That’s why I have to turn the steering wheel and go right into it."

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