Cheap and Close at Hand

Foto: Andrea Rossetti
John Miller, An Elixir of Immortality, Installationsansicht, 2020.

John Miller on PowerPoint

I saw PowerPoint as an artwork for the first time in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. It was by Francis Stark. Before then, I didn’t even know what PowerPoint was.
For many years, government and corporate organisations, not to mention academia, have widely embraced this software. But its popularity ultimately devolved into a hate-able form. PowerPoint evinced coercion and didacticism; in lectures, for example, this visual format enables speakers to drone on longer than they should. Now training programs like those produced by companies such as »Qualtrics«—that can harangue students and workers in the comfort of their own homes—has begun to side-line PowerPoint. No longer at the forefront of »the digital revolution«, it seems rather dowdy.
One of poetry’s virtues is that it can come from almost nothing. A primary source of conceptual art is concrete poetry. Leftovers, the discarded, and the abandoned all come close to the material of poetry: things that threaten to disappear. In 2015 I turned to PowerPoint as a way to make short-form films. It allowed me to draw stories—even fables—quickly from photos. Here, Chris Marker’s ›La Jetée‹ (1962), a sci-fi film that consists mostly of still frames, already had revealed the evocative power of the inert image in cinema. Also, PowerPoint’s ability to couple words with images offered an extended »con text«. Technically, you can make a PowerPoint frame at a much higher resolution than video. And its timing per frame is accurate to 1/100 of a second. With this, everything I needed was cheap and close at hand.
To date, I’ve made five PowerPoint works: ›The Ruin of Exchange‹ (2015), ›Reconstructing a Public Sphere‹ (2016), ›In the Middle‹ (2016), ›Primary Structures‹ (2016), and ›Walking in the City‹ (2017). All concern public space through the trope of walking. Focused on the interplay between subjectivity, façades, refuse, crowds, and memory, they posit the figure of the flaneur. These shifting relationships invoke somewhat hallucinatory spaces. The world of these PowerPoints takes on a tentative quality. Things might always be different. And the way they are now is merely an accretion of possibilities. To depict this, the devalued nature of PowerPoint, as a social convention, might be perfect.

You might also like this