Monday, October 20, 2008

Destroy Powerpoint

Destroy Powerpoint @ Manchester Art Gallery | 17th October | 1pm

When life gives you lemons, the hackneyed saying goes, you make lemonade. When management inflicts Powerpoint on you, you subvert and contort it into joyful literature...

David Gaffney’s wonderful hour of storytelling does not do what it promises, it does not destroy powerpoint. Rather, it strangely invigorates the forms. It reveals, with brilliant, luminous use of text and picture, a minor urban folk art, germinating out of the mundane soil of office life. Anyone who has served their sentence as a temp knows that the office work place is always rife with currents of sexual tension and emotional, professional and intellectual frustration.

Powerpoint is an art form with rules, most of which David Gaffney instantly points out he has broken. All the text of his stories eventually end up on the screen, revealed in various sequential methods. In seeking to subsume powerpoint, it seems that David Gaffney has become its master. The result is that the hour spent in the conference room in the back of Manchester Art Gallery is, like those interminable, powerpoint centred training days, actually a pleasant communal reading experience.

The first is a trip down memory lane for most of us, in which Gaffney subverts the form of powerpoint . In The King of Powerpoint he first adopts and mimics the old style of over head projectors, acetate and those smudgy green, blue and red felt tip pens, reserve of the maths and science teachers. As the story progresses he moves through early powerpoint style, through clip art and templates, giving us a visual potted history of the development of presentation technology.

The stories that David Gaffney tells us are all quite familiar, belying his previous career as a debt counsellor. They are grimy with petty discontent and tawdry hopes for romance, but always seem to end with a promise of action. They occur within lonely moments, of queuing, of plotting, promising a future in which dazzling, mad, disjointed steps are made away from the everyday, towards the objects of happiness and freedom.

He ends with Is your thought really necessary, commissioned for Wigan Words Festival, it is a twisted vision of a world where thoughts have a palpable, excretory existence. Therefore, as “thought-fill sites” fill up, need to be discouraged. Wigan, as one of the most thoughtful places in Britain, needs swift action. A civil servant, instructed to create a presentation to be given to a board, must find answers to problems without promoting any original thought. Naturally this illogical task pushes him into a downward spiral of tail biting, circular thinking, of which imagination, memory and unnecessary thought can be the only result.

David Gaffney is the author of Never Never published this year, as well as Sawn-Off Tales.

City Life does a better job of reviewing this event. However, more nonsensical writing by Ella Wredenfors on topics such as Art, Culture and all round geekery about Manchester can be found at

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