Let other artists do the work for you! The more you know what other artists have been up to, the easier it is to skip past all the bits which they have already resolved. – Cory Arcangel, 🎨 Things I Learned in Art School, 2020
Every once in a while, you tell yourself that you are a fraud. Everything you have done so far has been stealing other people’s ideas. I know you are experiencing this fear because I am. Occasionally you do embrace your inner imposter. Working for other people is especially freeing. While you provide a service, they provide the necessary context. It’s a good reason not to worry about the big Why for a moment.
For the last three years, you have been busier with presenting yourself as a capable, creative worker to potential clients rather than actually working for them. You have been writing grant applications, project proposals, and motivation letters. You updated your website, socials, and the CV that would accompany your handcrafted words as blue links in your —mostly unanswered—cold calls via email.
Presenting yourself alongside your portfolio has been central to your practice as a freelancer. Your lack of jobs didn’t allow you to escape the presenter’s view.
Art school turned you into a salesman. Classes followed pitch logic. Present your ideas and execute them after getting your teacher’s approval. Go forward without it and fail the collective assessment at the end of the year. This system encouraged extensive bullshitting, presenting nonexistent research, and making up sketches in mid-air to meet the margins of weekly progress. You began to see things through the lens of the sales pitch.
Your interests started to circle exclusively around branding guidelines and marketing schemes of big tech. At the same time, your friends started to fit their projects into stories, reels, and tiny screens. The occasional peek into the audience reveals nothing but a couple of digits. You hate talking in front of a crowd anyways.
Since February 2017, up to ten pictures or videos can be included in a single Instagram post, with the content appearing as a swipeable carousel. Everything is moving in circles. Closing your eyes, you can see slides fading in and out. They flip and flop, twirl, and twist. The mosaic behind your eyelids reveals a doorway to an underlying grid. Your education, profession, and interests have carved the presenter’s view into every pathway of your brain. It’s time for the Magic Move.
Last night you had trouble falling asleep. Dozing off to a podcast, you overheard something about the corporate world abandoning slides. Silent meetings are the new thing now. A quick search returns The Silent Meeting Manifesto v1. It claims to make meetings suck a little less and was published on Medium in 2019 by David Gasca:
Silent Meetings first started at Amazon with Jeff Bezos. At some point in Amazon’s history, Bezos declared that Powerpoint would not be allowed and “Narratives” (6-page long-form text documents) would be the main communication vehicle. Since nobody had time to read pre-reads, the document would be read silently during the meeting instead. And so Silent Meetings were born.
It’s late at night in 2021 and you wonder if the Silent Meeting has already been superseded by a more efficient form of communication. Maybe it’s time to stop caring about pitches, slides, and presentations altogether.
Admittedly, you have never been interested in actual slides. They were just the only thing to hold onto. And this pitch is about you, the presenter, about being adrift, on the run, in a hurry, and on the move. According to Gasca, silent meetings allow for a denser “exchange of ideas” because they “focus the attendees” around a shared context. Other people also say that “slides bind knowledge to performance rather than to representation”. You wonder if silent meetings are also just another measure to increase performance.
Either way, the audience still needs convincing. There is a point to be made and the timer in your head is mercilessly announcing what’s coming next. You try to resist this need for innovation by making things slow, interactive, and abstract. But we know all too well about the limited attention span of your audience and the ten Netflix Originals about Mindfulness that are airing right now.
A good pitch has to describe the problem before defining a solution. Maybe this is the problem. The presenter’s view is incredibly distorted by pitch logic. Pitch logic can let everything and everyone appear as a monetizable asset. With the eyes on the clock, the presenter tends to skip a slide here and there. Problems dissolve. The solution brings the need, by whatever means necessary. In the eyes of the presenter, even the self-doubt you have been describing in this post turns into a silent meeting. The only difference is that there is no discussion afterward.