Presenting to an audience isn’t something that most students like doing. They have a lot of training in how to prepare sketchbooks, what annotation should look like, how to develop a project, but presenting isn’t something they equate with being a professional artist. What people forget to tell them is that ideas need selling. Only very lucky people have their artwork snatched up without having to put blood sweat and tears into convincing the world that their ideas are relevant and worth investment.
An essay can include every concept that a student has considered possible for presentation. They can take their time over it and not have to worry about the kinds of issues that a presentation can bring, such as forgetting to include certain information, about verbal communication skills, about having to stand up for their ideas in front of an audience.
However, what these issues don’t consider is the world that the students will encounter. The visual arts world needs writing skills. There will be times when students will need to be able to demonstrate written communication, such as in project proposals to Arts Boards. I’m not saying give up writing altogether, but most communication to sell their wares will actually be verbal, through interview or pitching of ideas in order to get them realised.
What’s so special?
This presentation stood out in many ways, it may have been done by a level 4 student and covers some advanced ideas, but the fundamental concept could be used and implemented by any level of student, given the right kind of technology.
I have seen the simple use of jpeg slides, PowerPoint, Prezi, design boards and all sorts of methods, but I have never seen a student use video as the backbone for a presentation. It poses all sorts of issues, so much so I would normally dissuade a student from doing it this way. For example, video editing programmes weren’t exactly designed to create presentations in the same way as PowerPoint.
So why did this student opt for using video as a presentation tool? Essentially, that is the area that she enjoys the most, she wants to be a moving image producer. It makes complete sense that a student wanting to become a moving image maker will opt for this medium. She had spent so much time learning about communicating through the frame of the screen, about telling a story through moving image, about the benefits of careful montage, that these skills were far further developed through the course than the use of PowerPoint or basic slides.
Moving image can be really powerful
She knew that moving image was a powerful technique, that it was seductive and combined with audio it could tell a story really well. Interestingly, her work aims to be more than simply a movie on a screen. She wants to combine moving image with installation in an experimental media product that will draw an audience to see it on location. It was clear from the presentation that her work aims to create more than a movie for a screen that can be seen anywhere and across all sorts of platforms.
From this she realised that there was the need for a unique selling point for her installation ideas, one that would have to be strong enough in order to capture an audience’s interest and draw them to a particular location. She understood that a presentation needed the same kind of experience from the viewer, one that would make them feel like a lot of attention and energy had gone into the work and the viewer was there in the room for a reason.
Having relevant notes, which work in time with the presentation, also contribute to the narrative. This works particularly well when key words appear and correspond with the dialogue. She has found video to correspond to her ideas and put these together into a montage that suits the amount of time needed to explain their relevance. There is clear evidence of rehearsal and some trial and error, in much the same way a student should try and test the media they are engaged with for a final response. The fact that she pauses the video at times, demonstrates that the spectators are getting a unique experience that won’t be repeated. It also highlights that she is aware of what is taking place. Essentially, she is driving the presentation, instead of it driving her.
Having an awareness of her personal development was absolutely vital to this presentation, she does extremely well to explain the kinds of work in which she is interested. She outlines how she has made connections and the journey she has been through as though it were a research project. She ensures that the audience can make the connection between the references and the central theme.
Clear in-depth research into the theme is clear. The images used draw on highly sophisticated references that have engaged with a complex theme. Yet she is able to make visual connections between these in a simple way. There is a narrative, spoken by her and supported minimally through typography on screen.
Use of words
Many presentations that I have seen by students include all of the words they want to say within the presentation. The issue with this is they tend to read sentences to the audience from the screen, yet the audience can take this information in quite quickly and they could’ve emailed the presentation instead. The typography shows that the student has come from a graphic background and is able to draw attention to key themes through simple and clean typography.
Awareness of the audience experience
Being aware that an audience can take in lots of information at once, including multiple strands of video, commentary and key words really draws attention. She is trying to take the audience on a journey and has had to reflect on her interests and motivation in order to understand what has drawn her into the project with such determination.
Making the most of a presentation opportunity
This kind of reflection process will work in a self-fulfilling way. It will make the student think about their research and consider the level and maturity of it. They will check the consistency and efficacy of their own endeavours up to this point. Just having to put so much information across simultaneously and in such a short space of time made this particular student insistent to prove her point to an audience.
Video as a presentation tool
There is no doubt that there are other ways of presenting a rich media experience. After all, PowerPoint can have video and other media embedded, yet in this example the student has made video work for her in a very unexpected way. Video normally interrupts a presentation because it has audio, but it is quite unique in my experience that a student will mute the audio and choose to communicate their ideas. She has learnt from presentations like those of Kyle Cooper, the infamous title sequence designer, who himself was surprised that the organisers expected him to keep quiet while his videos were playing.
One thing I learnt from my tutors during my own Foundation Diploma about interviews was to keep expressing, to keep enthusiastic. I think that notion is appropriate here too, that is what this student does so well, she finds an idea and then links it to an image and puts these together in a simple way that packs a big punch and then underpins these with her pure enthusiasm for the subject. I would love to see more students doing this in the future.