Art Talk with Yvette Dal Pozzo
Agatha Gothe-Snape’s 'POWERPOINTS'
Hello and welcome!
While the National Gallery of Australia is closed at the moment I am talking to you from my house, located on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. I would also like to welcome all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people watching today.
My name is Yvette Dal Pozzo and I am the Assistant Curator of Australian Art at the National Gallery. For our audiences joining us who are blind or low-vision I am a light skinned woman of average height with light brown hair and green eyes, wearing a fuchsia coloured dress.
While the doors are shut to Part Two of the exhibition Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now I would like to share with you an incredible work of art from the National Gallery’s collection which is currently on display.
The work is Agatha Gothe-Snape’s POWERPOINTS which was made between 2008 and 2021. It is displayed on 24 mini digital screens which are installed in a rectangular grid on the wall with over seventy Microsoft PowerPoint slides alternating on the screens in an endless loop. A few of the individual POWERPOINTS will be playing throughout this talk. These choreographed slides contain a mixture of text, images and sounds all produced through the medium of PowerPoint. They are a celebration of the technology which is often associated with educational or corporate settings, complete with familiar features like animated text, decorative slide transitions and synthetic sounds.
Displayed en masse, the brightly coloured slides which are alive with low-fi animations competingly vie for the viewers attention. This format and feeling of multiple screens demanding attention simultaneously is all too familiar to us at the moment as much of our socialising, entertainment and work is mediated through flashing rectangular digital screens.
Gothe-Snape started making these slides in 2008 in the last year of her Master of Visual Arts degree at the Sydney College of the Arts. She wanted to take this program associated with accessibility and the everyday and make it into a “score [she] could perform to”, giving a shape to her way of thinking which she describes as “dispersed, lateral, non-hierarchical and simultaneous”. She refers to PowerPoint as her working process tool, in lieu of the traditional artists’ sketchbook, to test out ideas or express her curiosity.
Like a bowerbird, Gothe-Snape gleans the words and phrases used in her PowerPoints from everyday life, incorporating common phrases or aphorisms, witty quips said to her by friends, philosophical questions which are rattling around her mind or quotes from artists and thinkers. These slides made consistently between 2008 and 2021 span different genres including manifestos, confessionals, news headlines or one-sided conversations. One of my favourites which jumps out in bold, capitalised, black letters on a white background reads: ‘SPOKESMAN DENIES HE IS A SPOKESMAN’ taking the style of a click-bait news headline but within this format presenting an impossible phrase which is both humorous and contradictory.
Gothe-Snape relishes the fact that many of the viewers encountering this work have an understanding of both making or viewing this form of technology, that in POWERPOINTS the creative process is somewhat demystified and open. The use of this technology is not without complication, as the updates on the Microsoft Suite mean the work is vulnerable to changes in formatting, fonts or choreography.
Gothe-Snape has said: “I am drawn to mediums that have an inherent volatility, that resist the process of moving from experimentation into becoming a commodity object or being defined or fixed… [The] PowerPoint … is mutated as it moves through [updates], it is never as it is when you first made it… it is always undermining you… it is not behaving as an archivable art object should and that is really useful to me.”
In tune with the consumption of creative platforms like Netflix and Spotify, Gothe-Snape’s POWERPOINTS are able to be purchased as a subscription. A subscription to the work provides you with access to your own set of the back catalogue of POWERPOINTS which are intermittently updated. The subscribers are able to show the PowerPoints in any way they like, from the background to a performance, to visuals at a rave or a prelude to a board meeting. This accessibility and freedom allows for the work to interact closely with peoples everyday lives and exist in unexpected ways.
This series has recently been closed off by the artist and the National Gallery, who has been a subscriber since 2017, is showing the work for the first time in its entirety in Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now. This work is a cacophony of light, colour and sound and draws people into its hypnotic glowing aura. To me, it is the perfect work to epitomise the moment we find ourselves in today. The POWERPOINTS implore us to find joy amongst the chaos.
Yvette Dal Pozzo, Assistant Curator, Australian Art discusses Agatha Gothe-Snape’s POWERPOINTS (2008–2021) on display in Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now.
All quotes by Agatha Gothe-Snape are from a research interview conducted between Agatha Gothe-Snape and Yvette Dal Pozzo on August 20, 2021.