Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Facts and Feelings

Is communication just about facts, figures and information? At a recent press conference I listened to people launching a really lovely product. The ideas behind the product were fascinating, but they were being devalued by the way they were delivered. The organisers thought the event was about telling us what to think. They forgot that if they themselves were the essence and spirit of what was being launched we’d get it without being told.

The product being launched was a major art exhibition with the title ‘Wonder’. Art and wonder are pretty ephemeral; they are experiential. We weren’t given experiential, we were told about ephemeral in a pretty conventional, dull and predictable way. A panel behind long tables communicated how credible the experts were. An intro video with everyday people caught on camera in candid moments talking about ‘Wonder’ communicated that the exhibition would reach out to the community. Then came the urgent and vital information about why, when and how.

When the distant experts, the curators of the event, started talking we got a glimpse of the interesting insights and ideas that were at the heart of the exhibition. Behind the table, muffled by poor acoustics and an awkward atmosphere of urgent uncertainty, their message about what it is to feel wonder - to be awed - was half lost. What they did say felt contrary to the reserved, political, practical focus and the lack of creativity.

I wondered what it would have been like if it was all a bit more real; if we’d been able to hear about and connect with the spirit of the exhibition. The feelings that reside in the minds, hearts and occasionally the words of the people who are making it happen.

The thing that’s really difficult for me is that these guys have a great product. I went to their last exhibition. I was moved, challenged, confronted, comforted, inspired and awed because art lets us experience our own humanity. But this energy, this exceptional and unique aspect of the product, was not given a confident airing. It was all facts and figures and not enough feelings.