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August 5, 2008

I finished a degree in advanced invisibility (Arts) about a hundred years ago and here’s a couple of things which I now realize were actually useful. Apart from the fact I majored in painting there was very little painting going on in art schools at the end of the eighties. There was a lot of smoking the right brand of cigarettes and ordering the right coffee whilst pretending to be inspired by French philosophy but when the crunch came and it was time to show the fruits of one’s labor to a jury of frowning dickheads and more imortantly to justify it all (I won’t go into the endless and mindless discussion of process over product) I now understand what it take to be a “leader”. Here’s how it worked.

The evaulation process is a feared and stressful couple of weeks
where students serve their work up in front of a jury of lecturers and invited intellectuals. Only the walls of the vast gallery are lit so the voices float out of the shadows cutting the work to ribbons using vague justifications about the relevance of the process and the eternal battle against the “banal” (which always terrified students because it sounded kind of French and insulting at the same time). It’s blurry to say the least and destabilizing because there is no reason behind 90% of the crap they would come up with. The rules would change from student to student and the normal perception of social ettiquette was hurled out the window making way for obscure and asinine insults. In other words probably one of the finest tests on how to negociate against extreme opposition ever invented by man.

I went through evaluations twice. The first year I had a good body of work with a solid explication of where it had come from in my personal journey (I thought that sounded good at the time) and my evaluation divebombed coming periliously close to the ever dreaded state of “banality”. The jury of turkeys gobbled away at how it didn’t talk to them and how the justications were weak and blah, blah, blah. Well, damn.

The second time the work was just as solid as the first (in fact I probably could have showed them exactly the same stuff and it wouldn’t have made much difference) but this time I side swiped them so efficiently I could have made the jury eat from my bare and not-even-trembling hands. The difference? The cult of personality.

I laid on a show where my personality pushed the jury to ask and answer their own questions. I held myself differently, I pitched my voice low, I moved very little and my explications were short and clear with no added bells or whistles and most importantly the silences were made to feel like I was the one imposing them on the jury and not the contrary. I answered their questions and gave them nothing more. They had to think of new questions to continue the evaluation as opposed to me feeling like I had to think of new explications. I had the upper hand. I was leading them. I was the leader and they knew it.

The result? I passed (well).
In situations of extreme negociation there are five points to retain:

Leaders never let the opposition dictate their moves.
Leaders stay polite
Leaders stay succinct.
Leaders pitch their voices half an octave lower than yours.
Leaders need to explain themselves less.

Who would have thought that a degree in advanced invisibilty would have come in so handy?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2008 8:11 am

    True in advertising as well. Clients no longer seem to care as much about the ad as they do about the rationalization for the ad.

  2. Tim permalink*
    September 3, 2008 8:35 am

    Maybe because you have to deal with the same boring twats who did an Arts degree like me.

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