In the next month you're likely going to end up stuck at some fatuous seasonal gathering, wondering how soon you can bolt without appearing rude so you can go home and change into your antisocial cozy pants.
This is why I like PechaKuchas, lectures delivered in 20 slides that each flash by in 20 seconds. (Next!)
They're fast-paced, a little risky, guaranteed to vibrate the ol' grey matter and bring on some laughs (vital during these dank days). You don't feel like a knob if you go by yourself or arrive in your day uniform — whatever that is. In short, except for the alcohol and snacks, PechaKuchas are basically the opposite of most social events.
The participatory part isn't for everyone, but when I saw the call to artists to participate at the Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam on Nov. 21, I decided to take up the challenge.
I'm bent on facing my fears these days and besides, I had a topic in mind that might answer one frequently asked question I get about my work: What's the deal with the doilies? (Or the more polite: Are you still working with doilies?)
This isn't my first PechaKucha — the onomatopoetic name for Japanese chit-chat — but I'm a serious neophyte, and that's okay.
The beauty of PKNs (PechaKucha nights) is that it's all okay, which likely explains why they've taken off around the world, in coffee houses and auditoriums, plazas and living rooms, with wide-ranging topics from biology to political movements, delivered by everyone from little kids to known political dissidents.
My little drop in the PKN bucket addresses a crafty little topic with some tangles but it forces me to do a little more than just shrug and mumble something apologetic.
It could be of particular interest to no one else but me, but my approach is: fly this freak flag; it will all be over in six and a half minutes.
As much as I would like to believe I have enough focus to while away an evening at an art or design lecture, my attention span is... this keyboard is filthy. What was I saying?
Our hyper-accelerated culture calls for accelerated information delivery systems. We've reached the PechaKucha period: lectures delivered as 20 slides, 20 seconds each, with breaks that involve a cash bar.
It's not exactly new; this month marks the 10th anniversary of the very first PechaKucha — Japanese for chit-chat." (Here’s a fun way to remember how to pronounce it.)
Networking events and guest lectures never looked so dry and dull since I went to my first PechaKucha event. For the uninitiated, PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format dreamed up by a couple of architects living in Tokyo. The presenter speaks, the images roll, and before you know it it's all wrapped up. Next! If the content of each presenter isn’t enough to hold you for six minutes and 40 seconds, there’s usually plenty of entertainment watching that presenter getting the bum’s rush from the slides automatically moving forward. The pace and the party atmosphere keeps things rolling along nicely. No wonder PechaKucha has gone global.
Gary Cheng presents his ever-changing micro-apartment in under five minutes, in Tokyo. (from pechakucha.org)
For artists, getting familiar with the format is becoming sort of essential as PechaKucha is likely to continue to take over the graphically banal PowerPoint presentations where most times the presenter just reads what they've typed on the screen and the audience feels like putting a gun to their collective head. Or maybe that’s just me.
Sharing thoughts about the creative process, past projects and future explorations can be tough-going, I've discovered as I try to splice all my tangential thoughts together for an in-class PechaKucha next week. I’ve been scouring the official website for some good examples. One favourite is Gary Cheng’s insight into his incredible transformer Hong Kong apartment. If anything, he reminds me to have a little fun with the format.
Dave Olson at a 2011 PechaKucha event at the Vogue. Photo by Jonathan Hanley
Architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham held their first PechaKucha Night in February, 2003. Their firm still organizes and supports the global PechaKucha Night network as well as the PechaKucha Night Tokyo.
The winning format for these easily distracted times can be seeing locally next week, when Vancouver's Vogue Theatre hosts a special PechaKucha night on Feb. 28, with all presenters speaking to the topic, "Women Transforming Cities."
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