Friday, February 25, 2011

mind explosion: Pecha Kucha

For almost a year now, Anita has been trying to get me along to a Pecha Kucha night, and while event’s description immediately fascinated me (I’ll explain that in a minute), I never really “got around” to getting myself a ticket, thus missing each one as it came and passed behind us. This time, however, Anita bought my ticket in advance with her own (I paid her back, of course); and I admit, having someone else watch the details works best for silly, distractible girls like me.

So last night, I attended my first Pecha Kucha. Next, we insert cheesy, retro cartoon images of my brain exploding:

Pecha Kucha, which I've heard is the Japanese version of "blah blah blah", is a phenomenon that was started in Tokyo in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, and has since spread to 387 cities around the world. Why is it so catching? According to Pecha Kucha’s website, it’s because “most cities…have virtually no public spaces where people can show and share their work in relaxed way. If you have just graduated from college and finished your first project in the real world - where can you show it? It probably won't get into a magazine, you don't have enough photos for a gallery show or a lecture - but PechaKucha 20x20 is the perfect platform to show and share your work.”

Here is the format of Pecha Kucha, as described on Vancouver’s Pecha Kucha website: “Each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each - giving 6 minutes 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up. This keeps presentations concise, the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show.”

Here is the format of Pecha Kucha, as described by me: Each presenter talks about whatever they want to; typically, something they love or are passionate about – a new creative or community project, a new idea, a favourite pastime. Their passion spills out through their mouth for 6 minutes and 40 seconds while you listen and watch the 20 giant on-screen images they've chosen to coincide with their message. Thirty seconds after one speaker ends, another one begins. Or in other words…

Volume 15 (last night’s Vancouver Pecha Kucha), had 11 speakers: writers, entrepreneurs, architects, artists and others like them: Office Supplies Incorporated, the anonymous Vancouver street artist (no longer anonymous), and Stewart Butterfield, founder of Flickr. Each presenter was dynamic and engaging in their own way, honest and forthcoming with their views of the world and what matters to them. Lisa Robertson (Vancouver poet and essayist) started us off with a reading from her Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture. This was, without a doubt, an incredible way to start off the evening – for one such as myself, who drools over immaculate word combinations and lights up at the sound of innovative sentence structure – I sat there with my jaw locked open, listening to her describe the world and our city in ways I have not heard before; her poetry juxtaposed with photos from around Vancouver: tarps and columns, water and back ally ways; stubborn blackberries. Before my mind could even comprehend the beauty of her latest phrase, she’d have another one out in the open; triplicating beauty on top of insight on top of shrewd observation. Just as I was ready to stand and cheer, “NEXT SPEAKER…” appeared on the screen in front of us. Lisa Robertson exits the stage, making way for the next presenter.

One more quick introduction from the host, and Scott Hawthorn the Entrepreneur approaches the momentarily empty microphone. This is the man who started the Salt Tasting Room (award winning restaurant, Gastown, Vancouver), Al Fresco flash mob dinners, and the Parking Spot art space (a small gallery in Vancouver, where Natalie Purschwitz made her clothes), among countless other ventures. He spoke of the necessity of community, and the desire he has to utilize current spaces for the desire we all have: to connect with other people. He talked of the ability Design has to either bring people together, or not. His Salt Tasting Room, for example, has one long communal table (not small, individual tables); the intent, of course, being that you converse with those beside you; that you meet someone new; that you connect, as we all hope to do. Al Fresco flash mob dinners put strangers together – again, at a community table, over a locally sourced meal. His speaking and engagement with life’s brilliance was undeniably catching (anyone want to Al Fresco with me?). He ended his presentation by hitting tennis balls (with dinner invites wrapped inside them) out to random audience members; fostering again his love and natural ability in bringing people together. NEXT SPEAKER…

The entire night was like this; 6 and a half minutes of mad inspiration, rampant enthusiasm, brilliant ideas, with barely enough time to absorb the words and message before the next speaker would be on stage doing the same thing; bombarding us with their hope for a better city, their love of a certain sport, their desire to connect street artists, or their intelligent approach to green spaces and structures (or, one of my favorite speakers - I believe it was Micheal Tippet, founder of Now Public - gave a hilarious and wildly insightful presentation on social media). By the time the night was over, I was near vibrating; my heart rate had increased and my mind was racing. If you are artistic, entrepreneurial, business minded, community oriented, free thinking, looking for resources, searching for beauty, or simply looking to experience something unique and fresh, GO TO PECHA KUCHA. (hint: tickets sell out really quickly).



bonbon said...

I"ll totally go to that restaurant with you & to one of these things....sounds amazing! So glad you went! Look forward to hearing about it from you in person! Love yah! Your idea think of an idea and in no time I"ll be seeing up on stage!!! DO IT!

Mama said...

This is wonderful but, no can do. I'm buried in snow.

Fickle Cattle said...

THIS. IS. BRILLIANT. I want to copy this and do it it my locality. Will study more. Thanks for the heads up!