On first impression it sounds like some never before been heard of martial arts practice. Or perhaps a variation of a well-known yoga pose.
PechaKucha is in fact neither, although it could still be considered an art form. Literally meaning ‘the sound of conversation’ in Japanese, PechaKucha is actually a presentation system where a presenter has 20 PowerPoint slides to speak on each for 20 seconds. This is commonly referred to as the 20x20 format (six minutes and forty seconds in total). First conceived by Tokyo based architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in February 2003, the arrangement encourages speakers to be concise and informative with their talk – something that creative people tend to struggle with in their enthusiasm to communicate abstract ideas.
Since it’s formation, PechaKucha has been the basis for organized event nights all around the world where everyday creatives can come together to network, show their projects, and share concepts and ideas. The evenings primarily attract artists, designers, architects, photographers and the like, although, they make a point to not just showcase the ‘successful’ – old Joe from down the road is just as likely to be speaking on his holiday photography project, as the technical engineer speaking on the intricacies of bridge construction.
The recent Auckland PechaKucha night was run in collaboration with Photoforum to commemorate their special 40-year anniversary, and therefore was largely based on photographic presentations. The event was held at the Q Theatre in the CBD, the ideal location for such a gathering. The drinks were flowing; the DJ was playing a quirky mix of jazz and funk; and the atmosphere was warm and buzzing – the perfect setting for creative minds to engage in passionate conversation. I was extremely pleased to note that the age range of those attending spanned from people my grandparents age to university students.
The presentations kicked off with a deaf woman called Sonia Pivac presenting a very informative and enlightening take on New Zealand sign language, on behalf of Deaf Radio (the irony kills me). Other displays included a short film showing a pacific waka voyage from NZ to San Francisco by Magnus Danbolt, Siliga David Setoga’s art pieces and his story of attaining a Master of Fine Arts at Elim, or, as he likes to dub it – justification for becoming a ‘Mother Fuckin’ Artist!’, and Dieneke Jansen’s experience documenting the eviction of lower-socio economic families in Glen Innes as the government reclaims state housing.
Some talks stood out more to me than other. Patrick Reynolds’s ‘Auckland Unfucked’ discussed the need for more open, people orientated areas such as the Britomart Precinct and Wynyard Quarter, to attract people into the CBD again as housing expansion continues on the outskirts of the urban city. He also spoke on how the improvement of public transport, especially the train system, will minimize time travel across Auckland and lessen the amount of cars on the road creating a cleaner city.
By far the most abstract talk was Renee Bevan and Caryline Boreham’s ‘Collaboration practice and the art of telepathy’. Renee and Caryline designed a studio space where each piece of their work reflected their combined effort to produce it, for example, a sealed jar containing only the air from their exhaled breaths. The idea was that through merging as individuals, something new, separate and unique could be formed. They also performed a telepathy experiment on the crowd, displaying a screen with the full colour spectrum on it. They asked us what colour they were thinking of and then remained silent and ‘sent’ it to us with their minds. Surprisingly it seemed to work, I along with about half of the crowd, guessed light blue which turned out to be correct. This experience rightly or wrongly has restored my faith in attempting to learn through osmosis - heads on your books please people!
Finally Stuart Page’s photographic montage from his student years whilst living in Christchurch had me in fits of giggles. Acting as a social commentator of sorts, he showed us images of raging 70’s house parties -dodgy hair do’s, all denim and flared attire, and silhouettes shrouded in smoke. He had also captured images of pre-earthquake Christchurch, beautiful renditions of our founding past. Coupled with his classic Kiwi humour, his whole presentation was a lovely blast from the past and a truly honest portrayal of kiwi lifestyle and culture.
The charm of a PechaKucha night lies in its randomness. The diverse range of topics stimulates you to think broadly about ethics, culture, and contemporary issues, and the talks encourage you to become involved in every aspect of life through an entertaining format, leaving you creatively inspired with an opened awareness. As PechaKucha put it, they are for CONTENT and not profit. Challenge yourself and attend an evening in the future, you'll come out of it even weirder and cooler than you are now.