This Thursday night, painter Marcus Kenney would like six–and–two–thirds minutes of your attention. Not one second more. Not a second less.
Filmmaker Michael Chaney wants the same thing. So does Maggie Evans, a painter and blues bass player.
Kenney, Chaney and Evans aren’t running for political office, or soliciting funds for a cause, or recruiting for members of a religious cult. Each just wants to show you 20 slides and tell you 20 seconds of information about each image, as presenters at Savannah Pecha Kucha Night, Volume 5.
The first Pecha Kucha was held in Tokyo in 2003 at Klein Dytham architecture firm, created as “an after hours get together, mostly for designers to share their work with each other,” says Aaron Cohen, an architecture graduate and designer in Savannah. He learned about the phenomenon through an architecture networking website. “Just through word of mouth it’s now in 299 cities.”
A Pecha Kucha evening consists of eight to ten solo presenters, each sharing 20 slides, with 20 seconds to comment on each slide, for a total talk time of 6:40 per person.
“It’s like a ‘Show and Tell’ and improv and Happy Hour all thrown together,” says Cohen who, with help from Katharine Rapkin, launched Savannah’s “Pecha Kucha Nights” (PKN) last year, and volunteers as curator and recruiter.
“It’s a nice combination of completely improvisational and casual plus the built–in structure,” says Cohen. “For some people it’s more of a portfolio of their work. For others it’s more of a conceptual idea.”
So far almost 40 people have presented at “Volumes” 1-4 of Savannah PKN. Female sequential artists, Wabi Sabi design aesthetic, a trip around the world in a tall ship, fair trade coffee–all have been fair game for PKN talks.
Presenter Jeanne Lambden at PKN4 is “a historic preservation revolutionist. From the first second she exploded into this discussion of how preservation is progress,” says Cohen.
At PKN2, Matte Wagener shared his ideas for a rock album. “He used to be the lead singer of a rock band until they kicked him out,” says Cohen. “He had this concept of an album in his head, and he put it into a collage.”
Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Orlando Montoya wowed the audience at PKN2 with a talk on the history of public radio. “Initially you think, ‘all right, you’re going to show something visual about something aural. How can you do that?’” says Rapkin.
“He had the most perfectly timed talk, of course,” says Cohen. “The cadence of his speech, his sound bites were perfect.”
Stealing the show in two different PKN volumes was Leo Meza, age 9, with his handmade Valentines and mythical creature drawings. “He was so good that no one wanted to go on after him,” says Cohen.
“Pecha Kucha” means “chit chat” in Japanese. Its official pronunciation is “Pe CHAK Cha.”
“Down south we call it ‘Petcha Coocha,’” says Cohen, who’s trying to train Savannah to adopt the correct, Japanese pronunciation. On the global Pecha Kucha website, most communities are going with the Japanese sound, but videos from
Atlanta and Charleston PK nights use the southern fried version.
Any way you say it, Savannah’s Pecha Kucha movement is gaining traction. Volume 1 drew 85 to the Sentient Bean in March 2009. The crowd has increased by 30 to 40 people each time, and moved to Structured Green and then SPACE Black Box Theater for Volumes 2, 3, and 4. Thursday’s Volume 5 is at Indigo Arts on Louisville Road.
Joachim Kelly, singer for the band SOAP, is the MC, using intro cards written by Rapkin that are handed to him when he arrives that night. “He’s a wild card up there, says Rapkin.
“It fills me with a little bit of trepidation and exhilaration,” says Cohen.
“I see it as a big opportunity for cross pollination in Savannah, for people to be introduced to new ways and new people,” says Rapkin. “It’s an exciting thing about this town now. If you don’t have something here and you want it, then make it. We’re still at that size where you can break into new areas.
“I leave every time with a big sense of gratitude,” she says, “a feeling of ‘Thank you people for being here, for doing what you do.’”
Savannah Pecha Kucha Night Volume 5
When: Thursday, April 22, 8 p.m.
Where: Indigo Arts Center, 703 D Louisville Road