Saturday, June 02, 2007

Review - Pecha Kucha Nights in Delhi

Having snacks and Pecha KuchaThe Japanese art of conversation reaches the capital.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

On a rainy Thursday night last May, a panel of designers, writers, photographers, urban thinkers, and a solitary antique collector, set about 'Mapping the City' in the British Council. It was the third Pecha Kucha Night in Delhi.

The concept, devised by two Tokyo-based architects in 2003, has individual designers presenting 20 slides for 20 seconds each. The speakers need to be fast, concise, and in sync with the quickly changing slides making the air abuzz with Pecha Kucha – Japanese for the "sound of conversation." Held regularly, the movement has spread to around 80 cities worldwide.

Since the theme was the city itself, well-worn words like 'showy', 'shallow', 'pollution' and 'poverty' were expected to be tossed around. And they were. Contrary to the spirit of the chatty style of Pecha Kucha, the presentations were clumsy, stilted and stiff. Some eminences simply read off the slides. The antique collector went overboard with pictures of pots and shipwrecks unrelated to Delhi. One writer bonded with the audience by not lifting her eyes from the laptop. Another flirted with the Pecha Kucha norms by refusing to say anything – the pictures being enough!

Yet the audience remained appreciative and applauded frequently. School teacher Ms. Rajni Sarkar, a Pecha Kucha patron who has attended all three nights, said, "The presentations throw new perspectives to our understanding of issues." But some were unimpressed. "It was dull and the talk was clich├ęd," Sanjit Singh, a textile designer, rued.

Even then the presentations were fun, more so because of their awkwardness. That some speakers were not eloquent, their notes not thorough and slides not impressive, could as well inspire others, who may not only be architects or designers, to claim their six minutes of podium pride. Pecha Kucha has the potential of becoming a forum for artists to introduce new works without renting galleries or cozying up to the magazine editors.

Back in the auditorium, after few minutes of an uninspiring question and answer session between the speakers and listeners, everyone gladly went out for chicken tikkas, momos (no sushi), cocktails, and Pecha Kucha.

Contact For more information on Pecha Kucha nights, mail the organisers, Center for Knowledge Societies, at pechakucha@cks.in. The next one is scheduled for July.

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