20/20 Hindsight on Pecha Kucha NY

Event: Pecha Kucha NY
Location: St. Mark’s Church, 10.10.07
Speakers: Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA — TEN Arquitectos; Israel Kandarian — 2×4; James Slade, AIA, & Hayes Slade — Slade Architecture; José Parlá — Artist; Andrew Zago — Zago Architecture; Jessica Root — Writer, TreeHugger; Mariah Robertson — Artist; Kanu Agrawal, Melanie Domino, Edward Richardson, Brad Walters — Editors, Perspecta 39: Re_Urbanism: Transforming Capitals; Eric C. Shiner — Independent Curator & author, Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York; Jeannette Kuo & Aziza Chaouni — KuoChaouni Design Collaborative; Annie Choi — Writer, Dear Architects II: The Revenge; Christian Acker & Kyle Talbott — Graphic Designers, Handselecta; Benjamin H. Bratton — Yahoo!, SCI Arc, UCLA; Craig Dykers, AIA — SNØHETTA
Organizers: Pecha Kucha NY


Courtesy Pecha Kucha NY

By now, many are familiar with Pecha Kucha‘s patented 20×20 presentation formula: designers are allowed to show 20 slides for 20 seconds each, giving them a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds to share their most captivating works. Even within these strict guidelines, creative professionals will always attempt to set themselves apart, and NYC’s fourth Pecha Kucha night was no exception.

The most apparent break in form came from 2×4’s Israel Kandarian who shared t-shirt designs that explore the public space of private identity. Flipping though many more than 20 slides, Kandarian’s images showed architects, students, and grandmothers holding t-shirts with phrases like “post-modernism, pre-materialism” or “Daft Punk, but less techno” — phrases that at first amused, but eventually grated on the attention span of the audience. Artist Mariah Robertson, on the other hand, projected her slides on the ceiling. While the audience was clearly entertained by her purposefully disheveled performance, it’s hard to say exactly what the content was.

Sticking closer to form was crowd favorite Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA, from TEN Arquitectos whose images of frogs and pyramids loosely inspire the firm’s work. However, there were no images of projects, as Norten proudly declared, “There’s no time to talk about architecture in six minutes.” This claim did not stop SNØHETTA’s Craig Dykers, AIA, from giving a concise overview of the Norwegian National Opera House. He ultimately won the approval of the audience by sharing that employees at his firm collaborate to agree on their own salaries and vacation time, both of which, judging by the applause, are unusually high for the profession.

Pecha Kucha’s success is entirely dependent on the quality of its presenters whose performances can make even the fast pace of 20×20 feel slow at times. In retrospect, it’s difficult to recall the exact content of the presentations, as sound bites don’t provide much of a lingering aftertaste. But this highlights what could be the evening’s greatest triumph: you may not remember exactly what you’ve seen, but you know you feel inspired.