by Penny Buswell
I caught up with Aki Kaltenbach to find out a little more about the difficult-to-pronounce event.
Buswell: What is PechaKucha exactly?
Kaltenbach: The literal translation, in Japanese, is “chitchat”. But I describe PechaKucha as a combination of show-and-tell, open mic and happy hour! Basically it’s a way for the presenters to talk about their passions and their work. It’s just to come out, socialise and have a little bit of liquid courage.
PechaKucha started in Tokyo in 2003, among young architects and designers who wanted to show their work in an informal environment. However, I feel that the format is so flexible that anybody can present.
The only rule is that each presenter has only 20 powerpoint slides, and 20 seconds to talk about those slides – so each presentation is only 6 minutes and 40 seconds long. It keeps things moving, and nobody can talk too long. Usually I only have around 10 presenters in an evening. I keep the presentations as different as possible, and I find that people are drawn to different topics, the beer breaks are good for probing further. Six minutes and 40 seconds is incredibly short, the good presentations fly by and people want to know more.
Buswell: Which topics are these presenters talking about?
Kaltenbach: For some of them, I don’t know – I just have to trust them! I try to make the event as diverse as possible. I choose a super interesting mix of people from Whistler and Vancouver. But for this writer’s festival volume, I have more writers presenting than usual. The presenters include Leslie Anthony, who’s become – and these are Lisa [Richardson]’s words not mine – “the anchorman of Pecha Kucha”. He’s presented at every single one, and I hope that will continue because he’s so great, and he has so much knowledge. Also my husband Grant will be presenting. Other local presenters include Arne Gutmann, who is infamous for founding the PooFont..
Buswell: The PooFont?
Kaltenbach: Yes, he’ll be talking about how he created that font! And Ace MacKay-Smith is also presenting, she’s another Whistler hero in my eyes.
The people from Vancouver include Ernest Hemingway’s grandson Patrick Hemingway. Patrick photographs homes across North America, so he’ll be sharing those photos with us. And there’s a couple of other people from Vancouver. I also like to have a non-profit presentation as well, and use this format to bring awareness to an issue. My friend Chris von Szombathy is presenting – he’s a graphic designer. And another friend, Evan Broens, is presenting too, he’s a sculptor.
Buswell: I heard that the PechaKucha nights have been pretty busy?
Kaltenbach: It’s still a new concept in Whistler, but slowly people are recognising the brand. PechaKucha is a big event down in Vancouver – they’ve been doing it for three years and they sell out the Vogue theatre. The format isn’t the easiest concept to explain – powerpoint presentations sound kind of boring – but it’s not boring at all. It’s really really fun!
Maxx Fish [in Whistler] is such a good venue for PechaKucha, it has a great atmosphere, it’s really cozy, there’s lounge seating, and we’ve got a liquor license. The perfect mix. We can only host up to 150 people in there, so it’s really nice and intimate. I want people to be able to approach speakers, it should be interactive and people should be mingling.
Buswell: The theme of the festival is grit, does grit fit in with your experience of organising these?
Kaltenbach: Oh no, I love doing these. I feel like it’s curating an art show. It’s about bringing together the random people that I meet and getting them to share their stories. The reward always supercedes any stress there may be organising the event.
Tickets for PechaKucha are available for $10 from http://www.theviciouscircle.ca. Ticket price includes entry and a drink.
Check out the full speakers’ line-up on facebook.