Pecha kucha has everyone talking 

By Karen Herland

It’s not every day crowds brave a February snowstorm to fill a space the size of a football field waiting for PowerPoint presentations.

But these digital presentations feature the work of artists and designers who distill their ideas and process on a planned or completed project into 20 slides, each one getting 20 seconds on the multiple screens around the room before the next slide appears. In other words, presenters have six minutes and forty seconds before the next presentation begins to entertain, awe or inspire.

Those in the front chairs sat in rapt attention watching three huge screens. The presenter was occasionally drowned out by the clanking glasses and growing din from patrons in the back — where a bar and cabaret seating offer distraction.

Organizer and host Boris Anthony explained that the background noise is part of the show. Pecha kucha is literally the Japanese term for the sound of conversation. The practice came from Japan in 2003, challenging designers to show off their work by grabbing the divided attention of their audience.

The concept, called pecha kucha, has caught on. A quick peek at will demonstrate that this month alone there are 47 different pecha kucha nights registered on the site taking place in Dawson City, Stockholm, Auckland, Gdansk, Atlanta and Osnabrueck, to name a few. Wikipedia estimates 120 cities are holding events of one form or another. Pretty much anywhere designers gather and the projection technology exists, pecha kucha can happen.

Montreal has held pecha kucha nights at the Société des arts technologiques (SAT) since the summer of 2007. Feb. 18 marked the 10th edition of the event that has attracted a loyal following.

Of the 11 presenters last month, Sean Yendrys (see story) has been a dedicated audience member for the last four events, before deciding to step in front of the screen.

“I usually only speak in a room of 20 people, also competing for attention,” said the Concordia design undergrad, by way of introduction. “We’ll see how this goes.”

He then presented the genesis of his decision to curate a show, Narratives, at Art Matters. Yendrys explained this was an opportunity to integrate design work into what has traditionally been a more studio or performance art-based event. When his idea for a show was accepted, and programmed into the Art Mûr Gallery, he used the show to bring fine arts and design students together.

He was far from the only Concordian represented that evening, and said that we are usually many at these events.

Among the projects Sha Xin Wei presented was <em>Blink!</em>, an orchestrated EV Building light show by Maroussia Levesque, with Sebastien Speer, Harry Smoak, Erik Conrad and the Topological Media Lab. Magnifying glass

Among the projects Sha Xin Wei presented was Blink!, an orchestrated EV Building light show by Maroussia Levesque, with Sebastien Speer, Harry Smoak, Erik Conrad and the Topological Media Lab.

Also on the roster was Sha Xin Wei, who presented the philosophy behind the Topological Media Lab and his desire to integrate technology and human gesture, as experimented over the last few years. Wowing the audience with images (some moving) of numerous research projects, he invited them to consider the role of technology in “new kinds of alchemy, using matter to create richer worlds.” As reported on Feb. 19 in the Journal, the lab is in open house mode until March 6.

Newly named Concordia University Research Chair Erin Manning presented Folds to Infinity, inspired by Spinoza’s reflection that ‘we don’t know what a body can do.” Her project explores notions of building fabric. The early iterations of the project saw a series of patterns created that could be moulded, folded, attached and fastened with buttons or magnets around bodies, as clothes, or architecturally as shapes in space to cover or protect.

The project literally grew to the development of large scale creatures, inspired by the shapes produced by the garments. She is now considering ways to determine what impact the electromagnetic fields, created by the magnet-rich pieces, has on the bodies that interact with them.

If you would like to participate in a future pecha kucha, go to


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