Pecha Kucha occurs quarterly, which would seem to give me plenty of notice, but somehow it slips up on my all the time. Confounding the surprise factor is the fact that the event changes venue almost every time. It started at the Jackson Avenue Workshops (which I attended), then moved various places over the next couple of years. I attended at the Square Room, Relix and now Barley’s, but I missed the KMA.
The organizers have thought perhaps it best to move it about so it doesn’t become tied to one venue. I’ll have to disagree. If it was the same place each time I think more people might make it out. As it is, I think some are left home guessing and others show up at the wrong place. The event is clearly too big for the Jackson Avenue Workshops. I prefer Relix or the Square Room by far over Barley’s and I think this event signaled the last time it will be held there.
The problems were clear from the beginning: There was inadequate space for the crowd gathered, resulting in some people leaving early rather than standing the entire time. Additionally, the noise from patrons who, understandably, came to have a few beers and didn’t anticipate encountering an intellectual event, proved a distraction. Further, inadequate lighting kept the speakers in a constant shadow and the wi-fi only worked intermittently, which is a real problem for a program which is dependent on timing of slides.
It continues to be a fine event and all the problems mentioned were venue specific. Barley’s is a great place to hear a band, not so much a thoughtful presentation. There were seven presentations, which were presented four, with a break, then three. Given that, by definition, the presentations can’t be more than six minutes forty seconds long, I don’t think an intermission was warranted. It just gave people an opening to leave. My suggestion on that front would be to have no intermission unless at least twelve presentations are offered. And then I would suggest one, not two breaks.
So, what of the presentations? First up was Mark Heinz who talked about his post card collection. At first I thought it didn’t fit the event, but the more he talked, the more I realized he wasn’t talking about vintage postcards at all. He was talking about preservation. The postcards all included scenes from Knoxville’s past. Most of the images included buildings that no longer exist. The salient point he made, which I’ve considered quite a bit since the event, is that the footprint of West Town Mall is virtually the same as the footprint of downtown Knoxville. When you have out-of-town guests are you excited to show them the mall?
Mary Pom Claiborne, one of everyone’s favorite people downtown, and the Director of Marketing and Community Relations for the Public Library is also the founder of the Children’s Festival of Books. After talking briefly about the adventure that endeavor has become, she talked about the Maurice Sendak book, Where the Wild Things Are. The book is felt by most to be one of the major turning points in children’s literature, with the author treating children with more respect than most any before.
Next up, Raluka Iancu, a graduate student at UT in print-making, discussed the Deconstrucivist Manifesto. She looked at various types of deconstructivist art through the last five and a half decades up to an including her own art. I found some of the work to be fascinating. Though I’d never considered such a thing before, its oddity seemed to make a sort of sense by the end of her talk.
Christopher King, a local architect, discussed his design work in Haiti. He began by pointing out that what we call the “developing world” is really most of the world. He followed with the unique design challenges and opportunities a place like Haiti presents. Two hundred twenty thousand died in Haiti from an earthquake of the same magnitude that resulted in fewer than one hundred deaths in San Francisco. The importance of design and the difficulties it presents in developing countries, combined with Christopher’s passion and compassion made for a compelling presentation.
Matt Graves, instructional technology coordinator at Fulton High School talked about the critical nature of technology in education. Long an advocate and leader in technology both for instruction as well as for practical learning, he advocated for attending to the essential task of preparing students for a future we can’t predict, projecting them forward into a future and into jobs we can’t imagine. The point he made that stuck with me was that the smart phone that they each carry in their pocket, and which appears to be such a technological marvel today, is likely the most basic and crude technology they will ever utilize.
Calvin Chappelle is the director of the Mabry-Hazen House, an artist, and a civil-war re-enactor. He discussed none of the above, though art did play into the presentation. He discussed the Sixth Avenue Mural Project which brought together several neighborhoods just north of the center city in an effort to beautify and take back an underpass which had become marred with graffiti and tags. The project took several months, starting with a design contest and running through a massive effort which brought neighbors together and resulted in an appealing urban space where once there was blight.
Finally, father and son, Mark and Michael Nelson presented on their journey through the Camino de Santiago, a journey which was the subject of Martin Sheen movie, “The Way. As a gift for graduating from college, Mark offered his son a week anywhere he wanted to go. Michael selected a month-long journey which led father and son across about 450 miles of northern Spain. They discussed the relationships formed with other pilgrims, the importance of the time they had together and the widely varying reasons people take the pilgrimage.
It was another very good night for Pecha Kucha, though with the difficulties described above. There isn’t a better regular event in the city which promotes intellectual discussion and offers more thought-provoking topics. The next round will be in October at a location as yet to be determined. If you would like to present, you’ll find the contact information on the page linked above. At the very least, watch for the announcement and join us in October.