As I’ve said probably eight times before, I absolutely adore Pecha Kucha. The Standard on Jackson Avenue provided the setting for the ninth installment of the international program. For the uninitiated, Pecha Kucha allows presenters 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide to discuss their topic. The over-riding commonality is that the presentations focus on a creative endeavor in which the presenter is somehow involved. The movement has spread from Japan to around 300 cities internationally.
The program was excellent, as always. The space selected this month was much better than last month. While I love Barleys and all they do, it wasn’t suited for an intense listening experience. The Standard, a new event venue operated by David Dewhirst, was provided free of cost and proved to be excellent for listening and the wireless connection worked seamlessly (something that did not happen at PK8).
My minor quibbles: We could have used the larger room, though that was obviously unexpected. I counted right around 250 people in a space more comfortable for 150. It had to have been the biggest crowd ever. Beyond moving to the larger room, I would keep the event at the Standard. The crowd speaks for itself. It would also help to illuminate the presenters with at least some soft lighting. Pathetic photographers like myself might have a better chance and it’s nice for the audience to see the person speaking. Finally, I would reduce the breaks from twenty minutes to ten or simply have one fifteen minute break in the middle.
This also marked the first time food trucks were deployed to the scene and this was obviously a big hit. Mr. Canteen and Dale’s Fried Pies set up shop in the small parking lot beside the building and by the time I arrived Dale only had one apple pie left – just for me. There also appeared to be snacks of some sort inside, though I never made it that far. A cash bar would have been ransacked.
The audience is also filled with bright, creative people and that is a pleasure – and part of the reason for the longer breaks which allow for all those smart people to talk. Jack Neely, who wrote a perfect article in this week’s Metro Pulse on architectural density (please stop here and read it), mingled about as did Kim Trent of Knox Heritage, Scott Noethen, John Sanders, Sara Martin of Smart Trips, Grace McGinnis of Zip Car, many previous presenters and a multitude of others. Lara, Cassie and a friend (sorry man, two out of three was all I could do) introduced themselves. Lara is a long-time reader of the blog, as is her mom up in Michigan (hey mom) and that’s always nice.
We’d been prepped that the presentations would be architecturally oriented, but it didn’t really feel that way, to me. Mayor Rogero spoke first discussing Knoxville and its assets including, most importantly its people. She said she loves being mayor and that’s good to hear. She also emphasized the urban wilderness initiative and pointed out that the death of the James White Parkway extension was critical to that project. This brought great cheers.
Next up was Ricky Foster who is an architect, but his topic was his work with stereoscopic photography. What is that? Well, you might ask him if you see him. It was pretty complicated, involving taking multiple pictures of the same object from different angles and merging them somehow and adding color to black and white versions of the photograph. He’d handed out 3-D glasses which were supposed to help with the effect. It isn’t 3-D photography, but it is intended to draw the reader into the structure photographed. I think.
Dave McNeely, associate professor at Carson Newman College discussed the St. John’s Bible, which is “the first hand-illuminated and calligraphied Bible since the invention of the printing press,” and I have to say it is pretty amazing. There are only two hundred copies of the deluxe (my word) edition in the world and one will be at Carson Newman until next Friday. It includes art with the text, much like the monks used to produce, only with modern twists like abstract versions of the twin towers or DNA molecules included when discussing the prodigal son and the genealogy of Jesus respectively. His word play in his presentation was delightful.
Paul McQuade, who completely eluded my photographic skills, is a retired soil conservationist who has traveled many times to Tibet. He talked about his travels, the culture and the architecture of the areas he visited. Particularly, he noted the architectural and cultural similarities between certain Tibetans and the Pueblo Indians in the four-corners region of the United States.
Koichi Yamanioto, originally of Osaka, Japan holds an MFA and discussed paper-folding techniques. Sort of. He tied it into making a kite. But not really. He showed how lines on a page can be manipulated by folding the paper different ways – witness George Washington smiling or frowning from a dollar bill depending on the folds. Cultural similarities and differences also entered into the presentation with him noting that in Japan one isn’t to smile, so they used the muscles normally deployed for smiles to smile on the inside. He was quite clever and funny.
Kevin Murphy talked about home and what it means to him. He returned to Knoxville several years ago to lovingly restore a farm house which has been in his family for (I believe) six generations, dating back more than two centuries. The farm is off Washington Pike and had nearly crumbled into the ground before Kevin’s heroic efforts to save it. Mayor Rogero had joined me at this point and we marveled together at the determination and money it takes to do something like this. Of course, this is extremely similar to what the family has done at 1302 White Avenue where UT wants to destroy the home to build a science building. I’m hoping Mayor Rogero, marveling at the work this family has done will work to save their home.
Janine Obenschain discussed her work as an architect in Afghanistan with the army corps of engineers. She spent two years there and built basic structures on base and worked to re-build infrastructure in an Afghan city.
Gregor Smee, local architect presented what happened when a friend died suddenly at age forty, leaving behind five children and a desire to build them a tree house. Gregor took on that task and wound up with a spectacular structure involving a separate deck for each of the five children, spread over two trees and connected by a suspension bridge. Of course it had to be illuminated in elegant fashion.
Jen Schever and Daniel Ogletree discussed their experience in Wroclaw, Poland. As artists in residence there, they had the opportunity to learn about the art and artists of Poland before, during and after the Soviet occupation. They found a strong artistic resistance to dictatorial control of the arts and an explosion of arts in the country once the restrictions were removed.
Preston Farabow ended the night with a discussion of his metal-working artistic endeavors. He’s spoken before, but it never gets old. He utilizes cast-off metal parts from NASCAR races to form his works, many of which he makes during the race on the infield. A large component of his work involves performance art, but he also is quite a performer in his presentation. At times it was hard to determine if we were talking about metal work or an intense sexual encounter, but it all made sense in the end – or at least mostly. He’s quite taken with the idea of an object hurling around a track at amazing speeds being turned into an immobile, functional piece of art sitting in a home.
As always, the night was good and ended too quickly. If you haven’t made it so far, please make an effort the next time around. That should be some time early next year in a venue not yet announced.