A creative format born in Japan that allows people to present and discuss ideas recently helped foster creative dialogue between two neighboring peoples who do not always see eye-to-eye: Turks and Armenians.
Pecha Kucha — Japanese for “chit-chat” — was conceived by two architects in Tokyo in 2003, originally as a means for young designers to showcase their work while giving them a chance to meet and network with one another. It has since grown immensely in popularity, with presenters from all artistic genres, and even academia, participating in regular franchised Pecha Kucha Nights in over 500 cities around the world.
Two of those cities are İstanbul and Yerevan. Organized with the support of USAID, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and the Global Political Trends Centre at İstanbul Kültür University, the Yerevan Pecha Kucha franchisee — associated with Yerevan’s The Club, a well-known eatery that is not just a restaurant, but also a gallery and gathering space — worked together with the İstanbul franchisee, 34 Solo, a design consultancy, to put together what was described as “probably the first” inter-city, international Pecha Kucha Night, entitled “Close Creative Encounters.”
After having Turkish and Armenian presenters share the stage last November in Yerevan, it was the turn of İstanbul to host neighbors on May 24, at the Yapı Endüstri Merkezi in Fulya, İstanbul. Although it is getting increasingly common to see Armenian and Turkish colleagues cooperate on various projects, the Pecha Kucha structure adds an interesting twist to the usual conferences or studies.
It is the format that makes Pecha Kucha so captivating. Each speaker is limited to 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide, changing automatically. Thus the presenter has to make do with 400 seconds — six minutes and 40 seconds — to share his or her latest project, creative idea, or relevant work. The point is to keep things moving; to maintain a fun, attractive pace.
With around 50 people in attendance, presentations included talks on the theater as a tool for social change, the symbolic and political significance of mountains, the commercial and social potential of certain new technologies, a social network for single parents, a historical fantasy novel, marketing, the ecology and human society, the story of a TV show in the making, and street art in Yerevan.
The culmination of the evening was a presentation and impressive performance by the Boğaziçi Jazz Chorus, led by Turkish-Armenian Masis Aram Gözbek, with a repertoire that included Turkish numbers as well as renditions of more traditional American tunes.
What next for Pecha Kucha in the region? Although İstanbul franchisee Nurten Meriçer was cautiously optimistic about future co-hosting, Yerevan’s Pecha Kucha organizer Vahe Baloulian was looking forward to potentially putting something together with the Pecha Kucha Nights taking place in Tbilisi, in fellow Caucasian state, Georgia.
Pecha Kucha Nights are organized at least once a month. A full listing of events worldwide can be found at www.pecha-kucha.org.