What is PechaKucha? Why do you care?

It’s got a weird name, it draws out crowds of artists, architects and designers, and it happened in more than 463 cities last year. And it’s about to enter its fifth incarnation at Phil Mechanic Studios. PechaKucha, pronounced “Pa-Cha-Ka-Cha,” is an international design-based social phenomenon that occurs on every continent except Antarctica. But I’m sure someone down there will catch on sooner or later.

PechaKucha, a Japanese phrase meaning “chit-chat,” was the 2003 creation of Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture, looking for a means of sharing ideas within a casual atmosphere. The design forum promotes, shares and spreads aesthetically minded ideas through a city’s design community. PechaKucha’s identifying staple was also the solution in combatting a globally detrimental stereotype amongst architects: They talk way too much. Thus, a time limit.

Each presentation follows a strict format. Speakers prepare 20 images that are displayed for 20 seconds apiece: six minutes and 40 seconds of art-and-design babble. At the end of that 40th second, you’re done, regardless of whether you’ve actually finished. 

As the event enters its ninth year in international circulation, it’s continuing to broaden in reach and concept. The bulk of PuchaKucha Nights stay true to the roots, centering around architecture and design. But the presentations are changing, becoming design-based in a looser, more conceptual sense. Naturally, our city’s inhabitants tend to lean on concept more so than purer forms of architecture and design. But that’s not to say they aren’t present.

Asheville designer and the event’s organizer, John Dean, like PKN’s creators, was looking for a means of discussing the greater facets of design in Asheville. This year, he has branched out, combining forces with graphic designer Nic Goodman and me to take the event in a different direction and offer a wider variety of presenters.

An event’s foundation rests in a diverse lineup of speakers and the networks of people that the organizers bring together. The more widespread the ideas, the more information exchanges hands. Dean describes presentations from the past that ranged from fictional narratives and poems made from 20 days worth of emails, to one man’s surprisingly interesting collection of dog photographs. And yes, there are similarities to TED. But think of this as TED concentrating on design, saying the word “cool” a lot and showcasing locally relevant information, all while letting you have a beer and a snack.

This week’s event will be at Phil Mechanic Studios’ Flood Gallery, a multi-faceted gallery, bar, venue and sometimes lounge similar to that of the event’s inaugural evening. Speakers include Xpress staffers Jaye Bartell and Nathanael Roney, artist Ken Kotara, Asheville Area Arts Council’s Kitty Love, Alliance for American Quilts’ Amy Milne, Lara Sturgis, artist and Xpress writer Ursula Gullow, Brian Dunsmore of the Wine Studio of Asheville and photographer Eric Howell. The $7 entry fee doubles as a donation to the Flood Gallery and a voucher for food and French Broad beer.

Sherard is co-organizer of this year’s PechaKucha Night Asheville, at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27 at the Phil Mechanic Studios. 109 Roberts St. http://www.pecha-kucha.org/night/asheville.

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About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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