PechaKucha, Japanese for chit-chat, is a worldwide series of events, started by architects in Tokyo in 2003, that feature speakers presenting a talk and 20 slides for 20 seconds each—that’s six minutes and forty seconds.
The goal of the event is the exchange of ideas, and the conciseness of the presentations encourages quickness and a concentration of many speakers and innovations into one night. Sometimes they are themed, but PechaKucha Night Vancouver Volume 30, the last of the year on 20 November, brought a range of 11 speakers from art, academia, politics and business.
Hannah Epperson: “This is a song about feeling less or more than normal. Somewhere on either side. I think we can all relate to that.”
As musical act Hannah Epperson, with her violin and looping machine, plaintively—and patiently—competed with the shouted conversations of the crowd, I was astounded by the sheer volume of the talking which only ceased when the girl spoke to briefly introduce her next songs. She is obviously vastly talented, producing singlehanded the sounds of a full string ensemble plus voice, and I was a little offended that the audience was missing it; but then I remembered that this was a design crowd—they were not there to hear music. But it still seemed kind of strange and rude.
Paul Dincer: “. . . now we are more aware than ever that our eating habits are a political declaration and ethical stance against a global system. We are in a different era, and we are witnessing a monumental shift in production . . . this new era requires more understanding of food . . . not just based on our eyes and our tastebuds, based on our awareness that we are not the centre of the universe and we are part of something way bigger than us.”
My initial get-a-load-of-this-guy reaction to Koko Monk chocolates founder Paul Dincer’s talk of post-modern and avant-garde chocolates was quelled once he really got going and started waxing academic about food in relation to literature. This man is a scholar, a philosopher, a chocolate-prophet, and he proved his theory when he described the watermelon and sea salt chocolate he created in reference to Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, and the entire audience was united in a sigh of “ahhh…”.
David Gunawan: “There is something very real about the kitchen, there is madness, and devoid of any social or mental segregation.”
Of Wildebeest fame and having recently opened a new restaurant—Farmer’s Apprentice—in the westside, David Gunawan was hilariously casual in his speaking style, like talking to an awkward kid in his kitchen after he’s had a couple of beers. But he is passionate and active in his profession; he’s lived the true roaming chef lifestyle and has grand ideas about sort of de-evolving food as it is presented on restaurant tables and moving away from the traditional pretentiousness of the upscale food industry: “we don’t want you to like everything about us . . . the obligation of high end food is kind of mediocre to me.”
Alicia Medina Laddaga: I was fully impressed by this young woman; she is an asset to any city that she happens to be living in and Vancouver should kiss the ground that she walks on. Since arriving from her native Mexico in 2008, she has completed a masters degree in advanced studies in architecture, was a steering committee member of Vancouver Design Nerds, and has started LoHA, a non-profit focused on “exploring and building housing alternatives for creative and emerging professionals.” She is excited about the future of our city and she is not alone. She received a rousing round applause when she asked, in closing: rather than the Greenest City in 2040, “what if Vancouver was the Creativest City in the world?”
Wes Regan: “We need to change the paradigm that we live in, push for new solutions, and we need to test the limits of what we’re capable of if we are to survive or flourish. . . . there is an army of people who want something better for Vancouver.”
Another reminder that there is in fact still good in the world. Regan is concerned about the politics of food, and through his position as Executive Director of Hastings Crossing BIA, which he started, he is working to embed food security policy into the bylaws and constitution of the city.
Jonathan Tippett: “We have been dreaming about a man-amplifying, or a body-amplifying mech suit for millennia, probably even before they had robots—but the thing is, nobody thought to race them before.”
Jonathan Tippett is a self-described mad scientist, and as he talks, growing ever more animatedly passionate about his dream of building a “five-meter tall, wearable walking machine that you strap yourself into, ideally wearing a red jumpsuit,” it starts to dawn on you that, holy shit, this man is actually crazy. But it is crazy genius, and when he describes the realization of his dream in two years time as a reality, you believe him. You want to believe him, because he represents wild, unbridled driven creativity just for the sake of doing something huge and real. His philosophy is using machines to re-connect humans with the physicality of their bodies, in an age when physical effort is becoming less and less necessary. His envisioned machines are completely manually controlled: “this is a sports machine, and the pilot is the athlete.”
The skeptic in me tried to see PechaKucha Night as one more way for a bunch of people to promote their own interests under the guise of “sharing ideas.” But, as I listened to these passionate people who are working hard in their respective fields, who understand that big changes start locally, I started to feel optimistic. The more the city can champion people like the above, the better things are going to get, and I went home that night feeling excited about what is possible, not impossible, in the world.