imomus (imomus) wrote,

A Tokyoite manqué at Pecha Kucha

Last year I wrote two complementary pieces about Pecha Kucha, the design show-and-tell event (twenty slides, twenty seconds to talk about each) invented at Super-Deluxe and jealously franchised worldwide by Mark Dytham. The Click Opera piece, tongue-in-cheek, was Pecha Kucha is dead. The Wired News piece that followed it (and benefitted from an actual visit to a Berlin pecha kucha event) was Pecha Kucha: Design Virus. It was super-positive.

Apparently this yin-yang, nice cop / nasty cop approach did not please Mark Dytham -- he had a hard time seeing the irony in the Click Opera piece, and was annoyed by the piece because apparently the magazine had been planning to cover the pecha kucha phenomenon and changed their minds when they saw that Wired News had already done it. Sorry, Mark, I meant well!

Anyway, last night I attended my first actual Tokyo pecha kucha event. And it was lots of fun. The place was packed, about 60/40 Japanese to gaijin. Groovy psychedelic music played before the show, which made the whole thing feel like some kind of underground 1960s happening -- something at the Roundhouse with Mark Boyle projections, perhaps. There was a vitality, a sense of community and a vibrant optimism about it which made the phrase "Pecha kucha is the new rock and roll!" jump into my head. (Being a commercial creative myself, I tend to think in slogans. For instance, the slogan "You can't love us both!" popped into my head as a nice summary of the now-defunct Momus-Marxy skirmishes.)

I had to leave Super-Deluxe at halftime because Hisae was very ill from the previous night's binge drinking and the smoke was making it worse (when will Tokyo ban smoking?). But I managed to cram in some of the super-networking this kind of event is all about (pecha kucha means casual chatter, but if you isolated the basic unit it would be "Here, let me give you my card!"), talking to Paul Baron of the excellent Tokyo Art Beat (about to relaunch, apparently) and the man behind social networking site Asoboo.

Not all creative types are great communicators outside their chosen field, so a few of the evening's presentations (mostly the introverted architects) were incoherent mumbling. Some went too far the other way -- a very slick Japanese comedian in a sharp suit lightened the atmosphere by showing some absurdist inventions of his own devising, like gigantic elastic ramen. This pleased the otherwise subdued Japanese audience mightily. My favourite was the clothes designer who staged a fashion show of impractically practical utility garments that could be worn in lots of different directions, turned into tents or cocoons or medieval robes. I wish the Pecha Kucha website would update so I could tell you these people's names! Ah, the clothing designers were called Tokolo.

Just before staggering home with the alcohol-hobbled Hisae, I had a conversation with a designer who works for Sony, and who'd come to our Placard Headphone Concert under the trees in Yoyogi Park back in 2004. I told him I felt completely alive in Tokyo -- the city's rhythms match my own, whereas Berlin's Slow Life can get a bit too slow sometimes. The Sony man felt quite the contrary -- he was just about ready for some Berlin-style three-hour cafe sessions, and couldn't wait to get somewhere slower and gentler. Not for the first time, I felt like a Tokyoite manqué.
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