Matthew Caruana Galizia

Pecha Kucha Amsterdam # 9

The Slide Show Olympics

22 Apr 2009
22 Apr 2009

The patented system to avoid death by PowerPoint came to Amsterdam for the ninth time, bringing with it the very good, the mediocre, and the clueless.

Pecha Kucha, Japanese for ‘the sound of conversation’, allows every participant to display 20 slides, with no more than 20 seconds spent explaining each one. Tokyo architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham claim to have thought up the format, while others say that it was the city authorities, tired of cleaning up young designers’ bodies from the pavement below the Klein-Dytham boardroom.


Pecha Kucha crowd - With Arte camera guy. Liene Rubane

Though among this year’s crowd, it seems to have been the architects who were the fewest in number and the least remarkable. The presentations began with Rory Hyde, an Australian fresh out of arch-school whose work and ideas fall squarely in the category of ‘alright, I suppose’. He was followed by the duo of Rogier Klomp and Bart-Jan Kazemier, who used the style of Gang of Four’s ‘Anthrax’ to present the history of Bertelsmann’s media empire.

Next up was the man who stole the show with the longest applause and the loudest laughs, Bernard Bolter. The San Francisco-based artist presented his surreal collages of city landscapes by rapping freestyle to the beat of a djembe drum. I never thought I’d hear anyone rap about Frank Gehry “doing his thing” in Los Angeles and Bilbao. Well, now I have, and it was absolutely hilarious.

Few others came close to being that entertaining. Alex Scordelis of NYC’s Improv Everywhere kept everyone laughing with his scenes of orchestrated urban chaos, though his candid-camera-style clips were nothing most people hadn’t already seen on the Internet.

Long videos that broke with the typical format and a humourless style didn’t go down too well with the audience. Edial, a new media student at the University of Amsterdam singled out Sid Lee’s presentation for criticism. “It was too promotional,” he said with a scowl, “an advert for an advertising agency.”

There was no mercy reserved for the dreary either. Many found May Heek’s slides of photographs with light leaks and her obsession with the colour grey a fantastic opportunity for a cigarette break. “Low-level and mediocre,” was the verdict of Floris, invited as a VIP member of the audience by the organisers. “And the book guy? A complete failure,” he continued, referring to the botched presentation by Atze van Dijk.

But it’s the few very good ones that made the night at Mediamatic Bank one well spent. Ekene Ijeoma, an interaction designer from NYC (who needs a place to stay in Amsterdam, by the way) thought it was “a great experience” as did most of the close to 250-member audience.

Review by Matthew Caruana Galizia. The evening was organized by Pecha Kucha / Golfstromen and hosted by Mediamatic. Visit the Pecha Kucha Amsterdam website for a list of presenters.