Portland Pecha Kucha Night - A Review of Eight Rapid Fire Presentations

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Event Summary

Volume Four of Portland’s Pecha Kucha Series was held last Tuesday, August 12th, 2008.

This particular session was located on NW 8th and Couch Street in artists place that was currently under construction. There was a random amalgamation of wooden benches on the floor facing a large presentation screen. The event was free, and so was free wine and beer. Not bad for a Tuesday night of entertainment!

At 6:30Pm the room was already filled to capacity. There is a large oriental carpet in front of the large projection screen, and the audience overflow is sitting on it.

What is Pecha Kucha?

Pecha Kucha is a Japanese word for the sound of conversation, or chit chat. It is a presentation technique in which the presenter shows 20 images for 20 seconds each.

In this way, an audience can absorb a large amount of information very quickly, because interest is kept up by the rapid change of images and speaker engagement. It’s a way to remove the annoyance that a standard Powerpoint presentations often bring to standard meeting experiences.

Presentation Summaries

Andrew Brahe - Confluence Project

Brahe received his B.S. in Architecture from Portland State University, and he has a passion for ethical design and strives for a better way to build. His presentation started with an audience participation exercise. He had the right side of the room begin to snap their fingers, and got the middle of the room to begin rubbing their hands together. He made the left side of the room made slap their thighs. Then he urged everyone to do their part faster and louder, until the place was filled with a great amount of percussive noise.

Then he made everyone stop.

There was dead silence and darkness; then the first slide showed up on the monitor.

The presentation involved architecture. One of the best slides demonstrated a beautifully formed pedestrian bridge that had been built over a freeway near Ft. Vancouver. He said that this bridge would be opened to the public soon.

The image of the land bridge spanning over the highway was intense. It looked as if green grass had grown all over the highway in an organic arch, partially eroding away the concrete. In reality, the bridge was allowing animals and humans a way to cross over previously impervious territory. There were a number of other architectural projects shown, including a tall bird observation tower in the middle of the forest with a long ramp all the way to the top. Brahe is also employed as a project manager with Maya Lin (the architect behind the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C.) on a multi-sited art and architectural installation.

Diane Jacobs and Karen Maurer - Visual Artists

This presentation detailed a future interactive installation at the Disjecta art space in North Portland. The show encourages viewers to “See, feel, open, and act”, and “Find words that begin to transform the present”. “We abolished slavery, except as a punishment for crime”, the presenter said.

The pieces were about bridging the gaps in multicultural understanding in Portland. One of the most poignant lines: “Don’t let anyone forfeit untapped potential”.

The art show opens Saturday, the 23rd of August from 6-9 pm at the Disjecta. 8371 N Interstate Portland Oregon 97217.

Gallery Hours are Fri-Sun Aug 24-Oct 25 / 12-6 pm, and the Artists Talk is Wednesday, October 1st at 7 pm.

Bill Dieter - Industrial Designer, TERRAZIGN, Inc.

Bill Dieter started Terrazign, Inc., a Portland-based industrial design firm in 1994. The firm works primarily with fabrics and hard woods. His interest is in “integrating the worlds of hard and soft”.

Zippable Plywood Trade Show Booths

One of the first slides demonstrated a trade show booth for a snowboarding company. He was able to integrate zippers into the polished plywood panels to allow the tradeshow display to be zipped together into a study shape and unzipped into an easily transportable shape once the trade show ended.

“This is the only time I’ve ever gotten splinters from sewing”, he added with a smile.

All Weather Segway Enclosures

He showed off other industrial objects from his firm, including an all-weather enclosure for Segways that made the little personal vehicles look even more ridiculous——>in a good way. Here’s a link to an article (and photos) of the invention on Engadget called Meep Meep.

Backpacks and Military Projects

The next series of slides ranged from inflatable car seats for toddlers (saving time, space, and weight), and Compression backpacks, which do pretty much the same thing while looking awesome at the same time.

He outlined some of the military projects the firm has worked on as well, including a backpack with a hydration frame that made water the structure of the pack.

“This solved the largest issue of military life, which is hydration”. Placing hydration at the center of the bag allowed the soldier the capability to modify what they needed, because the backpack was also modular.

Sparq Training Equipment

Terrazign created a series of collapsible hurdles for Sparq, a training division of Nike. They’re lightweight and foldable, and can withstand and structure serious training.

They also developed weight vests, which were made from monofilament fiber mesh that allows for air flow.

Vertical Treadmills for NASA

Perhaps the most interesting part of Dieter’s presentation involved images of NASA members training for space missions on vertical treadmills. The treadmills were developed by Terrazign to create artificial gravity and the ability to retain bone density while in space. The vertical treadmill is effective because of its capability to simulate gravity equal to body weight.

A group of guys that were playing a series of Mexican folk songs on guitars strode by the event space while we watched a man running on a vertical treadmill on the screen. It was a strange juxtaposition of elements that made the audience consider really what they were looking at.

You can see images of the Vertical Treadmill at the NASA Website.

Severin Villiger - Designer, Teacher

Severin began by telling us that he was going to do a presentation about Italian Airplanes. He was wearing a leather coat, airplane goggles, and a big black biker helmet.

Apparently, he was a Vespa enthusiast. He showed pictures of pinup women riding the bikes, and even had a whole series of them inside the presentation space. The entire presentation was developed with a zany Swiss accent, which made his ability to make the crowd laugh even greater.

Vespa Mania

“Who thinks a Vespa is a toy?” he smiled, “I don’t”. He showed an image of his group of Vespa riders doing all sorts of interesting activities, and then one of his personal collection of Vespa bikes.

“The best thing about a Vespa scooter?” he stated, “You have four…or ten”. Want to join the fun? Check out the Portland Vespa Group for more adventures.


Matthew Packwood - Radio Producer

“I’m going to do a presentation on Contemporary Classical Music. It’s kind of an oxymoron. Contemporary and classical shouldn’t go together, but they really do”.

“I figured that it is rather difficult to talk about music, so I brought four pieces to share with you, all of which have something to do with Portland”.

He then began to play each piece. Each song had four slides associated with it – a title slide, a picture of what the often complex music looked like, an image of the composer, and an image of what the original cover of the pieces looked like.

These four elements caused a greater understanding of each piece than if simply the music had been played alone. The images of the composers were probably the most compelling of all of the images.

Piece One

  • Two Celebratory Fanfares (1995)
  • Composer: David Dzubay (b. 1964)
  • Performers: John Rommel, trumpet, Edmund Cord, trumpet, Thomas Brown, trumpet, Richard Sandals, trumpet, Amy Schendel, trumpet, Robert White, trumpet, David Dzubay, conductor.

Piece Two

  • Incidental Music to Corneille’s Cinna (1955-1957) whose cover looked like an old book.
  • Composer: Lou Harrison (1917-2003)
  • Performer: Linda Burman-Hall, tack piano.

Piece Three

  • Theater of Mineral NADEs [excerpt] (1998)
  • Composer: Eyvind Kang b. 1971.
  • Performers: Eyvind Kang

Here, Packwood showed an image of one of Kang’s conceptual sketches. It was as intense as the image of the composer. Extremely detailed and poignant. It told the story of the composer’s mind almost as well as the music. Piece Four

Open up your Ears. Composer: Bryan Johanson. Performer: David Starobin, Guitar

This was an overwhelmingly beautiful piece, and it was a classical piece inspired by a line in the Jimi Hendrix song ‘Can You See Me?’. Packwood’s presentation was excellent because he chose to let the music speak for him.

If you want to learn more, please check out Packwood’s site Art of the States.

Greg Barton: Designer, Hurricane Katrina Revisited

Greg received architectural training from Tulane University, RISD, and , most recently, the Bartlett in London. He has created exhibits and installations shown in venues from Tyron Creek to AIA Portland Gallery to the recent “PDXplore: Designing Portland” exhibit at PNCA. Before moving to England, Greg worked for Hoist Architecture.

Barton was attending Tulane University in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina displaced his life. The event that caused 81 billion dollars in damages is still affecting the lives of many residents.

He reminded the audience that the hurricane has not finished its toll on the residents of New Orleans. There are 150,000 families still living in FEMA trailers, with an average of three per trailer. Many refugees live in FEMA villages, or “FEMA-villes”.

A far cry from the luxurious representations of trailers from the 1950’s in advertising, there are many health hazards present in trailer life. For instance, Formaldehyde exists in dangerous levels, and there have already been many C02 related deaths.

He then showed how pragmatic restraints began to reshape the public sphere. Some families had placed white picket fences or stone lions in front of their temporary/permanent trailers in an attempt to trick their minds into feeling like they had an actual place to live. Meghan Sinnot and Carl Larson

Advocates, SHIFT – Portland Biking Initiative

Meghan Sinnot came to Portland from Alaska and attended Lewis & Clark college to study Anthropology. Since it was way up on a hill, it was not easy for her to explore the surrounding Portland area without taking a long trek downtown on the college-supplied bus.

Then, Meghan discovered biking. Now she is an part of SHIFT, the Portland bicycle advocacy group.

She began the presentation by taking out a bike and pedaling on it while telling the room about her history.

“Who rode a bike here today?” she asked us. Many hands went up, including mine.

“What we do here at SHIFT is basically an ad-hocracy,” she stated, “but we do have a stash of cash in someone’s basement that they let us get at sometimes”.

She talked about the group’s attempts at serving breakfast to bike commuters on the bridges in the morning. And she talked about Critical Mass, Zoo Bombing, and Pedapalooza—a few of the great Portland bike events that serve the educate and create a nice ground for future bike advocacy.

“In Guadalajara,” she said, “there is one vehicle for every three citizens”.

You can find out more about Portland Bike Culture at shifttobikes.org. TJ Norris and Chas Bowie


One of the presenters was masked, and the other unmasked. They talked about the modern condition, asking questions such as, “does the mask control the wearer?” (or does clothing or career control the subject?), and snapshot culture. Click Click Click Click Click Click. Tick tock, Tick tock.

I would write more, but I can’t really describe what they said in the way they did. I was very impressed though, so I am including some links to their work here.


Read more about TJ Norris, and his show at the New American Art Union. There’s also an article history for Chas Bowie at the Portland Mercury.

Future Pecha Kucha Portland Events

I highly recommend attending any Pecha Kucha event. If you’d like to learn more about upcoming sessions in Portland or elsewhere, and possibly sign up to present, visit http://www.pechakuchaportland.org/ For more information regarding cityscope and upcoming events, please visit http://www.projectcityscope.org.

Source: [1]