John Cage may have made 4 minutes and 33 seconds famous, with his iconic piece Silence (1952), but these days, it is 6 minutes and 40 seconds that is the time to beat – the format of the widely popular Pecha Kucha talk. Tonight, in Aberdeen, I’m giving my first Pecha Kucha talk, about my research. It is certainly a different type of presentation – I am used to giving timed talks, but never quite this short, and never quite this rigid. As most of you will know, in a Pecha Kucha talk, you present 20 slides that are on the screen for 20 seconds each; the presentation moves automatically, whether you are ready for it or not. In many ways it is much like a piece of performance art – one has to have a plan (or a score, like Kaprow), but be flexible within that plan (and allow for flexibility), because you might talk faster or slower than anticipated, and of course the audience might react in ways you didn’t expect.
The other challenge of the Pecha Kucha talk, at least when condensing one’s academic research down to a 6-minute spiel, is the risk of over-simplification. So, instead of trying to focus on the intricacies of my research, I tried to explain the process of doing my research, which I think is somewhat different from the way that people usually think academics work (interviewing artists, rather than just reading about them), and also make connections with the local context. I do this by introducing my talk with a discussion of Paul Neagu’s Going Tornado performance, which I wrote about earlier on this blog, and which actually took place in Aberdeen. I’ve also discussed the significance of the documentation of the performance in another blog that I just started contributing to, the George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture blog, at the University of Aberdeen.
I think that eventually the Pecha Kucha talks will be available on the Pecha Kucha website, so then you’ll be able to hear my performance, and not just read about it!