The networking event Pecha Kucha is about precision and presentation — but say it correctly, first

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

THE MANY FACES OF MILLER  | Artist Cathey Miller hopes her paintings will speak for themselves. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)
THE MANY FACES OF MILLER | Artist Cathey Miller hopes her paintings will speak for themselves. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Wyly Theatre, 2403 Flora St. Oct. 13. 6 p.m. $10.


With an endless barrage of Twitter and  Facebook updates, people are learning how to communicate quicker and with fewer words. Writing is one thing, but how are people at talking with that same succinctness? Is 20 seconds enough time to verbalize your point in a clear fashion?

If you ever plan to partake in some Pecha Kucha it will be — because you have no choice.

“The format took me forever to figure out, “ Rawlins Gilliland says. “But it really is a wonderful one and you can pretty much conceptualize anyway you see fit.”

The KERA commentator known for his Southern drawl during pledge time, is one of 12 presenters for Wednesday’s fourth Pecha Kucha event. But first, he had to learn how to say it.

“I didn’t know anything about it and I still can’t pronounce it,” he says.

Originally designed as a networking event for designers in Tokyo, Pecha Kucha (pronounced puh-che ku-cha) has gone viral in bringing creative types together for a chit-chat (pecha kucha in Japanese). Only it’s not about cocktails and mixing: Participants present topics in some pretty precise parameters —all thanks to Sarah Jane Semrad and Brian Murphy, who licensed PK here in town.

“I had to ask Sarah Jane a lot of questions, “ Gilliland says. “She asked me to be a presenter in which I come up with 20 photos, put them into a PowerPoint where each appears for 20 seconds. That translates to six minutes, 40 seconds. That’s the format.”

Gilliland is a storyteller, so he plans to weave a story about his childhood experiences in the time frame. He knew once he heard exactly what Pecha Kucha entailed that he wanted to tell the story of “my mother’s vain attempt to cook something for me and my sister.” He calls the six minute parameter a luxury compared to the usual three minutes he gets for a radio bit.

He is among a diverse group of  presenters that includes a human rights lawyer, tattoo artist, architect and visual artist Cathey Miller. Unlike Gilliland, Miller plans to let her art do most of the talking. Getting in front of a crowd to speak isn’t her norm. She admits she’s nervous.

“I’ve checked it out before to see what it was about, “ she says. “It was interesting for me as I was watching. I’m nervous but the good thing is it’s only 20 seconds with a gigantic slide behind me. And whenever Sarah Jane asks me to do anything, I say yes.”

Where Gilliland will use his images like a visual soundtrack to his story, Miller has created a slideshow of her art through the years with a brand new piece debuting as the final slide. She creates vibrant, colorful works that are part pop art and sci-fi with a humorous touch. Most depict women in strong situations, but still with some tongue in cheekiness aspect.

“My first couple of slides show what it’s like to be a working artist, “ she says. “That’s been my job for 25 years. And then I’ll be fleshing out the story of Cathedonia, this planet I invented in my art. Some of it’s kooky and crazy. “

By that she means femaliens with Big Gulps and tridents with heads as spears. She’ll also display some of her past work for DIFFA, and her newest pieces where she plays with wigs and mustaches in her many self-portraits.

For Semrad, Pecha Kucha reflects the genuine fabric of what Dallas personifies and maybe even reminds there is greatness behind this city. Plus, she and Murphy thought it was cool.

“I was captivated by this idea that it is in so many cities pulling diverse groups of people together, sharing ideas succinctly. And it’s fun — for the presenters and the audience, “ she says.

With three smaller PK nights under their belt, this particular one will be the biggest of the year. They chose to move away from a theme and instead go for absolute variety where they could find it. Murphy and Semrad seem to have it covered.

“We have one of everything, “ she laughs. “We wanted it to be purposefully diverse and not just gay or straight, but a good mix of men and women, professional backgrounds — an eclectic mix that represents Dallas in a profound way. Dallas is a cultural wasteland and full of endless opportunity. This is a celebration of ideas and contrasts.”

The former gallery owner is fine with the Twitter analogy that people can push boundaries within constraints and lends it to saying just what is important.

“And if the presentation sucks, well, it’s only six minutes. “ she says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.