Cultural Chit-Chat: Armenian and Turkish artists share ideas at joint Pecha Kucha in Istanbul

At the Pecha Kucha Night Istanbul Armenian and Turkish artists were presenting their works- 20 images 20 seconds each, the so-called 20x20 format.

Vahe Balulyan in charge of Pecha Kucha Armenia says it’s unique that two cities- Yerevan and Istanbul – hold the event jointly.

“This is not a political event, but since the two countries have issues we can’t avoid them either.. We are simply trying to assist and have our input through creative dialogue,” he says.

Pecha Kucha Night Istanbul had five Turkish and five Armenian participants. This is the second joint Pecha Kucha, the first was held in December of 2011 in Yerevan.

Pecha Kucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities (450) around the world, inspiring creativity worldwide. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat", it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds; it makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.

“It’s a creative dialogue when artistic people – architects, builders, writers – are able to show their creations by 20 images. Closed borders cannot hinder such people. Pecha Kucha has enabled people of art and culture to run ahead of politicians and go for a dialogue,” says Nurtan Medicar, in charge of Pecha Kucha Night Istanbul.

It’s been held in Turkey regularly since 2009 and in Yerevan since 2010. It’s Armenia’s 16th Pecha Kucha.

Anyone with a creative mind and ability to follow the presentation format is eligible to participate. Money is not an issue (no participation fee), since the project does not pursue profit. The main requirement is to meet at least four times a year and give people a chance to express themselves.

“Many people have interesting thoughts, opinions and ideas. And here they get a chance to express those, after which they find supporters and sometimes even get business offers and practical suggestions. There are only two restrictions: can’t sell anything and can’t advocate ideas,” says Balulyan.

Architect And Arkman presented his piece “Ararat with Masis” [Ararat is otherwise called Sis, the lower peak, and Masis the higher peak]. In 20 images he presented the legendary mountain from both sides – its panoramic views from Yerevan and Turkey. Other mountains were presented sharing the same fate – on the borderline of two countries.

“As opposed to Ararat, people living around those mountains communicate; they don’t have a closed-border issue. People living around Mount Ararat should be able to communicate, too; there should be a dialogue that should start from Ararat and rather than Istanbul,” says Arkman.

One of the participants, Armenian writer Hovakim Saghatelyan presented the story of his book in 20 images, telling how Sultan Mehmed invited him to Istanbul.

“I love the format of Pecha Kucha, the joint even enables us to know each other better, to network. At home I have both good and bad neighbors, nonetheless I communicate with all of them – somewhat better with some, a bit worse with others. Communication is a necessity. Like it or not, we are neighbors,” he says.

Medicar says that both sides have done a great job passing from words to deeds.

The joint event is held with the financial support of the Eurasia Foundation.