On Tuesday 17th November 2015, Volume 13 of the Aberdeen Pecha Kucha series took place at the Belmont Cinema. For those not familiar with the format, Pecha Kucha is described on the official website as ‘the art of concise presentations’ and constitutes a mode of presentation ‘devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public’. More specifically, in the academic world, Pecha Kucha has become a form of public engagement, a means by which researchers can share their work with audiences beyond the walls of the university and beyond the institution of the academy.
Pecha Kucha presentations are composed of 20 images. Each image remains on the screen for 20 seconds and the images progress automatically, without the speaker’s intervention, meaning that the presentation lasts a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds. For academics accustomed to speaking for a minimum of 20 minutes at conferences (or 50 minutes in lectures), Pecha Kucha presentations are an exercise in the concise and clear communication of ideas. With its focus on images, Pecha Kucha is an ideal method of disseminating research into visual cultures, making it particularly appealing to academics affiliated with disciplines such as Film and Visual Culture.
Myself and my friend and colleague Dr. Lorna Muir participated in last week’s event. The topic was ‘Being Human’ to tie in with the Being Human initiative, a nationwide festival of the humanities, about which you can read here. Lorna and I decided to give a joint presentation entitled ‘Sexy Superheroes: Masculinity in the Marvel Universe and Beyond’. We analysed the evolving physiques of cinematic superheroes such as Thor, Ironman, Captain America, Superman, Wolverine and Batman, tracking their development from lean yet well-defined individuals into excessive and exaggerated images of hyper-masculinity and hyper-muscularity. We also explored the ways in which the male body becomes the object of the gaze within this cinematic genre.
This topic constitutes a new area of research for us both and preparing the Pecha Kucha presentation gave us the opportunity to work on something a touch more light-hearted than the research we conduct individually (Lorna works on surveillance cinema while I focus on contemporary Spanish cinema). That said, our presentation had a serious point to make insofar as we identified several concerns attached to the hyper-masculine, hyper-muscular, ever-expanding body of the male cinematic superhero, including the rise in conditions such as muscle dysmorphia and related psychological disorders amongst young men in recent years.
Although the event itself was not recorded, Lorna and I recorded one of our earlier practices of the presentation, embedded below. As we intend to develop this area of research as a joint initiative, we would be particularly keen to hear any feedback you might have, so please feel free to leave comments below.