Try to imagine an event that's part art exhibition and part poetry slam with a hint of “The Gong Show” and a bit of those popular fast-paced Japanese PechaKucha presentations tossed in for good measure.
That's what the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition are going for with their Photo Slam, a speedy showcase of 12 Oklahoma artists planned for Thursday night at the museum.
“It's like a poetry slam, a story slam, the idea of a slam, where it's like a real high-energy, fast-paced discussion,” said Chandra Boyd, the museum's senior associate curator of education.
“The idea is that each photographer has five minutes to present their work, and they can do that in any format. ... If they go over the five minutes, they get gonged. It's fun to see the photographers' personalities come out. They really get into this opportunity to tell about their work.”
The Photo Slam doesn't follow the typical art lecture format, said OVAC Associate Director Kelsey Karper.
Along with dynamic and competitive poetry slams, she said Photo Slam is inspired by PechaKucha, a presentation style developed in Tokyo in 2003. A kind of show-and-tell version of an open mike, PechaKucha — which translates roughly to “chitchat” in Japanese — is aimed at architects and other creative types, who showcase their work and ideas in 20 images, each shown for just 20 seconds.
“It's a way to give a presentation that's more interesting, fast-moving and entertaining, so that's the format that you get. But there's a very strict time limit,” Karper said.
“We were taking these ideas from different types of really engaging presentation styles, and we kind of melded them together to come up with the Photo Slam.”
She's not kidding about the strict time limit: Photographers who go over the time limit really will hear someone bang a gong.
“We do encourage the artists to use their five minutes creatively. In the past, we've had people incorporate music. We had one photographer who went through the theater and hid things under everyone's seats,” Karper said. “We've actually even had the presenting photographer taking pictures of the audience during their presentation ... so I'm excited to see what this year's group will do.”
The museum and OVAC served up their first Photo Slam in 2008, and Thursday's event will mark the third installment.
The slams typically are offered in conjunction with a photography exhibition at the museum. “Herb Ritts: Beauty and Celebrity,” an exhibit of 80 black-and-white images by the legendary portrait photographer, opened last week at the museum and shows there through July 28.
Carlos Knight, art director at This Land Press, selected the dozen Photo Slam participants from a pool of applicants.
The 12 chosen photographers — Lucia Martinez, Wendy Mutz, Kurt Nagy, Zach Nash, Ben Pendleton, all of Oklahoma City; Natalie Slater and Chad Clark, both of Tulsa; Sarah Engel-Barnett, Norman; Summer Lu, Weatherford; Thomas Tucker, Edmond; Crystal Walters, Pryor; and Reginna Zhidov, Chickasha — come from around the state and have varying degrees of photography experience.”
“I think that's the really fun part. You've got like professional photographers up against people who are hobbyists,” Boyd said.
“This is really their chance to get into the museum and fill the auditorium with people who are also photo enthusiasts. ... We've had really good attendance in the past. I think by partnering with Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, they are good to help us really connect to the art community in a way that we normally don't get to do.”
In addition, the 12 participants work in varying styles, techniques and subject matters.
Traditional photographs, iPhone shots and photo manipulations are expected to be included.
“It is limited to photography, but within photography, there's all these variations in different styles and ways of working and photographic methods,” Karper said. “That's part of what makes it really interesting.”
The gong doesn't hurt, either.