Imagine not leaving your street for a whole year. 365 days living within the boundary of just one ordinary road, in an ordinary part of the city.
In a project named Jaffa Jaffa, experimental Dutch film-maker Marnix Haak did exactly that, not stepping foot outside Javastraat in Amsterdam East from 1 September 2016 to 1 September 2017. For 365 days Marnix existed purely within his immediate community, getting to know every inch of his street and the people who lived there.
The artist wanted to know why it was that his friends were keen to travel the world and meet new people rather than engaging with those right there on the doorstep. Is there really more to be learnt from the far than from the near? Or are most of us just blind to our communities, living alongside one another distanced by imagined difference?
In PechaKucha you are allowed just 20 slides, with a 20 second time limit per slide in which to share your story. We see photos of Marnix dressed up with grinning bin men, Marnix riding on segways with the local kids, Marnix at a Ramadan feast, Marnix learning how to carve a kebab and moving footage of Marnix saying goodbye to a terminally-ill neighbor who became a close friend.
This was just one of the twelve Pecha Kucha presentations at Amsterdam’s De School last night. We also heard from a chef who’s founded a supper club for isolated pensioners, a journalist who collected his own waste plastic for 1000 days, a carpenter turning old fridges into beautiful furniture, a cartographer questioning who owns the Arctic, and an illustrator who lived in the Hortus Botanicus for a week sketching plants at night.
Each had just six minutes and 40 seconds in the limelight. The boundaries, for Marnix Haak and for PechaKucha are very rigid. And yet, these tight parameters are enough to prove just how many extraordinary, ordinary people there are in this community. You don't need to travel far, you don't need money or power to make a contribution. Sometimes you just need a mad idea.
This article was written by Daisy Allsup and first appeared on her personal website.