I’m going to take a break from my Buenos Aires travelogue to recap an event in NYC that I attended this past weekend. The Festival of Ideas for the New City was a collaboration between several downtown organizations anchored by the New Museum. The biggest event was the Saturday street fest which stretched along the Bowery and over into a park.
We started our visit out strong with Cabinet Magazine’s University-on-the-Bowery, which was offering one-on-one lectures by scholars on their areas of expertise. Our lecture was on poetry, particularly the way poems in English get their rhythm from the stressed parts of the words. So after reading some Auden and Dickinson, we continued on our way feeling much more enlightened.
The “ideas” of the festival were all about rethinking our interaction with urban space, particularly that of New York (perhaps even more specific: Brooklyn, which was a little odd for a Manhattan festival). Bicycles, of course, were in abundance. I did like the smoothie making bike above. I assume it would be blended by the time you reached your destination.
The most photographed participant was probably Bushwick Art Park, which had those fantastic sign people I started this post with and also…
Some lounging knit people by Olek! You might remember when I happened upon her knit apartment a few months ago. Later in the day we saw a knit bike chained to a pole.
Over in the park, we wandered around these lounge chairs you could assemble and saw the temporary, inflatable Space Buster.
Some of the participants were direct in asking for your ideas, like with this chalkboard acting as a forum on the subway. I realize that everyone has the same handwriting as me when they are writing in chalk, so I’ll just say that our unpictured response was to have better outer borough service. (Please!)
While in the end they seemed more trouble than they were worth, these typewriter shoes were delightful. Each person had two letters/symbols, and bracelets that remind them which is on which foot. Two people had harnesses that connected to a huge scroll that was rolled out and they were attempting to write a paragraph.
These eviction keys, especially being on the Bowery that has experienced such rapid change, were a reminder of the continued problem of rent in this city.
And what about the lack of urban green space? Sure, you could set up a roof garden…but why not use a pick up truck?
After over two hours at the festival, we took a break to watch the Kentucky Derby at an LES bar and drink a couple of mint juleps. And that was the 30 seconds of the year when I care about horse racing.
That evening, we continued to another Festival of Ideas event: School Nite.
School Nite was held in an empty elementary school, with different artists and organizations taking over the classrooms and hallways. Out in the school yard, there was music and a bar made of doors. You got a big “HALL PASS” stamp on your hand on entering the building.
I liked how the pastel colored school rooms lined with chalkboards gave a contrasting or collaborating innocence to the art installations. It especially worked with Boyfriend/Girlfriend, which had a pile of candy you could take, but which turned out to be spraypainted plaster.
This artist, Oliver Warden, encased himself in a plexiglass box that had a light switch. When it was off, the front just looked like a mirror and when you turned it on, he quickly turned it off again.
This installation by Joy Drury Cox, presented by the Humble Arts Foundation, had the blank pages from books arranged on the walls.
Gowanus Studio Space had a preview of its summer maritime arts festival Sea Worthy.
Especially enjoyable was the Underground Library, where an instructor distributed poetry books that we read aloud from. I sort of felt like I’d stumbled back into Sleep No More. The idea of the Underground Library is to distribute alternative music and fiction by mail, complete with check out slips. I am definitely going to become a member.
Drive By Press was displaying some results of its mobile printing unit. On the same floor, we stopped in on a tea ceremony in a makeshift yurt.
Justin Adian had covered a whole bulletin board in ads. I was drawn to the octopus and greatly amused by this one for Cats.
This futuristic pendulum by artist Bill Smith with PPOW Gallery was made with an emu egg in water, magnets, and compressed air. Its rise and fall was related to the animals that were projected on the wall. It was definitely the most exquisite art I saw. In the room’s coat closet he had installed an illumination of a locust shell.
The most unsettling art was this performance by Amanda Schmitt and Myla Dalbesio that had two girls in pink dresses dancing in a smoky room filled with balloons. It was eerily beautiful, although also a little terrifying.
We briefly attended a slideshow on the Chairs of Berlin, and then headed back to the school yard where several drummers were syncing their beats with the lights of the curious triangle structure shown above.
Night had fallen, and we continued to Flash: Light, where part of Mulberry Street was closed and swarming with people and light installations.
The festive atmosphere was contagious, and made me happy that the warm and active days of NYC have finally returned. People are outside!
In St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Marco Brambilla’s film Civilization, a re-imagining of Dante’s Divine Comedy, was screening in 3D. It was quite surreal to be in the old stone church, surrounded by people in cheap red and blue 3D glasses, with a whiff of incense coming from the shadows where candles were lit around saints.
Our last stop was back on Bowery at the New Museum, where films were being screened on its Jenga-block surface. It was mesmerizing and really well done. I, unsurprisingly, rather liked this literary graffiti.
And after all that, we retreated into a coffee shop for a much needed rest. If the new city is anything like this, I will be pleased.