In the Spirit of a World Fair, but Greener: The New Museum’s Festival of Ideas for the New City
The New Museum is to the Lower East Side like a great prospector, swinging its pickax into a transforming urban landscape. Its newly inaugurated Festival of Ideas for the New City, taking place May 4 – 8, is intended as a “dynamic laboratory for creative thinking” with participants invited from many disciplines to present ideas, projects and products related to urban living.
The festival parallels events like the 1939–1940 New York World’s Fair, Building the World of Tomorrow, in the grand, utopian tenor it sets. The event is certain to stir economic life, and to brand the particular neighborhoods of the Lower East Side, East Village, Soho, Nolita and Chinatown with the New Museum ordained creative center.
The Festival takes three distinct forms: a three-day conference, including symposia, lectures and workshops; a one-day StreetFest of local and grassroots vendors; and a series of over 100 projects exhibited throughout the weekend on the street and in downtown venues. Rem Koolhaas is to provide the keynote address at the conference (7pm, May 4, Rosenthal Pavilion, Kimmel Center, NYU, 60 Washington Sq South) and will be discussing the urban landscape through distinct perspectives: the heterogeneous city, the networked city, the reconfigured city and the sustainable city. Various professionals from arts, architecture, politics and technology fields will participate at the New Museum, New York University and the Cooper Union.
The StreetFest, the name having the abruptness of urban lingo, strays from the institutions towards the local and grassroots while retaining an instructive air. Taking place on Saturday, May 7, along the Bowery and in Sara D. Roosevelt Park from 11:00am to 7:00pm, it promises to transform the normal street environment with architectural propositions with two environmentally-inspired tent modules commissioned for the event: The Worms by Family and PlayLab. As is typical with street festivals there will be a focus on food, with cooking demonstrations, classes on urban gardening and vendors toting locally grown products. But with StreetFest’s ambitious goal of zero waste, even the task of disposing of one’s trash promises to be pedagogic with uniquely designed garbage receptacles.
It is the 100 plus projects, hosted by numerous venues, art galleries in particular, and displayed on the streets that are aggressively unearthing the creative might of Downtown. Saturday and Sunday promise to be fervent affairs, with projects occurring simultaneously. Many venues will be burning the midnight oil: White Box, for instance, will be open 31 hours straight. Nuit Blanche New York will transform the night with site-specific light, sound and projection art.
The New Museum is conscious of its role in the gentrification of the Bowery, and the irony that it is, itself, part of the dispersion of an art community that contributes to its content. But being that the capitalist clock keeps ticking, the New Museum is proactive, carefully crafting, labeling and nudging its surrounding community to a visible creative fervor.
For times, venues and ticket reservations for related events, visit www.festivalofideasnyc.com