IDEAS CITY: Third Edition of the Festival will Explore The Invisible City.

The New Museum’s Festival IDEAS CITY 

The Invisible City

May 20-30, 2015

Bowery neighbourhood of downtown Manhattan, New York

Joseph Grima is Director of the New Museum’s IDEAS CITY team

Ideas City Executive Committee & Core Team:

Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director, New Museum; Karen Wong, Deputy Director, New Museum; Rosalie Genevro, Director, the Architectural League of New York; Bob Holman, Founder and Proprietor, Bowery Poetry Club; Elizabeth O’Donnell, Acting Dean, School of Architecture, Cooper Union; Brett Littman, Director, the Drawing Center; and Eva Franch i Gilabert, Director and Chief Curator, Storefront for Art and Architecture.

Founded by the New Museum in 2011, IDEAS CITY is a major collaborative initiative between hundreds of arts, education, and civic organizations centered on the belief that culture is fundamentally and inextricably vital to urban growth and innovation. The Festival builds on the New Museum’s mission of “New Art, New Ideas” by expanding the Museum beyond its walls into the civic realm.

The theme of this year’s Festival is The Invisible City. During three days of conferences, debates, workshops, performances, and architectural and artistic interventions, IDEAS CITY will explore questions of transparency and surveillance, citizenship and representation, expression and suppression, and the enduring quest for visibility in the city. The Festival will reconfigure the Bowery neighborhood into a multi-platform incubator that asks a collective public to explore issues faced by the city, propose solutions, and seed concrete actions.

“The intangible, seething energy that the legendary Bowery neighborhood is steeped in will once again become visible as we peel back the surface of the streets to take a closer look at the lives that surround us every day, in our own neighborhood and beyond, to expose, examine, and question the numerous cultural, social, political, and technological transformations we are undergoing as a society,” said Joseph Grima, Director of IDEAS CITY.

Schedule & Programming Highlights


Thursday, May 28

The Festival kicks off with a series of talks, panels, discussions, and short films at the Great Hall at Cooper Union. Speakers will include some of the world’s most forward-thinking visionaries, who will discuss key civic issues and formulate action for the city of tomorrow. Panels will examine the following topics and questions:

  • Within the city, an increasing number of people—such as the homeless, elderly, and undocumented immigrants—are disappearing from sight. Is there a cartography to identify those who have wandered or been driven from the center?
  • The designers shaping the cities of the future must engage with an increasingly challenging set of hypothetical conditions—scenarios that often remain invisible to their inhabitants. How do urbanists, architects, and activists create habitats that anticipate drastic future change such as overcrowding and climate reversals?
  • We are increasingly dependent on global-network infrastructures that are as invisible as they are vast. How can networks and processes be made more transparent, accessible, and empowering? What role do they play in guaranteeing accountability? Can art be the connective membrane in this process?
  • A vast proportion of our lives exist as an invisible online record of our identities, interests, and affiliations. What role does data and privacy play in the perpetuation of democracy in the twenty-first century?

Select participants include:

Lawrence Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University, advocates for the open-spectrum movement and the need for a Second Constitutional Congress.

Bjarke Ingels, an architect renowned for his innovative approach to sustainable development and renewable energy, is conceptualizing a park to protect New York City from rising water surges and is designing Google’s new campus in Palo Alto, California.

Trevor Paglen created the term “Experimental Geography” and uses his work as an artist to shed light on the erosion of privacy.

Micah White, Cocreator of Occupy Wall Street and Founder of the Boutique Activist Consultancy specializing in “impossible campaigns” and the handshake between capitalism and activism.

Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, specializes in free expression in the Arab world.

Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, is an expert in the role played by third-party service providers in easing law enforcement surveillance of their customers.


Friday, May 29

On the second day, IDEAS CITY upends typical formulas of conference-making by replacing talks and panels with a day of private workshops and an evening of performative actions. This inspiring circus of activity will animate a basilica, gym, and a neighborhood street, illuminating invisible undercurrents in our city. Programming includes:

  • The next best design idea at Pitching the City, organized by Architizer and Municipal Art Society, will showcase the newest city-building projects. Voting is open to the public.
  • Artist Jordi Jorba will repurpose an inoperative hot-air balloon inside a gymnasium to create colorful, temporary structures that house performances.
  • BattleFest, curated by Kareem Baptiste, bridges the underground and commercial mainstream dance worlds for one-on-one dance battles.
  • For the 2015 Poetic Address to the Nation, Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club, has organized ten poets to contribute sonnets on the state of our union.
  • 2013 IDEAS CITY: São Paulo participant Daniel Lima will present an audiovisual experience with a live score by Brazilian and Harlem-based musicians, infused with interviews by displaced residents of Harlem, São Paulo, Rio, Havana, and Berlin.
  • Danny Hoch will perform an excerpt from Taking Over, a play about gentrification and feelings of displacement in New York City, taking on the character of a taxi dispatcher.
  • Penny Arcade will perform Longing Lasts Longer, a passionate rumination on love, longing, and the loss of New York’s cultural identity, set to a rollicking live-mixed soundscape.
  • Ursula Scherrer will present afloat, v. 2, a durational installation animated by a multiple-projection video environment and a live soundtrack.


Saturday, May 30

One hundred cultural and community groups will transform the streetscape around the Bowery neighborhood into a temporary city of ideas, redefining public space through participatory programming and unexpected structures for gathering, several of which will be constructed from normally invisible commercial materials. Free and open to the public, all ages. Highlights include:

  • Using US waste products as construction material, the ETH Zurich Pavilion at the First Street Garden will redefine waste, acknowledging its capacity as a substance from which to construct new cities. In collaboration with New York City Parks and Recreation and First Street Green.
  • The Center for Genomic Gastronomy with Edible Geography uses egg foams to harvest air pollution and make smog meringues from different locations to allow urban atmospheres to be tasted and compared. Presented by the Finnish Cultural Institute.
  • Join artist Marjetica Potrč’s The Invisible Lunch Discussions with incognito speakers to address affordable housing and food at a one hundred-foot-long table stretching the length of Rivington Street.

  • The Hester Street Fair will bring together favorite local fare for a mini food festival on Rivington Street.
  • Genspace, a citizen science biotech lab, and scientist Christine Marizzi from the DNA Learning Center will offer a hands-on bacteria-printing workshop, making New York City’s microbiome visible and accessible.
  • The Institute For Aesthletics’s Mayan Ball Game Tournament will mash the ancient Mesoamerican sport with New York City street basketball.
  • NEW INC, the New Museum’s incubator for art, design, and technology, and cyberfeminist research collective Deep Lab’s week-long residency will explore privacy, security, surveillance, anonymity, and data aggregation, culminating in performances and workshops.
  • Explore the Institute for Public Architecture’s proposals for public and below-market housing in New York City, created in response to Mayor de Blasio’s “total reset” for housing.
  • The Living Theatre presents No Place to Hide, an experimental and participatory theater experience about hiding and the human condition.
  • Cooper Square Committee will lead a Tenants’ Rights Walking Tour, designed to both highlight tenant-organizing victories and the present-day struggles tenants face on the Lower East Side.
  • The Circus for Construction and Austin + Mergold investigates building insulation—a ubiquitous, but invisible, construction material—in an exhibition presented on this traveling event space on the back of a truck.

  • Join the Manny Cantor Center for a senior citizen–led walking tour of the Lower East Side suffused with personal stories of our ever-changing neighborhood.

  • A Pigeon’s Perspective, organized by the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris, is a walking tour that will explain the presence of pigeons on the Lower East Side scientifically, historically, and culturally.

  • The Greenpoint Bioremediation Project with the Urban Soils Institute at Brooklyn College will perform free personal onsite soil testing.
  • A full schedule of events and ticketing information will be announced in the coming weeks.

Image: Courtesy IDEAS CITY Festival.

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