Ta-Nehisi Coates to Curate Third Annual Festival Albertine, November 2-6
Five-Day Free Festival Hosted by Albertine Books, the French Embassy’s Acclaimed Bookshop and Intellectual Hub, Will Explore the Changing Nature and Importance of Identity in the U.S. and France
Speakers to Include Kehinde Wiley, Ryan Coogler, Benjamin Millepied, Claudia Rankine, Darryl Pinckney, Jelani Cobb, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Thelma Golden, Jennifer Homans, Nacira Guénif-Souilamas, Amin Maalouf, Pap Ndiaye, and Adam Shatz
All Events Will Be Streamed Live at livestream.com/frenchembassy
Ta-Nehisi Coates, the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me, is the curator of the third annual Festival Albertine, a free, five-day literary festival hosted by Albertine Books, the groundbreaking bookshop operated by the French Embassy in New York. Coates has invited a wide range of American and French artists, thinkers, and scholars to discuss a topic of growing relevance in both countries: what our national, social, and cultural labels mean today. In conversation with one another, they will seek to understand how black identity, in America and France, has changed in the wake of Black Lives Matter; what the rise of the populist right in both countries means for national identity; and what both countries’ attitudes toward immigration have done to shape its interaction with the broader world. Presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Albertine Books, Festival Albertine will take place November 2-6.
All Festival Albertine 2016 events will take place at Albertine Books, located in in the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York (972 Fifth Avenue). Additional participants and the full festival schedule will be announced soon at Albertine.com. All events will be streamed live at livestream.com/frenchembassy.
Of the festival he has curated, Coates says, “Our vehicle for this understanding will be the arts—dance, music, literature, film, and the visual arts. These questions of identity have been tackled ad infinitum by those interested in sociology and electoral politics. But art shapes the imagination and outlines the sense of what is possible. It is art that attacks and interrogates our labels and chosen names, and reduces us to our common humanity.”
The Festival Albertine 2016 lineup features celebrated artists from multiple disciplines, as well as leading scholars and writers about culture, identity, and labels. Among the Americans headlining the festival are New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb; filmmaker Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Black Panther); comic book author Kelly Sue Deconnick (Bitch Planet); the Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Thelma Golden; novelist (Black Deutschland), playwright, and essayist Darryl Pinckney; poet and writer Claudia Rankine (Citizen); journalist and author Adam Shatz; author and founding director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, Jennifer Homans; and artist Kehinde Wiley. Coates has paired them with French luminaries including sociologist and anthropologist Nacira Guénif-Souilamas, author Amin Maalouf, dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, and historian Pap Ndiaye.
In curating the festival, Coates, who just returned to New York from a year in Paris, takes up a notion articulated by James Baldwin, who was born in New York and died in Paris. In his memoir, No Name in the Street, Baldwin examines the contingent nature of national identity in general, and of French identity in particular. His subjects are the Algerians living in Paris, a people who “spoke French, and had been, in a sense, produced by France” and yet “were not at home in Paris, no more at home than I.” Coates explains that “Baldwin was drawing a not-so-subtle comparison with his own identity as a black American. He was also doing something more—asserting the labels we use to ascribe identity are situational. The words ‘black,’ ‘Arab,’ ‘Muslim,’ ‘American’ and ‘French’ are not bone-deep and immutable, but categories that have no meaning outside of history and events. There is something both sanguine and challenging in Baldwin’s view. It proposes that conflicts between cultures are not inevitable but the result of policies and decisions. But it also puts responsibility on people, themselves, to make the requisite changes in policy.” Festival Albertine’s focus on Baldwin’s challenge is especially timely, as the events will take place in the days leading up the the U.S. presidential election on November 8.
Inaugurated in 2014 in the newly-opened Albertine Books, Festival Albertine has quickly become a vital summit for discourse between leading French-speaking and American thinkers, and has cemented Albertine Books’ reputation as New York City’s hub for French-American intellectual exchange. In its first two years, the festival has tackled topics ranging from the state of feminism to the future of journalism to efforts to combat climate change. Author, journalist, and cultural critic Greil Marcus curated the 2014 festival, which featured “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, filmmaker Olivier Assayas, author Mary Gaitskill, graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash, and Fields Medal-winning mathematician Cédric Villani. Festival Albertine 2015 enlisted innovators including National Book Award winner Judith Thurman, Performa founding director RoseLee Goldberg, author Adam Gopnik, Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu, and The New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly to curate a variety of discussions. Participants included The New Yorker editor David Remnick, graphic novelist Phoebe Gloeckner, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author Margo Jefferson, and author Katie Roiphe, who were joined by French-speaking voices including Mauritania-born film director Abderrahmane Sissako, Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud, and cartoonist and film director Riad Sattouf.
The Festival Albertine is made possible with major support from The Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, Susannah Hunnewell, Air France, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Institut français. Generous support is provided by Michele and Timothy Barakett, Cheryl and Blair Effron, and Champagne Pommery.
Special thanks to The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.
About Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a writer, journalist, and educator. He is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social, and political issues, particularly as they regard African-Americans. Coates has worked for The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, and Time. He has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Washington Monthly, O, and other publications. In 2008, he published a memoir, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. His second book, Between the World and Me, was released in July 2015. It won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Beyond the practical call for reparations, the book brings to light the issues that physically affect African-American lives: how their bodies are enslaved, how violence sprung from slavery, and how various forms of institutional racism occur today. Coates just completed a year in Paris on a writing fellowship.
About the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, intellectuals and innovators to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts. www.frenchculture.org
About Albertine Books
Described by The New York Times as a “sumptuous, swaddled nest where book lovers can roost,” Albertine, the French Embassy’s reading room and bookshop, is a haven dedicated to bringing to life French-American intellectual exchange. It holds 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries, both in French and in English translation. Albertine offers the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in the United States.
Housed within the historic Payne Whitney Mansion, headquarters of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York, the bookshop and cultural space provide unprecedented access to a previously private mansion featuring a stunning new design by one of France’s most celebrated modern architects, Jacques Garcia.
Since Albertine opened in September 2014, the Embassy has welcomed thousands of visitors eager to explore French literature and culture. It has become a veritable must-see destination in New York City. Albertine also provides a venue for cross-cultural programming all year long, with discussions exploring culture through both a contemporary and global lens. Every month French, Francophone or American writers, as well as artists, illustrators, scholars and entrepreneurs are invited to discuss various topics. www.albertine.com
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