A Series of Nightly Intellectual Marathons For the First Time Ever in Five U.S. Cities

A Series of Nightly Intellectual Marathons For the First Time Ever in Five U.S. Cities

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy announces the U.S. A Night of Philosophy & Ideas/Night of Ideas programming (from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2) for the global La Nuit des idées 2019, a series of intellectual marathon events coordinated worldwide (65 cities in 2019) by the Institut français, generating a stream of ideas between cities, countries, cultures, topics, and generations. The Cultural Services brought the global interdisciplinary event to New York City in 2015. In 2017, they joined forces with the Brooklyn Public Library to broaden the concept and create Night of Philosophy & Ideas. This kind of intellectual marathon is now being expanded around the country, taking different shapes and names depending on regional partners and local expectations.

Events this year will take place in arguably five of the most influential cities in the U.S.: Washington D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Brooklyn (for the third consecutive year), with the support of Institut français and thanks to the collaboration with major local partners such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts, The Museum of Natural History, the San Francisco Public Library, and the Brooklyn Public Library. Free and open to the public, the events will gather philosophers, intellectuals, researchers and artists, to explore, in a nightly profusion of simultaneous conversations, performances, screenings, VR and 360° experiences, the overarching theme “Facing the Present” and the most pressing issues our contemporary societies.

“We believe that it is essential, in this time of uncertainty, to call upon the power of intellectuals and artists to engage with the general public and encourage critical thinking” says Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States. “Through conversations, performances, screenings, exhibitions and VR experiences, we hope to offer the audience a profusion of lenses with which to face and investigate some of the most pressing issues of our time.”

In honor of the Paris Climate Accord and the leadership of the French government in addressing climate change, the Houston Night of Philosophy & Ideas event (presented from 7pm to 1am January 26 at Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts) will focus on ecology, with discussions foregrounding environmental concerns happening amongst experts in Buddhism, literature, psychology, history, and more. Timothy Morton—an object-oriented philosophy and ecological studies scholar deemed “our most popular guide to the new epoch” by The Guardian—and legendary multidisciplinary artist Laurie Anderson will give keynote presentations. Open Dance Project will perform, and the event will feature art exhibits from Natasha Bowdoin, a Houston-based artist known for her collage work, and Michel Blazy, a Paris-based artist known for working with live and mutating materials in projects that bring attention to the natural transformation of matter over time.

Renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (AmericanahWe Should All Be Feminists) will deliver the keynote address for the Washington, D.C. Night of Ideas event (January 31, 6:30pm-midnight at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden). The event brings together over 50 participants, and will also feature discussions by art critic and curator Bernard Marcadé, philosopher Judith Revel, and more. Performances from the Marching Band Baltimore Project—founded by French visual artist Frédéric Nauczyciel and legendary American voguing performer Marquis Revlon—will open and close the event, which will also feature live music, DJ sets, spoken word, interactive poetry, and dance performances.

For the Los Angeles Night of Ideas event—February 1 from 6pm to 12am—the Museum of Natural History will activate its galleries, diorama halls, theater and public spaces throughout the museum, inside and out. In conjunction with L.A.’s vegan fashion week, Frenchlab will present a Vegan Fashion Show. 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner Robert Lempert will be featured at the event, whose full slate of performers and participants will be announced in January 2019.

In New York, the Brooklyn Public Library will host the premiere event, the only institution to remain open all night with a sundown to sunrise marathon from 7 p.m. February 2 to 7 a.m. February 3. The event will feature over 50 speakers, including Dr. Todd May, the philosophy consultant for popular NBC show, The Good Place; and philosophers Emanuele Coccia and Raphaël Liogier; sociologist Eva Illouz; politician Anastasia Colosimo; and economist Felwine Sarr.

The Library will once again host the wildly popular Dilemma Series—in which philosophers will lead discussions about modern day concerns from gentrification to sexual harassment—with lead questions developed by Professor George Yancy, a regular contributor the New York Times philosophy forum, The Stone, and author of “Dear White America”. WNYC’s 10 Things That Scare Me podcast will invite participants to share their own fears in a special program. In addition, participants will be treated to a live performance titled Manufacturing Mischief. The play, which had its New York debut in the spring of 2018, features wood puppets in the characters of Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx and Elon Musk. Brooklyn-based D.R.E.A.M (Dance Rules Everything Around Me) Ring will transform the Grand Lobby and leave the audience breathless.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, French artist JR, French Ambassador of the United States Gérard Araud, and many more will join together in the SF’s first ever Night of Ideas event, at the San Francisco Public Library (February 2, 7pm-2am). The program will celebrate a diversity of ideas in an evening that interprets the theme through the particular lens of San Francisco as the “City of the Future.” Several stages throughout the library will host various means of expression, with keynote speeches, panel discussions, and intimate dialogues interspersed with music, performance, dance, and yoga.

Schedule and Event Details


January 26


Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts

6100 Main Street, MS-480, Houston, TX 77005

Throughout the night, philosophers and performers will present topics and debate ideas on a wide range of issues pertaining to ecology, including how environmental concerns intersect with ethics, religion, anthropology and social justice.  Internationally renowned multi-media artist and performer Laurie Anderson and Rice professor Timothy Morton will give keynote speeches. Morton will launch the evening of debate with a talk titled, “It’s Not the End of the World. That Was a While Ago.” A Night of Philosophy and Ideas 2019 will explore how collective dialogue and cultural insights can prompt environmental action and motivate national and international change.

Participants will also enjoy musical performances, film screenings, and interactive performance artworks. NASA oceanographer Josh Willis will perform as Climate Elvis, addressing the science of climate change through popular performance. Artist Jae Rhim Lee will demonstrate the benefits of committing our bodies to a greener Earth through a special burial suit seeded with mushrooms. Open Dance Project will perform periodically in the galleries throughout the night.

The Moody has commissioned Houston-based artist Natasha Bowdoin to create a site-specific work that will fill the 24-foot wall of the Central Gallery. Known for her collage-based works made of cut paper and other materials, Bowdoin investigates the potential intersections of the visual and the literary, channeling the experience of reading into the activity of drawing while reimagining our relationship to the natural world.

An exhibition of new work by French artist Michel Blazy—“We Were The Robots”—will be on view in the Moody’s Brown Foundation Gallery, with the support of the FACE Foundation – Étant donnés Contemporary Art program. The installation, a fable about resilience, features burnt transport pallets depicting robots and animals working on the ruins of a post-apocalyptic landscape.

The acclaimed documentary film, Living in the Future’s Past, will play in the Lois Chiles Studio Theater. This beautifully photographed original work, created by Susan Kucera and narrated by Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, asks the question, “What kind of future do we want to live in?” and brings new insights into the environmental challenges confronting the modern world.

This event is presented by the Moody Center for the Arts and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.


January 31


Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW, Washington, DC 20560

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will partner with the French Embassy to present the first Washington D.C. edition of the Night of Ideas, a global marathon of ideas that will activate the Hirshhorn’s entire building with talks and performances by today’s leading thinkers and creators. For one night only, guests will have the unique opportunity to hear from over 50 philosophers, sociologists, economists, musicians, artists and authors from around the world while exploring the museum during special extended hours.

For its Washingtondebut, the Night of Ideas will explore the theme “Facing Our Time” through a diverse range of topics, including civil rights, digital privacy, art and advocacy, economics, feminist philosophy, art history and more. A keynote address will be delivered by renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose internationally acclaimed books including Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Americanah (2013), We Should All Be Feminists (2014) and most recently, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017), have been credited for starting a worldwide conversation about feminism.

Participants will enjoy thought-provoking insights from luminaries including art critic, curator and Marcel Duchamp expert Bernard Marcadé; French philosopher Judith Revel; artificial intelligence specialist Eric Gaussier; Senegalese economist and writer Felwine Sarr; author and national correspondent for The Atlantic Franklin Foer; privacy and public policy expert Dipayan Ghosh; the George Washington University Debate & Literary Society; and Smithsonian Year of Music co-curator Huib Schippers.

Dynamic performances from French visual artist Frédéric Nauczyciel and American voguing performer Marquis Revlon’s Marching Band Baltimore Project will punctuate the beginning and end of the event. The night will also include an interactive poetry performance by Les Souffleurs, an instrumental interpretation of paintings into music by violinist David Schulman and a spoken word presentation by poet Charity Blackwell. Guests will also enjoy pop-up art activations and in-gallery DJ performances throughout the night.

This presentation of the Night of Ideas will also feature: Eva Illouz (sociologist), Raphaël Liogier (philosopher), Manon Garcia (philosopher), Fabien Truong (sociologist), Anastasia Colosimo (political scientist), Jessica Mehta (poet), Ada Pinkston (artist) and Halcyon Arts Lab fellows Kristin Adair, Kelli Rae Adams, Jessica Mehta, Tariq O’Meally, Ada Pinkston, Althea Rao and Naoko Wowsugi.

This event is presented by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Embassy of France in the United States and the Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation.


February 1


Museum of Natural History

900 W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007


On February 1, 2019, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, in collaboration with the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles, will present the Los Angeles program for the ‘Night of Ideas’ (La Nuit des idées).

Within the walls of this historic and prestigious institution, an interdisciplinary lens at the intersection of science, nature, and art will be used to explore this year’s general theme, with an emphasis on the challenges we face around ecological and climate change.

Over 50 participants will address questions related to the nature of our current political, social, and ecological moment, ways to effect change in response, and the power of imagination and creativity.

Galleries, diorama halls, theaters, and public spaces throughout the museum will be activated, inside and out, inviting philosophers, writers, scientists, explorers, musicians, artists, politicians, etc. to illuminate these topics through engaging lectures and conversations, live musical and dance performances, readings, art installations, screenings, and much more.

Among the diverse participants, we are honored to welcome speakers Christophe Girard, Deputy Mayor of Paris for Cultural Affairs, and Robert Lempert, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2007. One of the highlights of the event will be a Vegan, animal-free fashion show by Le Frenchlab and Emmanuelle Rienda, coinciding with the opening of the Vegan fashion week in Los Angeles.

Many other surprises will be announced soon and will contribute to make this Night of Ideas a Night to be remembered in Los Angeles.


February 2


Brooklyn Public Library

10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238

With nearly 8,000 visitors in 2018, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy are thrilled to present the 2019 edition of A Night of Philosophy & Ideas, a sunset-to-sunrise event bringing philosophers, cultural critics, artists, and authors from around the world into conversation with the New York community. Some fifty speakers and performers from the US, France, Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Germany and Mexico, will take part in the event, exploring the theme “Facing the Present” on political and social levels. Among the speakers are philosophers Emanuele Coccia, Simon Critchley, Raphaël Liogier, Frances Fox Piven and Peter Szendy, sociologist Eva Illouz, urban planner Guillaume Faburel, political scientist Anastasia Colosimo, economist Felwine Sarr, and historian Sophie Wahnich.

Throughout the night, the company Souffleurs commandos poétiques, composed of 13 artists, will circulate throughout the library to whisper poetry in the ears of the visitors. WNYC will present a live version of its new “10 Things That Scare Me” podcast series, and The Stone, a New York Times column on philosophy, will sponsor a series of readings. New this year, an MIT-produced puppet show by renowned Mexican artist Pedro Reyes featuring wood-carved puppets of Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Elon Musk; and an electric one-of-a-kind dance performance by D.R.E.A.M (Dance Rules Everything Around Me) Ring of East New York.

The event will also feature two films: Chris Marker’s rarely seen film “Owl’s Legacy” (1989), a 13-episode series, totaling nearly six hours and featuring artists and philosophers from around the world reflecting on the legacy of ancient Greece over the centuries, presented for the first time in New York; and “15 Hours” (2017) by Wang Bing, a 15-hour long film about a garment processing center of 300,000 workers in China, screened throughout the night. National Sawdust will offer several concerts throughout the evening, and sessions of yoga, meditation or Tai Chi will help participants refresh and reflect.


February 2


San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch

100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (January 8, 2019) – The French Consulate in San Francisco, San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) jointly announce the first San Francisco edition of the global marathon event Night of Ideas  on Feb. 2, 2019, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., at the San Francisco Main Library.

Presented in collaboration with the City of San Francisco, and a vibrant ecosystem of local cultural, science, tech and academic partners, this free seven-hour marathon of philosophical debate, talks, performances, readings, and music features top thinkers from San Francisco and beyond in a format designed to spur dialogue on the theme “Facing our Time: the City of the Future.”

With keynotes, panels and presentations by diverse voices including San Francisco mayor London Reed, artist JR, (whose video mural The Chronicles of San Francisco opens at SFMOMA in April 2019), Dominique Crenn, chef/owner of the three Michelin-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn, Gerard Araud, French Ambassador to the United States, architect Nicola Delon, designer of the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale, among other speakers.

The event is made possible with the support of Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, 836M, the Cultural and Scientific Services of the French Embassy in the United States, French Bee, the Intercontinental Hotels of San Francisco, the French American Cultural Society and KQED, our media partner.

About A Night of Philosophy & Ideas

A Night of Philosophy & Ideas is a marathon of philosophical debate, performances, screenings, readings, and music produced in connection with La Nuit des idées, an annual world-wide event organized by the Institut français, Paris.

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy has co-produced intellectual marathons in New York City in 2015 and in Los Angeles since 2017. Since 2017, the Cultural Services has partnered with Brooklyn Public Library, to create Night of Philosophy & Ideas in New York.  This kind of intellectual marathon is now being expanded around the country, taking different shapes and names depending on regional partners and local expectations. The events will take place in five U.S. cities: Houston (Jan. 26 at Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts); Washington D.C. (Jan. 31 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden); Los Angeles (Feb. 1 at The Museum of Natural History); San Francisco (Feb. 2 at the San Francisco Public Library); and New York City (Feb. 2 at the Brooklyn Public Library).

All events are co-produced by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Institut français, Paris, and local partners.

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