A Night of Philosophy and Ideas to Take Place in 7 Cities

A Night of Philosophy and Ideas to Take Place in 7 Cities

JANUARY 7, 2020- The Cultural Services of the French Embassy announces the U.S. A Night of Philosophy & Ideas/Night of Ideas programming (from January 25 to February 2) for the global La Nuit des idées 2020, a series of intellectual marathons for the general public, coordinated worldwide by the Institut français. Events around the world will unite around this year’s central theme: “Being Alive”, exploring humanity’s relationship with the world and other species. The national program is made possible with major support from the Open Society Foundations. These nighttime marathons bring together thousands of attendees to experience public discussions and performances by major thinkers and artists, and to participate in philosophical conversations about the most pressing issues of our time, in an atmosphere resembling a summer music festival or a large-scale art happening. The series generates a stream of ideas spanning cities, countries, cultures, topics, and generations. The Cultural Services brought the global interdisciplinary event to New York City in 2015 and joined forces with Brooklyn Public Library in 2017 broadening the concept and creating A Night of Philosophy & Ideas. In the years since, the Brooklyn event and the national occurrences have grown steadily in ambition and scale, with iterations being held in cities across the country and taking different shapes depending on regional partners and local expectations.

The 2020 U.S. A Night of Philosophy & Ideas/Night of Ideas is the largest to date, with seven cities participating—four of them for the first time. The series kicks off with the first-ever event in Norfolk, Virginia, where Slover Library, in partnership with Old Dominion University, hosts a weekend-long lineup of conversations, live music, art, and more, January 25 & 26. This year, the series also makes local debuts in Chicago, January 30 at the iconic Field Museum, where programming will explore topics such as environmental equilibrium, the relationship between humans and technology, and urban sustainability; Miami, January 30 at Books & Books Coral Gables, featuring international philosophers, writers, artists, and an art historian, co-presented by Letra Urbana; and Boston, in partnership with Harvard University, January 31 at the William James Hall. Night of Ideas returns for a second time to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and for a third year in the city, with a lineup featuring, photographer Ian McCallister, virtual nature reserve pioneer Adrien Moisson, oceanographer Bethanie Edwards, and Benoît Lecomte, the first man to swim the Atlantic Ocean. San Francisco’s second annual Night of Ideas takes place February 1 & 2 at the San Francisco Main Public Library and is co-presented by SFMOMA and KQED.

The 2020 series reaches a climactic conclusion with the fourth annual event at the main branch of Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza, where the event drew more than 7,000 attendees in 2019 (with an additional 6,000 views on Livestream). This year’s A Night of Philosophy & Ideas, co-presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Brooklyn Public Library, is an all-night marathon of philosophical debate, performances, screenings, readings, music, and virtual reality experiences that brings together more than 60 philosophers and artists from France, the U.S., and around the world, from 7pm on February 1 to 7am on February 2. Among them are 2019 Nobel Prize-winning economist Esther Duflo, who delivers the keynote; Institute for Advanced Studies anthropologist, sociologist, and physician Didier Fassin; journalist and sex columnist Maïa Mazaurette; and philosophers Catherine Malabou and Barbara Stiegler. There will also be performances and art by French juggler Jérôme Thomas, Armenian-Syrian installation artist Hratch Arbach, and New York-based artist Mary Mattingly.

“When the French Embassy first brought A Night of Philosophy & Ideas to New York City five years ago, it was an instant success. Since then, it has continued to grow, drawing more than 30,000 people to events across the country in 2019,” says Gaëtan Bruel, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the U.S. “This year, we are thrilled to be partnering with cultural and academic institutions in 7 major U.S. cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Norfolk, and San Francisco.”

Event Details

Norfolk, VA
A Night of Philosophy & Ideas
January 25 & 26 | 7am to 7pm
Slover Library (235 E Plume St., Norfolk, VA, 23510)
Co-presenters: Old Dominion University and the Slover Library Foundation

Virginia’s first-ever Night of Philosophy & Ideas will ponder this year’s central theme, “Being Alive” exploring humanity’s relationship with the world and other species. The majestic central atrium at Slover Library in Norfolk will set the stage for a 12-hour marathon of lectures and performances on topics such as human resiliency, sea-level rise, wellness, and ecological solutions in Hampton Roads and beyond.

Chicago, IL
Night of Ideas
January 30 | 6pm – 12am
Field Museum (1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605)
Co-presenters: Field Museum, Consulate General of France in Chicago

Chicago’s first-ever Night of Ideas will offer guests after-hours access to the Field Museum for a series of intellectual talks, panels, and workshops exploring this year’s central theme on topics such as climate change and biodiversity, urban sustainability, humans and technology, sex positivity, disability leadership and more. Honored guests will include Franco-Congolese novelist Alain Mabanckou; economist and former advisor under President Obama, Michael Greenstone; visual artist Amanda Williams; and WBEZ’s South Side reporter Natalie Moore. Throughout the evening, museum spaces will also host performances by French juggler Jérôme Thomas, Chicago’s ERA Footwork Crew, and interactive happenings including live music, poetry, group yoga, tai chi and meditation.

Miami, FL
Night of Ideas
January 30 | 5:30pm-11pm
Books & Books Coral Gables (265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134)
Co-presenters: Books & Books, Letra Urbana, Consulate General of France in Miami, Coral Gables Cinema

The first Miami edition of Night of Ideas will bring together philosophers, authors, and artists including Otávio Bueno (Professor of Philosophy at University of Miami), Evelyn Dean-Olmsted (University of Porto Rico), Maïa Mazaurette (French writer and GQ sex columnist), Roni Avissar (Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at University of Miami), Carola Bravo (artist), Francine Birbragher (art historian and curator), Germán Guerra, (Poet and Editor at el Nuevo Herald), Nicholas Vazquez (activist for climate change)and Hip-Hop dance from Martinique (D.Milome & C.Thine). Also slated for the night is a preview of Les Misérables, winner of the Jury Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and France’s official submission for the Best International Feature Film category to the 92nd Academy Awards.

Los Angeles, CA | Night of Ideas
January 31 | 5:30pm-11pm
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
(900 W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007)
Co-presenters: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Consulate General of France in Los Angeles

The 2020 Los Angeles edition of Night of Ideas, at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM), explores humanity’s relationship with the world and other species via talks, films, performances, music and interactive discussions through the lenses of science, philosophy, art, nature, and culture. As “Being Alive,” the theme of this year’s event, can be understood as a command, a call to awareness, an action or a commitment, this Night of Ideas convenes a range of powerful voices, including award-winning photographer and one of Time magazine’s Leaders of the 21st Century, Ian McCallister; founder of Wild Immersion, the world’s first virtual nature reserve, Adrien Moisson; oceanographer and professor Bethanie Edwards; the first man to swim the Atlantic Ocean, Benoît Lecomte; and many others to be announced.

Boston, MA
A Night of Philosophy & Ideas
January 31 | 6pm-11pm
William James Hall, Harvard University (33 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138)
Co-presenters: Cultural Services of the Consulate General of France in Boston, Harvard University (Center for Hellenic Studies, Center for European Studies, Committee on Degrees in Social Studies)

Boston’s first Night of Philosophy & Ideas at Harvard University will bring together academics from various disciplines, as well as artists, activists, and public intellectuals to address a variety of timely questions around this year’s central theme: Being Alive. What is the good life? What does life mean for us but also for other living creatures? What do we owe to each other? How have recent technological changes affected the ways in which we understand ourselves? By diving into topics as diverse as physics, sex, greek heroes, police shooting, Darwinism, zombies, gender equality, migration, subjectivity, slavery, and pull-ups, we will explore life in the 21st century. The event will also feature a magic performance, poetry reading, a dance show, a concert, screenings and book swaps.

San Francisco, CA
Night of Ideas
February 1 | 7pm-2am
San Francisco Main Public Library (100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102)
Co-presenters:  San Francisco Public Library, SFMOMA, KQED, and the French Consulate
Main partners: City of San Francisco, Friends of San Francisco Public Library, 836M and Microsoft

San Francisco’s 2020 Night of Ideas adapts this year’s central theme, “Être vivant,” The event will bring together the academic, artistic, tech, and science communities to explore the sources of tension that pervade contemporary society and preoccupy its members as well as to explore what it means to live together. More than 30 topics relating to Living on the Edge will be explored over the course of the evening, on all seven floors of the Library, with each floor devoted to one of the following themes: chaos + creation, wonder + worry, exclusion + belonging, truth + doubt, and circulation + borders.

Brooklyn, NY
A Night of Philosophy & Ideas
February 1 & 2 | 7pm-7am
Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238)
Co-presenters: Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Brooklyn Public Library 

A Night of Philosophy & Ideas, at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, is this country’s largest event. An all-night marathon of philosophical debate, performances, screenings, readings, music, and virtual reality experiences takes over the entirety of the iconic Central Library.

This year’s participants will consider humanity’s relationship to the world, to nature, to other living beings and species, and to technology. They will ask: What is the meaning of life? How do we live our lives from beginning to end, be it striving or barely surviving? How do we define that experience and how do we situate ourselves in this world?

French-American economist Esther Duflo, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, will kick off the evening with a keynote address. The lineup also features a French anthropologist, sociologist, and physician Didier Fassin, professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales; Catherine Malabou, professor of Philosophy at Kingston University (UK) and UCI; Maïa Mazaurette, a Brooklyn-based French author, columnist, and illustrator whose work deals with contemporary sexuality and the body’s place in society; and Barbara Stiegler, professor of philosophy at the University of Bordeaux Montaigne and a member of the Institut Universitaire de France.

Performances will include Unnamed, from Jérôme Thomas, a French juggler whose work integrates contemporary dance and theatre, and Armenian-Syrian artist Hratch Arbach’s MAWTINI: lost homelands, in a site-specific installation. The event will also feature a late-night screening of Jacques Rivette’s landmark 1971 film Out 1, and an exhibition of work by New York-based visual artist Mary Mattingly, whose “sculptural ecosystems” in urban spaces include Swale and Pull, and who founded the Waterpod Project (2009), a barge-based public space and self-sufficient habitat that hosted over 200,000 visitors in New York.

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.