Ai Weiwei and Patti Smith will kick off the Night of Ideas. Photo: Ai Weiwei Studio / Elekes Andor

A Brooklyn event that once ran from sundown to sunup at the Central Library on Grand Army Plaza can this year be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, wherever that may be.

The virtualization of the Brooklyn Public Library’s 6th annual ‘Night of Ideas‘ may be a necessity due to the pandemic, but it also allows its Brooklyn-based programming to be enjoyed on a global scale.

The six-hour event kicks off Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6pm with a performance by New York poet and musician Patti Smith, and runs through to midnight.

‘Night of Ideas’ is a collaboration with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. It runs in association with the global 24-hour virtual La Nuit des idées, coordinated worldwide by the Institut Français and streaming in 75 countries.

Historian, author, and visual artist Nell Painter and Mexican political scientist and journalist Yuri Herrera. Image (l-r): Dwight Carter / Lisbeth Salas

The Brooklyn edition will bring together artists, writers, critics, historians and philosophers from across the borough and beyond for a six-hour exploration of the world’s most urgent ideas.

“At the start of a new year and a new chapter in American history, we hope that ‘Night of Ideas’ acts as a  platform for culturally engaged individuals across Brooklyn and around the world to come together and reflect on vital civil and artistic issues of our time, creating the kind of open community forum that is so difficult to find in this moment of social distancing and division,” Brooklyn Public Library Vice President of Arts and Culture László Jakab Orsós said.

The event was previously known as the ‘Night of Ideas and Philosophy,’ and this year’s event will explore questions like: “How can artists course correct for America looking forward?” and “How does the rest of the world view the United States, a week following the inauguration of President Joe Biden?”

Artist Ai Weiwei. Photo: Ai Weiwei Studio

It’ll open with a conversation between artist Ai Weiwei and New York Times Opinion Editor Peter Catapano on ways artists can course-correct for America looking forward.

“The image of America does not match the reality,” Weiwei says in one segment for the event, saying that since its founding America has gone through a long period of development and has represented the struggle for human rights, freedom of expression, rule of law and democracy.

“As an ideology, America is a restless quest which has been commonly perceived as a fixed reality.”

Egyptian-American journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy and British novelist Hari Kunzru. Photo (l-r): Robert E. Rutledge / Clayton Cubitt

Following this, BPL will air an original short film featuring NYC filmmaker Astra Taylor delivering a monologue about what it means to offer solidarity in a city like ours in this critical time, as well as monologues on “what awaits America” from thinkers including Suketu Mehta, Nell Painter, Peter Catapano, Jamieson Webster and Renata Salecl.

Brooklyn Public Library Press Officer Fritzi Bodenheimer said, although the event will look a bit different this year, it will be no less spirited with writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians and philosophers from around the world seeking to explore new means of fostering community amid our shared isolation.

“The event is free and open to all, and whether you stay up late or join us early on, we know you will be inspired.”

For more info click here.

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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