A Circus of Civic Creativity and Collective Action + a Dreamy Swimming Pool

IDEAS City encapsulated an impressively large array of mediums, artists, and activities, while tapping into the untapped creative capital of NYC.

Living up to its name, IDEAS City (the New Museum’s four-day conference dedicated to innovation in arts, culture, technology, and eco-sustainability), proved fertile ground for thought, both radical and local. Transforming New York's Lower East Side into a buzzing hub of conceptualization and collective action, hundreds of artists, entrepreneurs, creative innovators, and socially conscious visitors descended on the immediate radius of the Museum for four days of events.

While panels, discussions, and workshops were the bread and butter of the conference, during the day, the festival lined the streets of the Bowery with tents and booths housing information stations for a range of illustrious groups. Working on this year’s theme of “Untapped Capital,” participants were encouraged to either conceptualize or demonstrate ways in which they could actively shape their urban spaces.

Highlighted projects ranged from an initiative to build a floating, water-filtering pool on NYC’s waterways (Everybody + POOL), to a building that runs on the sweat produced in its sauna, brought to fruition by The Canary Project. This was supplemented by information and awareness-heightening initiatives by venerated NYC institutions like the Abrons Arts Center and the Artists Alliance Inc., as well as newer groups like the Storefront for Art & Architecture, whose massive installation in Sara D. Roosevelt Park The Spacebuster “On Nothingness”—an inflatable mobile structure reminiscent of a large cocoon, captured the imagination (and cameras) of visitors both young and old.

Idealistic and community-oriented performance art, something that had felt on the wane till the medium received a massive boost from the visual antics of the Occupy Movement, was out in full affect, with artists using signs, body paint, and striking imagery to portray their message.

One of the featured participants in IDEAS City, Nuit Blanche (an organization that brings free nighttime contemporary art events to New York, and is now a global institution), launched a series of wildly popular happenings. Most notably, this included a video installation by prolific multi-media artist Marco Brambilla Creation (3D) at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. To accompany the artist’s luminous presentation, composer Christophe Cerrone created an immersive live score featuring performances by Guidonian Hand and Young New Yorkers’ Chorus.

Creation comes as part of a trilogy meant to “re-contextualize century old histories, using images culled from a vast archive of iconic Hollywood films. Meant to conjure a DNA helix, Brambilla took the viewer on a journey that began with the big bang and continued “through embryonic inception, idyllic, Eden-like bliss and decadence."

In short, there was no short—this large and sprawling event managed to encapsulate an impressively large array of mediums, artists, and activities, all the while demonstrating just how much untapped creative capital this city really has.

Related: Capital Knowledge: IDEAS City Festival Touches Down in NYC

Images via the New Museum


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