The Brooklyn Public Library’s fifth annual Evening of Concepts goes on-line with particular visitor Patti Smith

January 21, 2021

Other speakers include Ai Weiwei, Astra Taylor, Suketu Mehta, Nell-Maler, Hari Kunzru, Mona Eltahawy, Yuri Herrera and others

Developed in collaboration with the cultural services of the French embassy as part of the Global Night of Ideas 2021

Thursday, January 28th, 6 p.m. to midnight

BROOKLYN, Jan 21, 2021 – To mark the fifth year of collaboration between the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and the French Embassy Cultural Services, the 2021 edition of Night of Ideas, titled A Night of Philosophy and Ideas, brings together artists. Writers, critics, historians and philosophers from all over Brooklyn and around the world for six hours to explore today’s most pressing ideas, coordinated worldwide by the Institut Français.

This year’s Night of Ideas, previously held at BPL’s historic central library on Grand Army Plaza from sunset to sunrise, will be streamed online to a global audience ovAfter 6 hours, speakers and performers from all over the world will come. The Brooklyn segment will run from 6 p.m. EST to midnight on January 28th with Ai Weiwei, Astra Taylor and Suketu Mehta, Nell painter, Mona Eltahawy, Yuri Herrera, Kunzru day, Renata Salecl and other.

“As a new year and chapter in American history begins, we hope that Night of Ideas will serve as a platform for culturally engaged people in Brooklyn and around the world to come together and reflect on important civil and artistic issues of our time and the To create kind of open community forum that is so hard to find in this moment of social distancing and division, “he said László Jakab Orsós, BPL Vice President for Art and Culture.

The production in Brooklyn became a sensation across the city after starting in 2017 with more than 7,000 guests per year. By streaming the 2021 edition online, BPL is expanding its mission to offer free high-profile cultural programming in Brooklyn – and now worldwide. The concept of the global La Nuit des idées des Institut Français is being expanded further. Issues will be streamed in 75 countries in 2021. This year’s theme, “Closing the Distance” (“Proches” in French), explores the shared global sense of isolation and contemplates ideas for promoting community in today’s changing world in thoughtful and unexpected ways.

The Brooklyn event opens with an artist Ai Weiwei in conversation with the New York Times Opinion Editor Peter Catapano about ways artists can correct course for America if they look ahead. BPL will then air an original short film featuring the epitome of the New York artist and filmmaker Astra Taylor. Alluding to Taylor’s legendary film What is Democracy? In this segment, Taylor delivers an intimate monologue about what it means to offer solidarity at a critical time in a city like New York City and what wisdom the city has to offer the rest of the world.

BPL will also present This is America: Is This America? What is America ?, A series of conversations examining how the rest of the world sees the United States one week after President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The question is being investigated by an international body made up of Egyptian-American journalists and activists Mona Eltahawy, British writer Kunzru day, and Mexican political scientist and journalist Yuri Herrera.

In addition, BPL will provide commissioned monologues on What Awaits America? by writers and intellectuals, including the Pulitzer nominated author Suketu mehtawho wrote in his passionately informed defense of immigration to the United States, “We are here because you were there.” Historian, author and visual artist Nell painter, Princeton University Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita; The Stone Philosophy Blog Editor for the New York Times Peter Catapano;; Writer and psychotherapist Jamieson Webster;; and Renata Salecl will also deliver monologues.

Performances include Iranian Polymathy and “Software Humanist” Ash Koosha with YONA, a human auxiliary singer-songwriter who creates lyrics and rhythms, and Emel Mathlouthi, whose protest song “Kelmti Horra” (“My word is free”) became a hymn for the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring, will give an intimate concert that accompanies itself on the guitar. The Brooklyn Art Song Society also celebrates Franz Schubert’s songs.
In the run-up to the event, a special edition of the BPL program Whispering Libraries will start at Grand Army Plaza, in which cyclists with portable speakers play curated playlists by well-known philosophers and spoken literature and address the audience on their way through the district.

The curator and author of the BPL Philosopher will also be present during the night Ian Olasov and a series called Truths to Live By, where attendees can share their personal philosophies.

The full program and schedules of Night of Ideas can be found at:

Night of Ideas kicks off BPL Presents’ spring 2021 season, which will be officially announced in the coming weeks. The Night of Ideas 2021 is jointly presented by the Brooklyn Public Library and the cultural services of the French Embassy. The program is sponsored by a New York Humanities Action Scholarship from the National Endowment of the Humanities and made possible with support from the Morris & Alma Schapiro Fund and event partner National Sawdust. WNYC is the media partner of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Night of Ideas Brooklyn is part of the US Night of Ideas, curated by the cultural services of the French embassy and produced in connection with the worldwide project La Nuit des idées, a project of the Institut Français, Paris. The 24-hour virtual philosophy marathon begins January 28, 2021 and features events broadcast from cities in the United States and more than 75 countries worldwide. Visit for details.


Via cultural services provided by the French Embassy of the United States
The French Embassy Cultural Services promote the best of French art, literature, cinema, language and higher education in the United States. The Cultural Service, based in New York City, Washington DC, and eight other cities across the country, brings together artists and writers, educational and university programs for cities across the country. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York it promotes French-American exchange on literature and art through its Albertine bookstore,

Via the Brooklyn Public Library
The Brooklyn Public Library is one of the largest library systems in the country and one of the most democratic institutions in New York. As a leader in developing modern libraries for the 21st century, we provide resources to support personal advancement, develop civic literacy, and build communities among the more than 2.7 million people who call Brooklyn at home. We offer nearly 60,000 free programs annually with writers, thinkers, artists and educators – from all over the world. And we give customers millions of ways to enjoy one of the greatest pleasures in life: the joy of a good book.

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This press release was produced by the Brooklyn Public Library. The views expressed are those of the author.

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