Does it get more French than this?
On Saturday, thousands of Brooklynites will rendezvous to drink wine, eat croissants and discuss deep subjects at the Brooklyn Public Library’s “Night of Philosophy and Ideas,” a 12-hour affair featuring more than 60 lecturers.
The European gathering will run from 7 p.m. on Saturday until 7 a.m. on Sunday at the Central Library and will feature philosophical debates, music, dance performances, movie screenings and readings.
“In the last four years, the numbers, attendance and the theme of it — the buzz around the event — just reinforced this idea that people not only recognize this but they need it,” said Jakab Orsos, vice president of arts and culture at BPL.
“People really need it. It’s not difficult, it’s actually very accessible and it inspires people.”
The free event, now in its fourth year, was founded in Paris in 2015 and is co-hosted by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Similar events have taken place in more than 40 cities worldwide.
Last year’s theme was “Facing the Present,” while this year’s is “To Live.” “It can be interpreted to survive, how to negotiate life around us, how to participate in life,” Orsos said.
Gaëtan Bruel, cultural counselor of the French Embassy in the U.S., praised his organization’s relationship with BPL, saying both institutions share the same values and believe in creating open spaces for people to come together to debate, learn, listen and think.
“France is a country that believes deeply in the importance of access to culture for all,” he said. “Our mission is to encourage French-American exchange in the arts and culture. A Night of Philosophy and Ideas is a perfect embodiment of this aim. It is a truly remarkable event grown from a truly remarkable partnership. Especially in these troubled times.”
In addition to lectures and discussions, there will be interactive art installations, like an exhibit in front of the library featuring 15,000 wax nails.
There will also be jugglers from France and an experimental music lineup hosted by Williamsburg’s National Sawdust.
There will be food and coffee for sale, as well as beer and wine, which, according to Orsos, “belongs to the night” and is “very conducive” to philosophical discussions.
“We’re grabbing a glass of red wine and we delve into the night,” he said. “We’re celebrating. This is like an extended dinner party. Every once in a while we have this lucky dinner party when you just find yourself in the midst of a really riveting inspiring conversation.
“You grab another glass of wine, and you really want to discuss it more, so you go home late at night buzzing with ideas, and you wake up and you remember them for days. That’s what we tried to create here.”
The leader of the Lenape tribe will give a speech at the start of the evening, followed by keynote speaker Esther Duflo. Attendees will eat a free communal breakfast at 5 a.m., and members of the tribe will perform a sunrise ritual in front of the library at 7 a.m. as the event ends.
The library also created its own app this year, allowing attendees to create their own schedule, chat with other users and see the availability of lectures.
Orsos said that as the night progresses, the mood of the building and the crowd changes. Until around 1 a.m. the entire library is “buzzing,” but then the night begins to taper. He noted that some people do, however, come exclusively for the last lectures.
“Everything is slower, more focused. The silence is palpable,” he said, adding: “Fatigue doesn’t really hinder focus. It’s more meaningful. You’re in a room listening to a philosopher talking about a subject at 5 a.m. That’s already an achievement, and that’s a statement.”
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