Thursday, April 23, 2015




7 PM APRIL 24, 2015 thru 7 AM APRIL 25

French Embassy & Ukrainian Institute of America
Fifth Avenue and 79th Street

A VERY interesting live event is developing for tomorrow night, developed by Mériam Korichi and presented by Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Ukrainian Institute of America, the Onassis Cultural Center NY and the FACE Foundation.

"From 7pm to 7am, philosophy will occupy the historic corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th Street. Come and experience an innovative and original nocturnal happening, with over 80 events ranging from philosophical lectures to artistic performances, from theatre to video art, from songs to dance and DJ sets.

Come and experience philosophy as performance.

Events will simultaneously happen in all corners of the two mansions. Roam free throughout the unique settings of the French Cultural Services and the Ukrainian Institute of America, stumble upon enlightening talks, piano improvisations, unexpected performances, a musical spacecraft fallen from the sky. It will make you see philosophy, and night, in a whole new light.

The entire event is free and open to all.

Coffee will be provided all night with croissants as the sun rises!"

Update, April 25.  The event was interesting and fun for me, but I was lucky. There were some 15,000 people that said on Facebook they were coming, but the buildings held only a few hundred at any one time.  I arrived about 45 minutes early and fortunately was in the group that was admitted right away. Lines persisted long into the night, as people were admitted only to replace those that left.  (At 1:30 AM the line to get in held several hundred people: three deep for a full city block.  But the people on line seemed to be having a good time.)

Although it was interesting, and I enjoyed it, and I saw numerous small groups (of 2,3,4,5.. people) near the bar discussing philosophy, it has to be admitted that the program had some fundamental problems.  The first talk I attended, for example, "Must Intellectual Life Be Boring" was really boring.  Actual talks were rarely as interesting as their titles. The problems with the philosophical talks were largely two-fold:

1- They were too short: it was impossible to present any non-trival philosophical idea in the time available.  Some speakers tried to give complex arguments that could not be justified in the available time; others simply made the most obvious, elementary remarks. In both cases, speakers used too many unsupported (and often unsupportable) sweeping generalizations.

2- The talks were badly presented: some speakers talked too softly; some used non-English expressions, or big, fancy, often Greek, words when little English words would have been clearer and more accurate; sometimes noise from outside the room drowned out the speaker.

The presentation of a reading of The Marquis de Sade's "Philosophy in the Boudoir" was interesting, but a bit bizarre: there are two central female characters, the main personalities: the older, libertine, woman protagonist, and the virgin girl being "educated". The first character was portrayed by a man, the other was completely omitted. 

All in all I thought it was a great idea, and much of the execution (once you got inside) was excellent, but to present "Philosophy in Performance" needs more effort to guarantee the quality of the performance, And more attention needs to be given to matching the size of the potential audience with the capacity of the venue.





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