In 2013 the Creative Time Summit set its sights on the fact that culture, for good or bad, is an active ingredient in the construction and shaping of the contemporary city. Tapping into widespread debate on this issue, it provided a global platform for consideration of the trials, tribulations, artistic practices, campaigns, theories, and practicalities that accompany this phenomenon.
Artists today must wrestle with the myriad implications of their increasingly expansive role in urban development, including the gentrification that is now a familiar part of cities across the globe. The Summit asked such questions as: How can equity be achieved in an economic and political environment of vast inequity? What new forms of civic participation and engagement are artists integrating into the built environment? What instructive models are being deployed by today’s city planners and mayors? How can foundations and governments support a kind of cultural production that makes cities economically sustainable for all of their inhabitants? How can culture contribute to the city beyond the economic realm? How does culture contend with the impact of the environmental crisis on the city, as we recently experienced in New York following Superstorm Sandy?
In exploring these and other questions, the 2013 Summit hosted a range of voices, from legendary artist Vito Acconci, to Chen Shaoxiong and the Xijing Men’s Xijing Olympics, iconic art critic and feminist Lucy Lippard, and activist Chido Govera, who has enabled women across the globe to achieve financial independence by teaching them how to grow and trade mushrooms.
The 2013 Summit also offered specially created places and events intended to expand the conversation initiated on the stage. At nearby Judson Church, a special lunch, created by Stefani Bardin and Mihir Desai, featured some culinary traditions and cultures from the five boroughs, while a space created by artist-collaborative Works Progress enabled audience members to host their own Summit discussions among tables of build-your-own Lego cities, a project by artist Paul Ramirez Jonas. The conversation continued into the evening at Summit dinners hosted by nearly 25 local members of the Creative Time family.
Highlights of the 2013 Summit including a moving performance on day two by two survivors and a mother of a former inmate of Tamms Supermax Prison who silently stood on stage for a minute for each year that they or a loved one remained in the inhumane conditions of the prison. Every member of the audience rose to their feet to stand in solidarity with the individuals on stage. The performance poignantly brought the issues of inequality and human rights discussed throughout the weekend to the forefront of our hearts and minds.
At the end of day two, performance artist and activist Invincible asked the audience to rise again, with their fingers pointed to the sky, and to shout “let it burn!” and “let it grow!”. Taken together, these narratives point to something profound consideration: art is an integral part of the viability of contemporary cities, and its implications are as complex as
the cities themselves.