How is the sense of presence, so important in performing well on stage, felt, seen, or created in the city? George Balanchine’s definition of presence was make people feel “right here, right now!” How can that liveliness be achieved in a city? Much current architecture and planning creates life-less and inert environments; artists and culture makers have to struggle to rouse people from such environments. We want to explore Balanchine’s command in terms of four dimensions: when, how, what, and where — in other words, time, knowledge, materials, and place. We are mindful that “presence” is not politically innocent: a looming crowd evokes the feeling of being present at something important, and, in another dimension, presence and liveness can be repressed by the authorities or by the sanctions of tenancy and ownership.
This project begins with a set of conversations among artists, urbanists, and scholars leading to a symposium in the summer of 2014 open to the public.