This past weekend Creative Time kicked off its third annual Summit, a gathering for artists and activists whose work addresses social and political issues. As in years past, the Summit, which kicked off Friday at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts with 30 presenters, involved a few days of presentations and panel discussions. Each presentation is archived and will be available on Creative Time's "Living As Form" website. This year's Summit also includes a monthlong exhibition at the Historic Essex Street Market and eight projects commissioned throughout the Lower East Side [open through Oct. 16]. 

Walking through the Essex Street space, you'll see a collection of 100 projects produced worldwide over the last twenty years. Nato Thompson, Creative Time's chief curator, tells A.i.A, "The exhibition is a State of the Union [for] this way of working. It is challenging what art can be and who can make it. People trying to make the world a better place? And taking it seriously? That's a good start."

Many of these efforts are introspective. In the middle of the exhibition, you'll see huge, shin-high piles of colorful thread in Surasi Kusolwong's work Golden Ghost (The Future Belongs To You), 2011. Visitors are invited to remove their shoes and dig through the mounds of thread to find six golden necklaces, which were made and hidden by the artist. (Kusolwong's advice to me: "Sit quietly and let one call to you.") In a far corner is Tamms Year Ten, the work of Chicago-based Laurie Jo Reynolds, who challenges the ethics of the American prison system. Reynolds's project includes mug shots of prisoners who are living in solitary confinement. The artist began to write to the prisoners, and their replies are stapled to their image.

One of the commissioned works is in the nearby Olympic Diner, on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets. The Copenhagen-based collective SUPERFLEX installed a working replica of a JPMorgan Chase executive's bathroom in place of the diner's formerly grimy toilet. "Power Toilet" is open to the public.

In a project that Thompson says is "about banking time and alternative currency," Time/Bank (an organization run by artists Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle) has arranged for artists including Martha Rosler, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Liam Gillick to make and serve food. Lunch is served Thursdays–Sundays from 1 to 3pm at the Abrons Arts Center. Explains Thompton: "You don't have to know about art to get it. Like Time/Food? People go in, they understand food right away."



Surasi Kusolwong, Golden Ghost (The Future Belongs To Ghosts). Photo by Carly Gaebe.