Artists in Context: Aaron Levy, “Small, Fragile, and Immaterial: On Reconstructing the Civic”

Philadelphia is situated at the intersection of a specific series of tensions. Foremost among these is that it is a peripheral city marked by profound socio-economic inequality and racial division. These tensions are further exacerbated and reinforced by an institutionally uneven and culturally conservative landscape, one consequence of which is limited funding for more progressive sensibilities. Levy’s work is a consequence of these tensions.
As a cultural practitioner, the question for Levy is, what is the role of the cultural practitioner, and what is the role of the small non-profit, in a city of tensions?
“I am always thinking about the way I can be attentive to this fact, and in particular how small non-profits can respond to this fact by recovering some of the vernacular histories of this city. These vernacular histories can in turn be radicalized in the service of a methodology.”
Aaron Levy is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Slought, a small Philadelphia-based institution whose programs focus as much on histories of cultural experimentation and political advocacy as on the creation of social practices. Levy has developed an approach to the curatorial which mobilizes historical models, and which imagines small organizations as agencies that produce correspondences, relationships, and practices of engagement. His many projects include Into the Open, the official U.S. representation for architecture at La Biennale di Venezia (2008), which recovered American histories of architectural experimentation and community activism; and, more locally, Mixplace, which will transform Slought in coming years into a site of collaborative knowledge production concerning Philadelphia neighborhoods. His most recent publication, Four Conversations on the Architecture of Discourse (AA Books, 2012), explores the relationship between architecture and its publics, and the role of cultural discourse and display in a politicized society. Other publications include Cities Without Citizens (Rosenbach Museum, 2002); Architecture on Display: On the Living History of the Venice Architecture Biennale (AA Books, 2010); and Evasions of Power: On the Architecture of Adjustment (Slought, 2011).
More information:
Artists in Context 
Slought Foundation 

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