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Solitariness and solidarity

Welcome everyone to Slought. It's a real pleasure to have you all here tonight for our soirée. As you know, we are gathered here this evening to celebrate the relaunch of Slought's identity. We have reached a milestone in the development of our organization, and we are so glad to share this moment with you, but also for you to join us as we continue to grow and change.

An underlying assumption at Slought is that our cultural identities are inextricably bound up with and entangled with those of others. Over the past eleven and half years, all of us at Slought have been fortunate to experience this in a concrete way. We have collaborated with hundreds of artists, musicians, architects, activists and scholars, but also students and seniors, and friends and family, growing and changing together as people and as an organization in the process. Acknowledging these connections as we mark our anniversary this evening is therefore not a formality but rather a particular pleasure and joy.

Eleven and a half years ago, this city was arguably a city of strangers. Though a city is always marked by a sense of both solitariness and solidarity, there was a serious paucity of artists and arts organizations in Philadelphia at the time, and few spaces, either social or institutional, to meet, talk and simply engage others. A variety of individuals from different backgrounds, generations, and communities came together at that time to form this organization - many of whom are here tonight - and to construct another form of community, one that would move beyond display or presentation and foreground dialogue and conversation as an art unto itself, if not a social responsibility. It was important to everyone that the organization exist not within one community, but on the edge of many. We thus created this space as an ever changing forum for reflecting on who we are, where we are, and what it would mean for an organization to continually rethink itself and its relation to those whom it engages. In response, nine values were affirmed and have served as our system, guiding us through many years of programs and projects. These values structure our new identity and website as well, and I encourage you to take home some of the handouts tonight and visit the website to learn more.

In eleven and a half years, we have never really slowed down for long enough to celebrate what we have achieved. In part this was because we hadn't come to a point where it seemed appropriate to celebrate, or the projects themselves had a seriousness and a gravity that did not lend themselves to celebration. But this was also because we always have been marked by a degree of precariousness. The upside of having no real funders nor the necessity to please anyone in particular is that we have always been marked by a sense of curatorial freedom. The downside is that, much like the artists and communities we have long engaged, we have always struggled with vulnerability and fragility, facing an uncertain and unfunded future. At the heart of our new identity is the recognition that all of you that are here tonight enable our resilience. Your engagement and participation enables us to transform this insecurity into a strength, and so we can't think of a better way to celebrate than with all of you.

Thank you to everyone at Slought, as well as those who have made this evening possible, including my friend and co-founder Jean-Michel Rabate, as well as the Dept of English at the University of Pennsylvania, who has supported and collaborated with us throughout, and sponsored this evening's event.

Philadelphia has changed so much over the years, as has this organization. We are happy to be part of that change, and for you to be part of our ongoing transformation in the years ahead.

— April 11, 2014


Aaron Levy


Slought, Philadelphia