Cities Without Citizens

Drawing from Rosenbach Museum archives, this exhibition explores the limits and conditions of citizenship in early and modern times


Fields of Knowledge
  • Curatorial practice
  • Memory
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Politics / Economics
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Rosenbach Museum and Library, Slought


Aaron Levy

Process initiated


Opens to public



Rosenbach Museum
2008 Delancey Pl
Philadelphia, PA 19103

4017 Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19104


25% Formal - 75% Informal

  • Citizenship

"We learn place from place, and place from fleeing; fleeing from fleeing, and fleeing from border; border from border, and border from beyond." -- Talmud

Slought is pleased to announce "Cities Without Citizens," a two-part exhibition on display at Slought from January 22-March 22, 2003 and on display at the Rosenbach Museum and Library from July 08-September 28, 2003.

The project begins with a series of questions, foremost amongst them the question of what citizenship is and how it is established or lost, asserted or taken away. Other questions included the relation between a city and its citizens, or between a city and all the people from which it withholds its protections. The exhibition explores these questions by juxtaposing historical materials from the Rosenbach collections with contemporary works to examine the cities, settlements and peoples of early America and illuminate how the complex questions of justice in this nation's past connects with contemporary life.

The Rosenbach is a historic house, museum, and research institution, which offers changing exhibitions and programs inspired by its world-renowned collections of rare books, manuscripts, and fine and decorative art. As a commentary on art, archiving and human rights, the exhibition re-indexes Rosenbach holdings according to four social parameters--settlement, citizenship, discipline, and liquidation. The exhibition also explores theories of curatorial innovation, prompting the question of how one might renew or reinvent an archival collection.

The exhibition will culminate with a handout in the Philadelphia Independent and a published compilation of essays by contemporary artists and theorists in conjunction with the four veins of the exhibition, plus illustrative examples from the Rosenbach collections. Contributors include Giorgio Agamben, Arakawa + Gins, Branka Arsic, Eduardo Cadava, Joan Dayan, Gans & Jelacic Architecture, Thomas Keenan, Gregg Lambert, Aaron Levy, David Lloyd, Rafi Segal Eyal Weizman Architects, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Preview a digital version of this publication in our store.

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Participating artists and architects include the forensic photographer Lars Wallsten, the disaster relief architectural team of Gans & Jelacic, and installation artist Katrin Sigurdardottir. The following projects were featured:

Gans & Jelacic's Extreme Housing ameliorates living conditions for those persons permanently if internally displaced from the economic and geopolitical order; their Refugee Cities panels are a direct call "to halt the urbanization of the world through displacement."

Lars Wallsten's Pictures of crime and catalogues the violence that empties out the city, marking the dissolution of the public and private. His project Crimescape features discard photographs of crime scenes that are projected onto generic public spaces.

Katrin Sigurdardottir's Untitled suspends the urban landscape in water, producing uninhabitable landscapes at once desirable and desolate. Her Circuit Cities are models of imagined cities that call our attention to their fragility, hospitality and dependency on the grid.

Aaron Levy's Kloster Indersdorf series revisits an orphanage in 1945 and recasts the photographic address as a signifier of abandonment.

Gregg Lambert's Of Strangers: Notes on statelessness reexamines continental philosophy and public culture through the figure of the stranger.

Deborah Gans and Matthew Jelacic are architects who work in the fields of industrial design and architecture has been exhibited at RIBA, London, IFA, Paris and the Van Alen Institute in New York City. Their investigation into disaster relief housing has won international awards and a grant for development from the Johnny Walker Fund.

Lars Wallsten is an artist who resides in Stockholm, Sweden. He has exhibited in individual and group shows throughout Scandinavia, including the 1999 exhibition "Modern Times II" at the Hasselblad Center, Sweden. Projects including "Pictures of Crime" and "Crimescape" engage his earlier work as a policeman. He has been featured in the bilingual magazine Index on Art and the Law.

Katrin Sigurdardottir is an artist who was born in Reykjavik and lives in New York. Examining distance and memory and their embodiment in and through architecture, urbanism and cartography, her work has exhibited widely throughout Europe and the United States, including the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, the Icelandic National Gallery of Art, Iceland, the Victoria Miro Warehouse, London, the Centre d´Art Contemporaine á Séte, France, and the Hannover Kunstverein, Germany.

Aaron Levy is Executive Director of Slought Foundation and curated the exhibition at the Rosenbach Museum & Library as their 2003 artist-in-residence.

Exhibition questions

How did early American settlers determine the borders of territories?

How did they identify citizens versus outsiders, criminals and slaves, and further negotiate the freedoms and limitations of each?

How do we make these determinations in contemporary America?

What is the museum's responsibility when it comes to historical archives? Is it exclusively to preserve and display? Must/should the museum set up a dialogue across history concerning issues of justice, pain and redemption, life and death?

What is the difference between a curator and an artist? Where does the curatorial process end and the artistic process begin? What is the distinction between invention and interpretation in the museum context?

Related publications

Scholars Eduardo Cadava and Aaron Levy join archival materials from the Rosenbach Museum with essays by Giorgio Agamben, Eyal Weizman and others in order to raise questions about citizenship, human rights, and the architecture of cities.

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