In Narrow or Wider Circles...

A space for inter-cultural conversation and research about art and advocacy, exploring a variety of trends, shared differences, and common concerns


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Memory
  • Politics / Economics
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Beaconhouse National University, Princeton University's Wilson College


Aaron Levy, Eduardo Cadava


David Alesworth, Huma Mulji, Ken Saylor, Clare Kobasa, others


Project developed through a workshop with Independent Curators International (ICI) and the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI) at the PEW Center for Arts and Heritage

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

and other locations


0% Formal - 100% Informal

"The social relations between the various Peoples of the world, in narrow or wider circles, have now advanced everywhere so far that a violation of Right in one place of the earth, is felt all over it." --Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace (1795)

This unique project, installed at Slought beginning January 2011, will enable dialogue with diverse practitioners in an effort to explore the translatability of cultural concepts and chart a variety of trends, shared differences, and common concerns.

Although the project finds its public form as an installation, it is also envisioned as an ongoing research initiative that will evolve over time through the participation from practitioners and the broader public. Those engaged will be invited according to an expansive definition of artistic practice, rather than by geography, and in recognition of the power of informal infrastructures, partnerships, and economies. It will produce an online archive of recordings over time–one to which Slought, its constituents, and its collaborators will turn to better understand what is necessary now and to recover earlier histories.

If there is an urgency to this project, it is in part because Slought recognizes that there is a need for new terminologies in art and activism. We have witnessed in recent years an escalating, and disorienting, reclamation of key concepts and language associated with these domains. This ambiguity concerning how to speak about activism and responsibly enact change is further exacerbated when we undertake inter-cultural collaborations, where the concept of "culture" itself is not immediately translatable across such different social and political contexts. The intent of this project is therefore to cultivate another public space, one that is at once more intimate and discursive, and invite a general rethinking of our approach as a cultural organization.

Conversations will take place within the institutional setting of Slought, surrounded by visual projects exploring cultural translation and the politics of display. These include a panorama of the Lahore cityscape by artist Sajjad Ahmed, a short film about hospitality featuring scholars Achille Mbembe and Kwame Anthony Appiah, and East Asian artifacts from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

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Suhell Nafar and Mahmoud Jreri - DAM
Interviewed by Eduardo Cadava, Aaron Levy
With Princeton University's Wilson College
Topics: Hip Hop, Identity, Palestine, National Liberation

Heralded by the major French newspaper Le Monde as "the spokesman of a new generation," DAM, the first Palestinian Hip Hop crew and among the first to rap in Arabic, began working together in the late 1990s. Struck by the resemblance of the streets in a Tupac music video to the streets in their own neighborhood of Lyd, just fifteen minutes from Tel Aviv, Tamer Nafar, Suhell Nafar, Mahmoud Jreri were inspired to tell their stories through Hip Hop and provide the youth of their city and neighboring communities with programs and opportunities otherwise denied to Palestinian citizens of Israel. After their timely song "Min Irhabi" ("Who's the terrorist") was downloaded over a million times shortly after its internet release in 2001, DAM became a household name among youth throughout the Middle East.

Antanas Mockus
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Ignacio Valero
With SFMOMA (San Francisco) and Mapa Teatro (Bogota, Colombia)
Topics: Mayoral politics, Civic imagination, Pedagogy, Games

Antanas Mockus is a Colombian mathematician, philosopher and politician. In 1993, Mockus left his post as rector of Colombian National University to run for mayor of the city of Bogota with a platform emphasizing human rights, social justice, and participatory politics. He presided as mayor for two terms, and later ran for president of the country. Under his leadership, Bogota saw remarkable improvements such as the homicide rate falling by 70%, traffic fatalities dropping by over 50%, and drinking water being provided to all homes. He achieved these results through the playful deployment of games, rituals, and social contracts, including dressing up as a Supercitizen and hiring mimes to control traffic.

Carolee Schneemann
Interviewed by Aaron Levy
Topics: Intuition, Vietnam, Affinity, Experience, Painting

Carolee Schneemann is a multidisciplinary artist. Her video, film, painting, photography, performance art and installation works have profoundly shaped contemporary discourses on the body, sexuality, and gender since the 1960s. Probing the precariousness of nature, art, and life, Schneemann has continually foregrounded the relationship between the body of the artist and the social body.

Fazal Sheikh
Interviewed by Eduardo Cadava, Aaron Levy With Princeton University's Wilson College
Topics: Refugee camps, Human rights, Photography, Collaboration

Fazal Ilahi Sheikh is a photographer whose work documents the lives of individuals in displaced communities across East Africa, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Brazil, Cuba and India. In 2001 he established a series of projects and books about international human rights issues, published and distributed free of charge and made available online. He has received many awards for his work, including Le Prix Dialogue de l'Humanite, Rencontres d'Arles (2003), the Henri Cartier-Bresson International Grand Prize (2005), and the Lucie Humanitarian Award (2009). In 2005 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Nigel Smith
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Shawn van Sluys, Joy Roberts
With Musagetes Foundation, Canada
Topics: Cosmology, Partical astrophysics, Collaboration, Mining, Contingency

Physicist Nigel Smith is the director of SNOLAB, an International Underground Science Facility situated 2 km underground in Vale-INCO's Creighton Mine in Sudbury, Canada. As the world's deepest underground laboratory, SNOLAB has the lowest background from cosmic rays and provides an ideal location for measuring particles that would otherwise be unobservable. These include the search for dark matter particles left over from the Big Bang, which are thought to make up about 23% of the universe. In 1987, as the sole operator of the telescope at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott station, he was the first Briton to successfully winter at the South Pole.

Thomas Hirschhorn
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Eduardo Cadava, Mimi Cheng
With Princeton University Art Museum
Topics: Mass media, Violence, Precariousness, Markets

Thomas Hirschhorn is a Swiss artist whose confrontational art is dedicated to resistance and the voicing of his discontent with contemporary politics and public discourse. His installations join images of destroyed bodies from mass media with material debris from modern life: discarded beverage containers, fake washing machines, and shop window mannequins. In works such as "Deleuze monument" (Avignon, 2000), "Bataille monument" (Kassel, 2002), and the "Bijlmer Spinoza festival", Hirschhorn produced, together with city residents, civic institutions and public spaces such as libraries, internet cafes, and cafeterias formed with everyday materials such as tape, cardboard, and foil..

Barbara Fiorito
Interviewed by Aaron Levy
Topics: Global Campaigning, Advocacy, Non-Governmental Organizations, Non-Profit Management

Barbara Fiorito has served as Board Chair and Deputy Chair of Oxfam International from 2000-2005, and helped transform Oxfam America from a grants-based NGO into an influential global campaigning and advocacy organization. She has also served as a Director and Board Chair of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International, a global NGO representing over 650 disadvantaged producer organizations from 60 developing countries.

Patricia J. Williams
Interviewed by Eduardo Cadava, Aaron Levy With Princeton University's Wilson College
Topics: Legal Theory, Journalism, Race Studies, Civil Rights

Patricia J. Williams is a lawyer, journalist, and scholar whose writings about race and the jurisprudence of rights have been transformative for legal and literary studies. Her work invokes complex questions of social justice and reveals the historicity and human dimension of legal and cultural constructions. Her book The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor offers a new form of legal writing and scholarship that integrates personal narrative, critical and literary theory, traditional legal doctrine, and empirical and sociological research in discussing the legacy of slavery.

Hans Venhuizen
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Ken Saylor
Topics: Game Urbanism, Spatial Planning

Hans Venhuizen is an urbanist based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands whose work addresses the culture of spatial planning. Games can simplify a complex situation, reveal the wishes and interests of those involved, and provide pleasure in uncertain processes of change. Venhuizen's "The Making Of" is a large group game through which he has collected the full range of opinions, wishes, initiatives, and interventions for various complex planning questions around the world.

Bangire Constance
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Yutaka Sho With General Architecture Collaborative (GAO)
Topics: Women's Cooperative, Post-conflict reconciliation, Rwanda

Bangire Constance is the founder and president of Dushyigikirane ("to work together"), a cooperative located in Masoro, a sector on the periphery of Kigali, Rwanda. The cooperative runs social and economic programs, including housing construction, a meeting house, a micro-loan bank, a library, and two orphanages. Independently initiated after the Rwandan genocide, it also provides a sense of community and sustainable income to its over 600 members.

Siebren de Haan and Lonnie van Brummelen
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Chi-Ming Yang
Topics: National Borders, Trade barriers, Bureaucracy, European Union

Siebren de Haan and Lonnie van Brummelen produce film installations that peruse the boundaries of the public realm and the movements, textures and tonality of cultural and geopolitical borders. These include the fringes of Europe, whose divided landscapes are heavily guarded by the military ("Grossraum," 2004-2005), and sites of global trade ("Monument of Sugar," 2007), which documents the flow of sugar from the European Union to Nigeria, and explores how artistic means can elude trade barriers. Their works have recently been shown at Shanghai Biennial 2008; MoMA, NY; Palais de Tokyo, Paris and TPW Gallery, Toronto.

Ahmad Rafay Alam
Interviewed by Aaron Levy
Topics: Legal advocacy, Urban planning, Public infrastructure, Pakistan

Ahmad Rafay Alam is a legal activist and lawyer in Lahore, Pakistan who advocates for equitable environmental and urban planning. He is chairman of the Lahore Electricity Supply Company, on task forces for Urban Development and the Social Sector for the Planning Commission of Pakistan and the Environment Ministry's UN-HABITAT plan for Pakistan. He teaches Law and Policy at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), is a weekly columnist for The News and Express Tribune, and was a leader of "Lahore Bachao Tehreek," a 2006 movement against the felling of ancient trees along Lahore's renowned canal.

Ko Siu Lan
Interviewed by Aaron Levy
Topics: China, Translation, Political Slogans, Tiananmen Massacre, Censorship

Ko Siu Lan is an artist based in Beijing, China. Until 2007, she worked for several non-governmental organizations. Her work confronts the politics of language, often re-appropriating governmental and everyday slogans to offer new possibilities of reading. Her installation at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2010) satirized a campaign slogan of Nicolas Sarkozy ("work more to earn more") and ignited a national controversy for being "overtly political."

Ajay Raina
Interviewed by Aaron Levy
Topics: Documentary Filmmaking, Kashmir, India, Pakistan

Ajay Raina is a filmmaker whose work integrates storytelling, fiction, and the documentary tradition in addressing the history and contemporary context of the conflict in Kashmir. In Tell them, the tree they had planted has now grown, Raina, a Kashmiri Brahmin, goes "home" after 13 years. The film is a cinematic diary of a man uncovering the scars on his lost homeland, and won the Golden Conch award at Mumbai Festival 2002 and the RAPA award.

Joe Volk
Interviewed by Aaron Levy
With Haverford College, Center for Peace and Global Citizenship
Topics: Quaker Community, Public-interest lobbying, Peace Activism

Joe Volk recently retired as executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a nonpartisan Quaker lobby in the public interest in Washington, DC. For over 30 years, he has lobbied Congress to support peaceful prevention of deadly conflict, nuclear disarmament, peace in Iraq, and other issues.

Rebecca Gomperts
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Eduardo Cadava
Topics: Medicine, Health Clinic, Abortion

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts studied medicine and visual arts in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In 1999 she founded Women on Waves, a non-profit organization with a floating reproductive health clinic and series of national hotlines that provides the abortion pill safely and legally outside the territorial waters of countries where abortion is illegal.

Hanan Ashrawi
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Eduardo Cadava
With Princeton University's Wilson College, and Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture Fund
Topics: Palestine, Human rights

Hanan Ashrawi is a writer, activist, legislator, and spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). One of the most influential women in the Middle East, Ashrawi has established a series of institutions dedicated to human rights and the Palestinian struggle for liberation.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, John Palmesino
Topics: Documentary photography, Geopolitical Conflict, Embedded Media

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are London-based documentary photographers whose projects explore the relationship between photography and witnessing, and the implications of being embedded media in global conflicts. Their video for the Massive Attack song "Saturday Come Slow" features UK citizen and former Guantánamo detainee Ruhal Ahmed to protest sound as a form of torture.

Uday Singh Mehta
Interviewed by Aaron Levy, Katherine Carl
James Gallery, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Topics: Nonviolence, Political Theory, Civil Disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi

Uday Singh Mehta is a political theorist at the City University of New York whose work explores the relationship of war, peace, and nonviolence in Mahatma Gandhi's views on change.

Teddy Cruz
Interviewed by Aaron Levy
Topics: Architecture, Advocacy

Teddy Cruz is an architect based in San Diego whose work recognizes the political and economic frameworks that shape architecture, and who believes in the adaptive inventiveness of community social service organizations in solving architectural needs.