An itinerant project exploring urban errors, discrepancies, and territories in Walter Benjamin's Moscow Diary (1926)


Straying: Surviving On the Margins

A series of conversations about the politics of adaptation in a disruptive era

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Art in General


Aaron Levy, Xenia Vytuleva


Trust for Mutual Understanding

Opens to public





Art in General
145 Plymouth St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "Straying: Surviving On the Margins," a series of conversations in New York and Philadelphia about the politics of adaptation in a disruptive era. The events, which will take place from July 6-7, 2017, will feature Moscow-based visiting scholars Ksenia Golubovich and Oleg Nikiforov in conversation with scholar and designer Evangelos Kotsioris and curators Xenia Vytuleva and Aaron Levy of Slought. The first conversation, "Disjointed Territories," will take place on Thursday, July 6, 2017 from 7-9pm at Art in General in New York City. The second conversation, "Disjointed Times," will take place on Friday, July 7, 2017 from 7-9pm at Slought in Philadelphia.

Walter Benjamin's Moscow Diary explores "straying" as a mode of survival for life lived on the margins. Over the past two years, Slought has organized an itinerant project consisting of exhibitions, events and symposia with collaborating institutions across the United States and Russia. Each of these programs has retraced Benjamin's experiences in December 1926 and his winter movements through an unfamiliar language, culture, and territory in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the transition to Stalinism. A recurrent theme throughout has been his experience of solitude, exhaustion, and inequality -- which mirrors our time of crisis and raises questions about adaptation in a disruptive era.

"Straying: Surviving On the Margins" also responds to a historic nadir in US-Russia relations. In both countries the humanities are under assault and new restrictions on border-crossing, cultural visas, and funding are being instituted. Cultural dialogue is one of the few territories where the exchange of ideas is still possible. Against this backdrop, we are partnering with the Trust for Mutual Understanding and are grateful for their commitment to transnational dialogue and direct exchange, which has made possible the participation of Ksenia Golubovich, Oleg Nikiforov, and Xenia Vytuleva.

Golubovich is a writer, essayist and translator, and teaches the philosophy of literature at the Moscow School of New Cinema. Nikiforov is the Editor-in-Chief of LOGOS Publishers, a Moscow-based publishing house focusing on the humanities since 1997, and the coordinator of LETTERRA, an intellectual platform and cultural program. Xenia Vytuleva is an architectural historian, theorist, and curator. Her works focus on cold-war phenomenon, immateriality in architecture, and questions of architectural representation. Evangelos Kotsioris is an architect and architectural historian whose research interests center on the intersections of architecture with science, technology and media. His current work explores an architectural history of computerization during the Cold War. Aaron Levy is the Executive Director and Senior Curator of Slought.

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Disjointed Territories

отключенные территории

Art in General, New York City
Thursday, July 6, 2017, 7-9pm

Benjamin's travels through the streets of Moscow reveal the complex interplay between territory and national identity. His diary documents a sense of increasing alienation from self and society, which is particularly evident in his personalized register of Moscow's atmosphere and weather. The effects of coldness on his body and skin is a register of his individual discomfort, but also his struggle to adapt to a complex socio-political moment. In mapping and charting these relations, we learn to extract various codes and reveal how cities are signifying machines.

How does the concept of motherland and a sense of belonging operate in Moscow Diary? What does it mean to be an outsider in society and reduced to stereotypical narratives of national identity? How can we contest the demonization of individuals from the United States or Russia?

Disjointed Times

отключенные времена

Slought, Philadelphia
Friday, July 7, 2017, 7-9pm

Many of the individuals and institutions that Benjamin encounters struggle to adapt and are unable to navigate the socio-political climate. In Moscow Diary, this is articulated through the linguistic construction "have been" or "has been" (бывшие люди), which gestures to a prior temporal moment that extends unchanged into the present. An individual or institution that is a "has been" is thus unable to evolve alongside historical and political developments and is thus connected only by disconnection. The lack of contemporaneity and inability to adapt becomes, for Benjamin, a defining characteristic of their identity.

Is there a revolutionary potential in becoming a "has been," or does it always have a pejorative connotation and signal being dispossessed or out of joint? How can new tactics of straying avoid conformity on the one hand, and exhaustion and obsolescence on the other?

"That evening I learned another strange term, namely the expression 'have beens' applied to those citizens who were dispossessed by the Revolution and who have been unable to adapt to the new situation."

-- Walter Benjamin, Moscow Diary, January 14, 1927