Writer-in-Residence and Writer-at Large Initiative

A series of residencies and programs exploring the role of writing in debates on public trust


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Slought is pleased to announce a new series of Writer-in-Residence and Writer-at-Large programs and fellowships, beginning October 1, 2022. Each year, this program will select three writers—with "writer" defined in the broadest sense and not restricted to any particular form or genre of writing—who will be affiliated with Slought for a year, with the possibility of a renewal for a second year. The writers will be selected in relation to their proposed projects and to the conversations they can assist us in promoting.

While there are no predetermined set of expectations—the writers can pursue their work in any way they wish—we are hoping that each writer might offer a public presentation of their work during their affiliation and contribute to our present efforts to imagine what a robust sense of public trust might be and how we might approach it. To this end, each writer will be invited to contribute a small text on the role that writing might play in these debates around public trust, and what kinds of writing might be most conducive to them. What does it mean to write in dark times, and what might activist writing look like today?

In its first year, we will appoint one Writer-in-Residence and designate two Writer-at Large fellows. In French, "Au large" is the expression a ship uses to hail a craft about to cross her course and, in this case, the title brings the writer closer to us even as this encounter also implies a passage or transition. In this way, all three writers will play a role in our programming. The program's first three recipients will be our inaugural writer-in-residence Sara Nadal-Melsió, and our inaugural writers-at-large Peter Zilahy and the Receding Borealis Collective, with their appointment beginning October 1, 2022.

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Sara Nadal-Melsió is a NYC-based Catalan writer, curator, and teacher. She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, SOMA in Mexico City, and New York University. Her essays have appeared in various academic journals, edited volumes, and museum catalogs. She is the co-author of Alrededor de / Around, and the editor of two special issues on cinema, The Invisible Tradition: Avant-Garde Catalan Cinema under Late Francoism and The Militant Image: Temporal Disturbances of the Political Imagination. She has cocurated an exhibition on Allora & Calzadilla for the Fundació Tápies in Barcelona and has written a book essay about it, as well as edited a companion volume on the Puerto Rican crisis entitled A Modest Proposal: Puerto Rico's Crucible. She is also co-author of Politically Red, a book on the role and place of reading and writing in the political domain that is forthcoming from MIT Press in 2023. She will be in residence for the 2022-2023 academic year completing a book-length manuscript entitled Europe and the Wolf: Political Variations on a Musical Concept, under contract with Zone Books.

Europe and the Wolf: Political Variations on a Musical Concept begins by recuperating a Baroque musical concept that acquires a renewed meaning amidst contemporary aesthetic practices that respond to the histories, violence, and promises contained in Europe, understood as the name for an ongoing conceptual and political problem. The "wolf" is the name Baroque tuners gave to the dissonant and resilient sound produced in any attempt to temper and harmonize an instrument, the greatest challenge to the dream of complete harmonization. The first mention of the "wolf" as an emblem of disharmony, however, predates tuning efforts against dissonant notes and comes from the Latin proverb "homo homine lupus est" or "man is a wolf to man," an endlessly appropriated and translated phrase that traces the pervasive fear, and even hate, for what is foreign or unknown, for what marks the borders of a community. The book examines the ruination of Europe as an idea and traces its re-assemblage through a collaborative and performative reactivation of its musical heritage in the work of the late Catalan artist and composer Carles Santos, the experimental filmmaker Pere Portabella, the Albanian artist Anri Sala, and Allora & Calzadilla. The "wolf," then, names a problem within the logic of community when that community is understood as the product of a social harmony predicated on the violence of exclusion and the expropriation of rights.

Receding Borealis Collective is a collaboration between Christina Daniel and Yates McKee. Christina is an urban planner and associate director of Falls Hunger Coalition, which runs and coordinates the public food distribution system for Koochiching County, Minnesota. Yates is an art historian whose work has appeared in publications such as October, Grey Room, Qui Parle, South Atlantic Quarterly, The Nation, and Tidal: Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy, of which he was a co-editor. He has taught at institutions including Columbia University, Parsons School of Design, and Borough of Manhattan Community College, and has worked as organizer with groups such as Strike Debt, Decolonize This Place, and Strike MoMA. He is the author of Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition (Verso, 2016).

Receding Borealis Collective is currently engaged in an emergent learning entity provisionally called Evergreen School for the Popular Arts and Sciences (ESPAS) in International Falls, a 6000-person paper mill town located directly on the border with Canada along the Rainy River in Northern Minnesota on land ceded in the 1866 Treaty with the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. ESPAS is the core project in a broader sequence of pedagogical activities gathered under the title International Falls, Capital of the 20th Century, which brings together with artists, scholars, and activists to combine historical research among the ruins of modernity with place-based community organizing around education, food, water, and land. Receding Borealis seeks to foster and advance community conversations about place-based art, education, decolonization, degentrification, and cooperativism. The long-term goal is that these conversations can cultivate lasting relationships between people here and elsewhere, in the process helping to build the intellectual framework and academic legitimacy for ESPAS to eventually become a fully functional arts and education entity to serve the community and region at large at a larger scale.

Peter Zilahy has written five books and works in all genres including plays, essays, and opinion pieces for The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Financial Times. His award-winning novel, The Last Window Giraffe, has been translated into 22 languages, and a new American paperback edition is forthcoming next spring from Sandorf Passage independent publishers. Besides his literary and scholarly work, Zilahy is a versatile artist who has performed on stage for large audiences from New York's Broadway to Kyiv, where the The Last Window Giraffe won The Book of the Year Prize of Ukraine. He has lectured at, among other places, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, New York University, George Washington University, The New School, Boston University, Tufts University, Melbourne University, and Sciences Po in Paris. He has held numerous prestigious residencies all over Europe, including at the Akademie Solitude (selected by Herta Müller, Nobel laureate) and the Albert Einstein Fellowship in Potsdam, and he held the position of Stadtschreiber of the city of Graz for a year. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, a Writer in Residence at Tufts University in Cambridge, and a fellow at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress in Washington. In 2015, he was interviewed by Anthony Bourdain in Budapest for an episode of CNN's Parts Unknown. On January 15, 2017 he gave a speech and read a poem on the steps of the New York Public Library in front of three thousand people at Writers Resist as part of a collective effort to defend free expression during the Trump era.

During his appointment, he will be completing a modern-day Odyssey with an extensive visual use of concrete and fictional maps. He has been researching and writing his novel for years, including months of research at the Library of Congress and at the New York Public Library. The plot takes place in a dozen countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It starts with the lucky escape of the protagonist from a European dictatorship during the Cold War and follows his journey around the world through a kaleidoscope of identities he takes up in his quest for a new home, finally culminating in his return to his home country to take part in a revolution to end the rule of the dictator.

"The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words."

— William Gass

"Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind."

— Toni Morrison