Department of Transformation: GroundworkNovember 2023 – March 2024
Department of Transformation (D🌍T) is an artist-organized group that mobilizes the power of art and design to prototype new formats and methods for collaborative learning. What tools are needed for individual, collective, and structural transformation? How can the notion of the artist become more porous and interdependent? Where can we gather together to change and grow? Engaging with such questions, Department of Transformation invites artists, thinkers, therapists, and others to explore alternative pathways for art that is responsive to our trying times. D🌏T was founded by designer, author, and educator Prem Krishnamurthy and takes shape through public programs, exhibitions, educational engagements, and community-based activities (+ karaoke!) around the world.
While in residence at Canal Projects, D🌎T will present Groundwork. Merging elements of a transformation library, yoga studio, workshop space, and karaoke temple, Groundwork will convene new and old friends to process, move, and celebrate together. Canal Projects has invited D🌍T to act as its own temporary transformation department, testing out, reflecting upon, collecting, and documenting the group’s ongoing efforts to change art institutions from within. Through mindfulness sessions, reading groups, shared meals, karaoke, therapy tutorials, and more, Groundwork will enact the strategies of bumpiness, generosity, and juxtaposition, that inform D🌏Ts experiential methods for collaborative knowledge production and dissemination.
The project emerges from the Department of Transformation’s Spring Tour 2023, a recently completed a teaching tour across the US. Traveling to art and design schools, museums, and non-profit organizations, D🌎T shared new frameworks for art-making, as well as specific tools for collaboration. The approach is also informed by Prem Krishnamurthy’s year-long residency at KW Institute for Contemporary Art (2018), the exhibition space P! (2012–2017), and experimental programs such as Present! (2020 2021) and How can we gather now? (2022).
Check out the list of contributions and programs below!
Prem Krishnamurthy is a designer, author, and educator. His multifaceted work explores the role of art as an agent of transformation at an individual, collective, and structural level. This manifests itself in books, exhibitions, images, performances, publications, systems, talks, texts, and workshops. He received the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Communications Design in 2015 and KW Institute for Contemporary Art’s “A Year With…” residency fellowship in 2018. He has curated several large-scale exhibitions including FRONT International 2022: Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows. In 2022, Domain Books published his book-length epistolary essay, On Letters. Previously, Prem founded the design studio Project Projects and the exhibition space P! in New York.
Åbäke is a collective of four individuals established in London in 2000. Their practice is always collaborative and explores the potential of multiplicity. They work through listening, editing, designing, and publishing with forms and formats. In 2022, they presented the exhibition Deep Publishing at MACRO, Rome, which shared the first results of their transformative methodology for working in the arts and with social organizations.
Asad Raza creates dialogues and rejects disciplinary boundaries in his work, which conceives of art as a metabolic, active experience. Using actions and processes such as soil-making, tennis, and horticulture, his projects create encounters within and beyond the exhibition setting. They have been realized by institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney; Gropius Bau, Berlin; the Serpentine Galleries, London; Kunsthalle Portikus; Metro Pictures, New York; Urbane Kunst Ruhr, Essen; the Lahore Biennale; and his one-bedroom apartment.
David Giles has worked at the intersection of urban policy, community development, and design for the last 15 years, first as the research director at the Center for an Urban Future and more recently as chief strategy officer at Brooklyn Public Library. He is interested in tactical urban design, public library innovation, community-driven planning, and convivial pedagogies. At BPL, David helped to design and launch the BKLYN Incubator, an innovation fund and support system for library-community partnerships. He has spoken widely on the changing role of libraries in the 21st century information economy. David lives and works in New York City and the Catskills.
Kimberly Sutherland is a designer, artist, and educator. Her art practice explores the interconnections between humans and nature by examining our relationships to place and its impact on our psyche. She publishes an ongoing book series called RURAL, which explores the lived experiences of community members in diverse rural communities around North America. She has worked at The New York Times Magazine, Nike, Apple, and Project Projects, and is currently a Creative Director at The Official Manufacturing Company (OMFGCO), a branding and interior design studio. She holds an MFA in Art and Social Practice from Portland State University and a Bachelor of Design from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Raised amongst the Canadian Cascades, Kimberly currently lives and works in Portland, OR.
MENSCHMASCHINE Studio explores the possibilities of interactive (semi-)virtual interfaces and their source code. Founded in 2021, they work as artists, designers, lecturers, and collaborators with fellows, clients, and institutions from multiple fields. In close collaboration with the Dept. of Transformation they designed and developed its visual identity and website—representing a shared space for collective browsing. Within their artistic design practice they speculate about the shifting importance of interfaces between things and the things themselves.
Naoco Wowsugi is a community-engaged artist who lives and works in Washington, DC. Wowsugi’s cross-disciplinary projects range from portrait photography, participatory performance, and sound healing, to horticulture, exploring the nature of belonging and inclusive community building while they highlight and fortify everyday communal and interpersonal identities. Wowsugi’s art practice blurs the lines between being an artist and an engaged citizen. (www.wowsugi.com and @wowsugi)
Stephen Hanmer D’Elía has worked and lived in over 20 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America supporting children and families impacted by trauma, violence, and conflict. Whether child welfare in New York city, post-conflict recovery in Liberia, or Afghan refugee assistance in Pakistan, Stephen has worked through the interconnected lenses of therapy, policy development, and program implementation. An encompassing theme throughout Stephen’s journey is the primacy of relationships—in every interaction, no matter how ephemeral, lies an opportunity for grace, healing, and connection.
Tamara Sussman is a clinical psychologist and an Assistant Professor at the New York State Psychiatric Institute / Columbia University Medical Center. She conducts research examining how adverse childhood experiences influence reward-related decision making and risk for substance use. She also provides direct treatment, and the focus of her clinical work is treating post-traumatic stress disorder. She believes that it is important to maintain a connection between basic research and clinical practice, as observations made during clinical practice can meaningfully hone research questions. Before becoming a psychologist, she made art, earning an MFA at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, and exhibiting her installation, photography, and collage with Rosamund Felsen Gallery.
November 17, 2023
With Anaïs Duplan, Naoco Wowsugi, and others. Hosted by Prem Krishnamurthy.
P.P.P.P.P.P. (People! Practice Participating in Participatory Projects, Please.)
November 17, 2023 – Ongoing
Disco Roof (for DT)
November 2023 – March 2024
Groundwork Reading Group
December 2023 – March 2024
Organized with David Giles