November 2023–June 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 DTs 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).



by Prem Krishnamurthy, May 2024

The residency period at Canal Projects allowed Department of Transformation to pursue diverse research strands. The space served as a hub for dialogue, connection, and prototyping new forms of gathering. Activities included one-on-one and small-scale meetings with artists, designers, writers, curators, non-profit leaders, psychologists, therapists, political organizers, and others; a monthly reading group with a changing format for choosing and understanding new books together; initial workshops with a cohort of artists-turned-therapists to develop cross-disciplinary methods; as well as larger-scale, multi-modal public events in collaboration with artists such as An Duplan, Andros Zins-Browne, Asad Raza, and Naoco Wowsugi, both at Canal Projects and offsite in collaboration with organizations such as Centre Pompidou Jersey City / Villa Albertine and The Clemente.

A number of new frameworks are emerging out of the residency. These range from facilitation methods and collaborative event formats to a longer-term project with the working title, “Museum as Hospital? A Diagnostic.” The conversations, events, and projects completed while at Canal Projects will also help to generate case studies and writing for a future DOT book. The grounding of the residency contributes to the DOT’s next phases in the US and internationally.

Naoco Wowsugi, Collective gong healing, Department of Transformation: Activating Partiscipation Now! May 16, 2024, Canal Projects. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk

Department of Transformation: Activating Partiscipation Now! May 16, 2024, Canal Projects. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk

Groundwork Reading Group
Groundwork Reading Group took place monthly from December 2023 – June 2024 as part of the Department of Transformation’s residency at Canal Projects. Organized by David Giles and Prem Krishnamurthy, the program invited participants to propose complex or challenging texts that merit collective engagement. Through a collective process, the group will identified readings for discussion, while also building an ongoing bibliography of transformative texts for our times.

Books We Read:
Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire by Jack Halberstam
The Emissary by Yoko Tawada
The Undercommons by Fred Moten & Stefano Harvey
The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abraham
On the Inconvenience of Other People by Lauren Berlant
Imaginary Magnitude by Stanislaw Lem
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman

Groundwork Reading Group, March 2024. Photo: Prem Krishnamurthy

Groundwork Reading Group, Past Books, May 2024. Photo: Caroline Taylor Shehan