Nov 2023–Mar 2024

Groundwork is a four-month library residency at Canal Projects, New York. Over this period, the space will grow as a collective workshop for learning and convening—gathering together friends, old and new, to think and transform together.

Read More
Night of Ideas Jersey City: Department of Transformation
Disco Roof (for D🪩T)
P.P.P.P.P.P. (People! Practice Participating in Participatory Projects, Please.)
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2017

adrienne maree brown

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

Book, 280 pages
- file://mtcDt4StxazQm4uu

How can a book change an individual and the world at the same time? Leafing through adrienne maree brown’s wildly influential book, Emergent Strategy, is a bit like having a conversation with the author herself: personal, irreverent, insightful, literary, dreamy, and practically-grounded, in balanced proportions. Since its publication in 2017, the book has become a staple in social justice and socially-minded art and design circles alike. Its insights into the importance of scale—from the microscopic to the global—inform the framework of D-O-T.

Emergent Strategy offers a range of tips and tools for how to approach social justice on the individual, collective, and planetary scales. This core attention to a “fractal” notion of liberation is a crucial one: a movement cannot provide true transformation unless the people who comprise it are also transformed.

brown, adrienne maree. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Chico: AK Press, 2017. 

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2015

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

Book, 352 pages
- file://jk2XgEuajkuzL7Bm

Amid the widespread wreckage of the contemporary moment, Tsing’s unique book uses anthropological field research to uncover the less visible mechanisms of capitalism; it also offers a surprising glimpse of hope that emerges from the bottom up. Perhaps the precarity that many people around the world currently experience acutely can also serve as a source of learning. By tracking the entangled social and environmental ecologies of a species of mushroom that grows in damaged, disturbed forest ecosystems, alongside the on-the-ground stories of the people who harvest it, Tsing creates a work that is equal parts theoretical and narrative. Significantly, the form of the book is unusual for an academic text and is part of the argument; by juxtaposing photographs, short interludes, and other structural devices, she develops a multilayered volume that reads almost like a gripping novel—apart from the fact that it’s about a single mushroom species and how it grows out of adversity.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. The Mushroom at the End of the World : On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

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2020

Prem Krishnamurthy

Commune, v.1.0.0

Prototype lecture-performance, 50 mins
- file://OVPy9RBt5ngcQ4aV

From the Renaissance to the contemporary period, there has been an evolution towards the artist’s self-understanding as an “apex predator” within a cultural and creative ecosystem. Yet today’s entangled crises—of public health, ecology, structural inequality, political belief, and social relations—in conjunction with changing technological and communicative norms insist upon a comprehensive rethinking of the role of the artist. In particular, these conditions suggest more porous structural possibilities, in which the authorial and individualistic aspirations of artistic, curatorial, and designerly practice can open up to other, more collective forms of identification. Embracing topics as wide-ranging as embodied practice, sociology, self-help, neuroscience, speculative fiction, literary theory, and individual and group therapeutic methods, this ongoing lecture-performance explores possibilities for responsivity, collaboration, learning, belonging, and action embedded within emergent creative practice.

Watch here
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2007

Barbara Ehrenreich

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

Book, 320 pages
- file://ejyXjk6tzkKp7mFG

How has dancing served as an agent of transformation and group formation over the past millennia? Dancing in the Streets is a synthetic history of ecstatic dancing and its roles in human society across cultures and time periods. Constructing an argument that spans from the ancient Greeks and early Christian practices to the present day, Ehrenreich makes a powerful case for moving together as a core human tool for creating community and revelation that has been mostly dismissed in contemporary mass culture. Ehrenreich, who recently passed away, was a profound thinker and practitioner of leveling, social justice work. This book is a core work for those connecting to embodied movement and its potential roles in personal and social change.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Dancing in the Streets : A History of Collective Joy. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007.

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2022

Prem Krishnamurthy

Dust & Rainbows

Prototype lecture-performance / virtual workshop, 51 mins
- file://CtUj5ZZw6sB0YhYC

A virtual workshop that speaks to the themes and inspiration behind Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, the second edition of FRONT International 2022. With a focus on art as an agent of transformation, a mode of healing, and a therapeutic process, the video surveys some of the artworks appearing in the exhibition. This lays the groundwork for a series of participatory exercises encouraging viewers to reflect on how these ideas touch them individually and collectively.

Watch here
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2015

Caroline Levine

Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network

Books, 192 pages
- file://tycZJ15nUICOOwTW

Forms is a work of literary criticism and theory that connects the formal structures of writing and narrative with larger political and social structures. It argues that by understanding the structures of literature more thoroughly, we might also work more effectively on changing society. By taking art out of the realm of the purely aesthetic and into the world, Forms offers tools of analysis that are relevant to emerging and established practitioners alike.

Levine, Caroline. Forms : Whole Rhythm Hierarchy Network. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

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2013

Bessel van der Kolk with Krista Tippett

How Trauma Lodges in the Body

Podcast, 51 mins
- file://mu1efwhwLbcbAO44

Bessel van der Kolk’s podcast conversation with Krista Tippett and his bestselling book The Body Keeps the Score approach trauma and its numerous therapies from an embodied and open-minded perspective. Balancing scientific research with descriptions of specific therapeutic modalities, van der Kolk’s work considers how trauma impacts the brain and body in quantifiable, long term ways—but how these changes are also plastic and can be remade. Although van der Kolk can be a divisive figure in psychological circles, his synthetic overview of current approaches to trauma therapy is wide ranging in scope and a useful overview. It offers a starting point for understanding the contemporary scientific work of healing and how it begins with the body.

Listen here
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2021

Prem Krishnamurthy

Polymorph, v.2.0.1

Prototype lecture-performance, 28 mins
- file://F8WNBPCW4bBGhjsS

Amidst the radical transformations of today, how is design itself changing? What new roles can designers embrace in order to facilitate more sustainable ways of being in the world? Which frameworks, methods, and tools might support them in their paths? 

This presentation focuses on themes that are relevant for both professional work and everyday life. Synthesizing ideas from across community organizing, speculative fiction, cognitive science, typography, anthropology, group therapy, movement, and more, the talk suggests alternative modes of knowledge and practice. The articulation of three aesthetic strategies—generosity, juxtaposition, and bumpiness—structures the presentation’s insights. In their intersection, these strategies offer new approaches to guide emergent creative and collaborative work within ever more uncertain futures.

Watch here
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2020

Cassie Thornton

The Hologram: Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future

Book, 144 pages
- file://zbHGgzCNBzfrMNyU

How can an artist’s vision transform the work of care? The Hologram describes artist Cassie Thornton’s model for distributed, feminist mutual care that has gone from a speculative proposal to a worldwide practice comprising thousands of people. Based on the model of Greek solidarity clinics, the ingenuity of The Hologram is its lightweight structure of mutual support that any group of non-professionals can set up, as well as a clever and creative approach to presenting the work. This includes a speculative Wikipedia entry from the far-flung future that shows what the world might look like if everyone used The Hologram to create networks of care for themselves and others. Representing one example of an artist using creative strategies to reimagine structural change from the bottom up, this book is a critical read for the DOT.

Thornton, Cassie. The Hologram: Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future. London: Pluto Press, 2020. 

Link to book
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1997

David Abram

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

Book, 368 pages
- file://WgV8g723TpADug4e

Abram is a unique and compelling figure; a beautiful writer, environmental philosopher, and advocate for the more-than-human world who also brings his unlikely career as a sleight-of-hand magician to bear on his work. The core argument of his now-canonical, essentially unclassifiable work is that the sense-making apparatus that humans evolved to read the traces of other creatures and phenomena in the world was profoundly redirected through the introduction of written language. In Abrams’ estimation, this transformation is something that contemporary society must use with awareness to reckon with a world-threatening ecological crisis. It’s a well-needed warning, argued with intricacy—one that sounds even more salient nearly 25 years after its first publication.

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. 

Link to book
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2003

Allan Kaprow

Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life

Book, 297 pages
- file://m5OUKICwRVnZ4MIg

This volume collects several decades of writings by Allan Kaprow, one of the key progenitors of 20th century performance art. His “Happenings” in the late 1950s and 1960s laid the way for later developments in art, moving performance off of the stage and into the realm of everyday life. Kaprow’s notion of “non-theatrical performance” is a key one for D-O-T, which sees non-art contexts as prime places in which to use artistic strategies for individual and group transformation.

Kaprow, Allan. Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. Oakland: University of California Press, 2003.

Link to book
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2016

Amitav Ghosh

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

Book, 176 pages
- file://hAsB6b3M3uTijhtZ

Amitav Ghosh’s essential, terrifyingly present, book connects the dots between climate crisis and literature. It moves in scale from the systemic to the narrative, in equal parts. One of its core claims is for the necessity of collective ways of thinking that can better respond to contemporary ecological challenges—something that much North American and European literature of the 20th century has neglected. As applicable to literature as to visual art, Ghosh’s book stands lays out an argument for collaborative, multivocal artistic forms.

Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

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2019

Elvia Wilk

Oval

Book, 352 pages
- file://71SwyQEBgi35mhok

This speculative novel, set in a near-future Berlin, highlights the role of artists in prototyping new forms of society. In this fictional world, artists no longer work in a gallery system. Instead they are embedded within startups and companies on multi-year retainers with the express mandate to “disrupt” society. One artist, the boyfriend of the book’s protagonist, develops a club drug that makes people more generous. It’s a magic pill that’s meant to save the world, the ultimate work of socially engaged art. Let’s just say: it doesn’t end quite that rosily.

Wilk, Elvia. Oval. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2019.

Link to book
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1970

Jo Freeman

“The Tyranny of Structurelessness”

PDF, 5 pages

This now-classic essay examines power structures within groups. The text argues that the feminist movement requires specific structures and rules to avoid the kind of oppression, domination, and inequities rampant in the culture at large. Freeman’s words are still highly relevant today when considering the dynamics and hierarchies embedded within every community.

Read here
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2017

Leigh Ledare

The Task

Film, 118 min
- file://8A9SRCgCjiw7QWHA

Leigh Ledare’s 2017 feature-length film The Task is a powerful meditation on the complexities and conflicts of community. Shot by a film crew in a single room over several days, the camera observes real-life Tavistock group therapy participants as they work toward the abstract “task" of articulating the conscious and unconscious relationships between the people in the room. As they negotiate their individual positions and try to name complex gender, class, and racial dynamics, they are guided and sometimes thwarted by a set of professional yet inscrutable therapist-consultants. The film’s climax, in which the artist steps out from behind the camera to confront the workshop participants—raising an uproar about crossed boundaries that ultimately leads to the consultants leaving the room silently—raises questions about the power of art making to intervene in and unexpectedly destabilize social structures.

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1992

Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity

Book, 272 pages
- file://peOH1HtkdCjqRsab

A bestselling self-help book for frustrated artists, The Artist’s Way is a staple (or a guilty secret) in many artists’ practices. The book outlines a 12-week process as a kind of self-directed creative residency. The goal: to release you from the insecurities and frustrations of being an artist. Although its religious language can be off-putting to some, the overall principle and in particular its basic tools—the so-called “Morning Pages” and “Artists Dates”—are a powerful combination of daily rigor and weekly indulgence. It’s the kind of structure AND pampering that many artists might need in order to exhaust the self, while also encouraging them to tap into their greatest inspiration.

Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: Penguin Putman, 1992. 

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1972

Martin Duberman

Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community

Book, 616 pages
- file://uHEWmbBkdTwm7TMk

This book is a core text for DOT, both for its subject matter (the experimental, interdisciplinary pedagogical experient known as Black Mountain College, which made a major impact upon American arts and letters in the post-war period), as well as for the way it is written (a self-reflexive, self-implicating structural approach that begins with straight history, but evolves into an unusual melange of memoir, historical revisionism, and radical pedagogical journal). Now over 50 years, the book’s approach to community and learning is still as relevant today as when it was first published.

Duberman, Martin. Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community. New York: Dutton, 1972.

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1993

Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower

Book, 336 pages
- file://k1Z1GDIFQMYABzW7

Octavia E. Butler’s classic near-future fiction presents an America on the brink of environmental, political, and social collapse. Her iconic protagonist and narrator, teenager Lauren Oya Olamina, represents a prototypical artist of the new era. She writes in her journals of the new religion, Earthseed, that she hopes to establish; it represents a way for humans to escape their own destruction. This religion manifests itself in the community she is forced to gather around her from the ashes of her old one. In her work of forging new bonds between people through creativity, care, and tenacity, Lauren offers valuable lessons for the survivors of the future.

Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993.

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2013

Richard Sennett

Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation

Book, 336 pages
- file://0Qt5fw6mo5O8V8tI

Sennett’s text offers a philosophical and sociological argument in favor of cooperation. Using examples from music, developmental psychology, and other disciplines, the book argues that cooperation rather than competition is the basic feature of human society. Concluding with a case study of a cooperatively organized design project that the author was involved in, it reads quite presciently in the post-pandemic moment, which requires digital presence for both work and community.

Sennett, Richard. Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2013.

Link to book
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2021

Tyson Yunkaporta

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World

Book, 256 pages
- file://8RXJl7VcTRAIkdNz

Yunkaporta’s foundational book shares an Indigenous perspective on the way that memory, writing, and knowledge function within Aboriginal culture. His perambulatory narrative emphasizes spoken, verbal modes of dialogue as foundational to his and other Indigenous communities’ self-understanding. The text is also notable in its performative writing approach. As Yunkaporta outlines an argument against a European notion of archival preservation, he weaves together an example of a spoken-written text: a text that, although it’s read on the page, seems to speak out loud, as if told by a campfire. The circular structure of his stories take on as much importance as the words themselves.

Yunkaporta, Tyson. Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. New York: HarperCollins, 2021.

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2021

Annie Murphy Paul

The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain

Book, 352 pages
- file://nqyUZy9yhS9yLrOV

This highly readable articulation of how the human mind encompasses much more than just the physical brain is a contemporary classic. Through stories and scientific studies, Murphy Paul demonstrates that cognition happens in the body and gestures, in spaces and objects, and, most significantly, through relationships with others. One key feature of the book is that it’s not only theoretical and descriptive, it also operationalizes its conclusions and offers useful tools to enhance thinking and learning.

Paul, Annie Murphy. The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021.

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2019

Richard D. Bartlett

Microsolidarity

community-building practice
- file://8u0G92Z6gyi9GyLv

Microsolidarity represents a potent approach to community building that takes at its core a fractal view of belonging: if people are able to connect with others within a small scale group, it increases their chances for connection and care at successively larger scales. In this, Microsolidarity provides a quiet framework for world changing, which sees the reshaping of the systems and structures we currently have at our disposal as its ultimate goal. The framework is an in-progress manual that offers community-building tools and case studies from other models that can be adapted to specific contexts.

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2020

Prem Krishnamurthy and Emily Smith

Present!

Online event series
- file://e1Gcxtdmexi2VD0D

Initiated by Prem Krishnamurthy in March 2020 to counteract isolation and support new forms of community, Present! is a live, collaborative, online event series that brings together artists, designers, curators, writers, musicians, healers, and other creative folks. This experimental format combines a virtual seminar, talkshow, and Sunday sermon with embodied activities (karaoke, meditation, dance, movement, therapy), alongside readings, screening, performances, and discussion groups. Produced out of Berlin, Present! prototypes a diverse, participatory, and hybrid platform for sharing emergent tools and experiences.

Link!
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2020

Kae Tempest

On Connection

Book, 144 pages
- file://9gInaeLes9cTLIS3

Performer and poet Kae Tempest unpacks both how art and music work to connect us with others who are different from us, while also sharing personal experiences from the path towards leading a creative life. Packed with both theoretical insight as well as examples from the ups and downs of everyday life, it’s a short but deep read. The book is a key one, offering a synthetic and emotive new way to consider the role of art in society for the period ahead.

Tempest, Kae. On Connection. London: Faber, 2020.

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2020

Martin Beck

known attained possessed

MP3 playlist, 1 hr, 36 mins
- file://D2ndnyAU3e6mP5r4

How can a playlist serve as a core text for transformation? Over the past decade and a half, artist Martin Beck has produced periodic MP3 mixtapes that he shares with a tight-knit community of friends and colleagues. The eclectic musical selection reflects his changing auditory passions and preoccupations. Like long-form conversations, Beck’s mixtapes function as exchanges with a distributed community through the medium of sound. known attained possessed is a paradigmatic playlist from Beck’s loosely-defined genre, enacting musical and rhythmic movement over time. Transformation starts in the body and dance is one of its most powerful agents.

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2020

Kim Stanley Robinson

Ministry for the Future

Book, 576 pages
- file://7Zo1UoibtbOdP4RX

This brick of a book, written in a highly engaging style from many vantage points, is a literary masterpiece in its construction. Yet it is also a complex, multiscalar thought experiment about how to address the looming climate catastrophe. It’s commendable how readable Robinson makes that message, which has enabled it to inspire people to take the climate crisis more seriously, even catalyzing new companies that are turning some of its technological thought experiments into reality. This is a true Trojan horse: a gripping, complexly structured artwork that can deliver a bitter but desperately needed pill.

Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Ministry for the Future. London: Little Brown, 2020