Transformazium is the collaborative practice of Dana Bishop-Root, Ruthie Stringer and Leslie Stem. Our projects examine local systems of communication, exchange and resource distribution; redirect resources from an arts economy to a local economy; and participate in an active local arts discourse that includes voices currently underrepresented in more dominant arts discourses: young people, the elderly, communities of color, people from poor and working class backgrounds and those outside of the University education system. We use our position between our neighborhood and the larger art world to expand and connect both discourses.
Our work has primarily been made in conversation with the municipal cluster of Braddock and North Braddock, plus parts of Rankin and East Pittsburgh. We respond directly to the specificity of this context; which is post-industrial, cash poor, blighted; which has lost significant population over the past half century, and is home to nearly 10,000 people; which is the site of deep histories (the French and Indian War, the Whiskey Rebellion, American Industrialization, Carnegie, Anarchists, Pinkertons, labor riots, Unions, deindustrialization, Reaganomics and neoliberalism, systemic racism and poverty, crack cocaine, sabotage by a highway that never got built, the demolition of UPMC Braddock, various attempts at urban redevelopment); which has a media presence that is often difficult to reconcile with day to day reality, marketed as a wide open frontier for artists and people who look like artists.
Though we choose to be enmeshed in our neighborhood, we see this position as expansively connected to other current and emerging contextual practices, allowing us to closely examine what we consider to be crucial questions for art and artists in our present moment: How do we live together, share with one another and communicate beyond ourselves? What is the real capacity of art and artists to impact neighborhood economies, and vice versa? How do we acknowledge systemic injustices and traumatic histories and find pathways over, under, around and through them? How do we recognize artistic and intellectual discourses that use other languages than those of art systems and institutions, and that develop outside of traditional art spaces? And how can we approach these questions, that some might consider to be burdened with ethics, while also embracing aesthetic pleasure, idiosyncrasy, humor, discomfort, failure. . . .
Since 2009 we have partnered with the Braddock Carnegie Library. This collaboration feeds our intimate connection to our locality and fuels our discourse with our neighbors, while we are also reaching outward, towards other discourses in other places, putting new objects, knowledge and ideas into circulation.