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An exhibition held in conjunction with the Visual Culture Conference, "Trans" at the University of Wisconsin Madison, open from October 20-28, 2006.



What is ‘trans’? A dynamic prefix, ‘trans’ signifies movement. It can refer to the spaces between, through, or across seemingly stable categories. It can also describe those bodies or practices that cross borders, whether between nations, cultures, genders, or biological forms. ‘Trans’ can indicate a movement ‘beyond’, as in ‘transcendence’, or within the real world, where violence often comes with the crossing of boundaries.

The exhibition site is a space of ‘trans’. The Kupfer Center lies under the Dane County Airport’s flight path, alongside train tracks and the bike trail, and within the greater Atwood community. The Center’s interior spaces recall its industrial past, when workers transformed raw materials into commercial goods. We can trace the train rails across the factory floor, now marked by Abby Shotwell (Confetti Tricks). The gantry cranes hang from the rafters; we can imagine them in motion, echoed by the movements of Hewson and Kelly (Resident. Alien.). The building remains a site of commerce, storing Argentinean teas, Buddhist architectural elements, and Dr. Who action figures, as well as a site of commentary (Lonidier, NAFTA - Not a Fair Trade for All). The Kupfer Center is a place of accumulated history and exchange, and embodies many of the spaces of ‘trans’ that this exhibition seeks to explore.

Visualizing TRANS brings together over forty artists, activists, students, and scholars whose work addresses the types of movements that ‘trans’ can signify. The individual pieces may seem disconnected, as you move from photographer Mary Farmilant’s recreation of an abandoned hospital, to Dan Schwarzlose the Synesthetic Bartender, to a view of Transylvania as seen by local fourth graders. Consider each piece, however, as a moment of fusion, crossing or passage. Decide for yourself how each piece performs its own version of ‘trans-’ in thought or action.

How do we visualize ‘trans’? The curatorial team has chosen the model of the rhizome, a botanical (and philosophical) reference to a root system where buds and branches grow at nodes, or points of connection, spreading organically in no linear order. Each component in a rhizome provides a vital element in its structure, and each part plays a crucial role in its life. With multiple points of entry and infinite connections, the rhizome is a network of interconnected flows. Like a rhizome, the spaces of ‘trans’ are varied and multiple, with no one way to proceed, no singular narrative to follow. Each piece in Visualizing TRANS addresses many issues and has connections to other works in the exhibition, the gallery space itself, or to theories, practices and experiences that each viewer brings to the exhibition.

We invite you to participate in creating the physical rhizome that describes connections between the pieces in the exhibition. Visual artist and curatorial team member Sara Schneckloth is creating a rhizomatic installation in the gallery through which the relations of ‘trans’ can be invented and made material. Pick up a game card and wander through the space. Observe connections between pieces, ideas, people and places in the exhibition. Choose a common theme of connection, return your card, and she will give your idea a node on the rhizome. Each day, she will map new connections into the network - your idea will become a vital part of the interpretation of the whole.

When you leave the exhibition, you can write more about your thoughts and the connections you are making here by visiting our blog (, as well as find out what other visitors have to say about the Visualizing TRANS project.

By visualizing the many spaces of ‘trans’, our hope is that these former spaces of the in-between become realized as viable points of departure for many new narratives to emerge.


The Transcurators are Tamar Brown, Heidi Ganshaw, Chele Isaac, Megan Katz, Amy Noell, Emily Pfotenhauer, Sara Schneckloth and Beth Zinsli.

We wish to thank the following people, without whom Visualizing TRANS would not have been possible: Dan Weierman, Margo Tiedt, Doug Rosenberg, Michael Eckblad, Dennis Peterson, Heather White, Beth Ann Harrington, Jeanine Critchley, Jason Stone, John Davis, John Martens, Wheels for Winners, Access to Independence, Cycropia Aerial Dance, Jill Casid, Jane Simon, and Laurie Beth Clark.

Visualizing TRANS is funded in part by the Associated Students of Madison and the Visual Culture Cluster. The exhibition is co-sponsored by the Visual Culture Cluster, the UW-Madison Departments of Art History, Art, and Communication Arts, and the Art History Gradforum.