Title transformation
Location New York
Publisher Wittenborn, Schultz
Periodicity Annual
URL transformation Worldcat
Published Since 1951-1953
Indexed Holdings 1951-1953


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Periodical's Overview

transformation affirms that art, science, technology are interacting components of the total human enterprise... but today they are too often treated as if they were cultural isolates and mutually antagonistic. lack of time, misinformation, specialized terminology make it hard to keep pace with advances in all fields. it is difficult enough to keep pace with a single one.

transformation will cut across the arts and sciences by treating them as a continuum.

transformation will provide authentic glimpses into the emerging forms of the ‘now.’

transformation will present unifying views, specialization is a condition for progress but we are opposed to mutual ignorance, prejudice, cultural civil war.

transformation will emphasize the dynamic process view as against static absolutes.. open as against closed systems... culture under transformation.”

Selected Subject Headings

  • Apperception
  • Art, Abstract - history and criticism
  • Chamorro (Micronesian people)
  • Civilization - forecasting
  • Free will and determinism
  • Fuller projection (cartography)
  • Haitian Americans - social life and customs
  • Humanism - 20th century
  • Imaginary wars and battles
  • Indians of North America - government relations
  • International encyclopedia of unified science
  • Islands
  • Mind and reality
  • Musicians’ writings
  • Plant morphology
  • Pulque - history
  • Quantum theory - history
  • Ra (Egyptian deity)
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Teams in the workplace


Artist, Piet Mondrian’s advocate and estate executor, educator, and transformation’s editor, Harry Holtzman signs with his associate editor Martin James the first text to be encountered in this short lived periodical. A statements of sorts, titled Measure of man. We quote:

“Yet a time must come when even the threat of violence must go. Albert Einstein’s message: ‘a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels’ affirms that supra-individual, supra-national world integrity is not merely desirable and necessary for survival today, but is possible as a normal goal of civilized men. To control mutually the resources of the universe, to harmonize the social world so as to develop human potentialities everywhere--this measure of man is not fated to remain forever ‘dreams’ and ‘utopias’ of ‘saints’ and ‘visionaries.’[1]

The text was written in 1950, the year that the Israeli government recognized the People’s Republic of China, the Group Areas Act is passed in South Africa, formally and legally segregating the ‘races,’ anti-British riots erupt in Egypt, and Einstein warns about ‘mutual destruction’ if nuclear war is waged, while General MacArthur threatens to wage it in his Korean War, to pick a random list of events that constitute a year according to Wikipedia.

It is this historical context that makes transformation's conciliatory and hopeful wishes more endearing and profound than they would seem if read from our blasé, cynical and deeply fraught cyborg, post-humanist or radical materialist times, in which “drifts of densely-semiotized quasi-intelligent garbage twitch and stink in fucked-weather tropical heat,” to use Nick Land’s words.

transformation was also prescient, as it was a venue for an impressive list of contributors in the areas of the arts and architecture; its fostering of a ‘holistic’ approach to what was then called the ‘environment,’ could be thought as anticipating what was going to be fully developed and tested in the still to come ‘experiments’ of the 1960s. To find an article wondering if the “American Indian” has a future paired with a marriage-as-group-dynamic diagramatic dissection or a young Merce Cunningham’s statement about space, time and dance makes one wonder if this rare collision of seemingly disparate subjects is doomed to be short lived. Fortunately, other periodicals like Signals in the 1960s continued to be endearing, profound, and prescient, no matter if these humanist internationalists attempts are also loaded with problematic ideological naiveté. But time’s distance has that: it allows one to believe to be foresighted and wiser than one’s predecessors, unaware of the great unimpeded knowledge that haunts humans. In the past, in the present, and in the future.

To all this, one should add the pleasure of encountering today Ad Reinhard’s incisive comics as they appeared in their original context. Transformations.

Another spelling, another account:

“The editors proclaimed the fledgling journal—described as a “world review”—to have a polemically universal viewpoint. The journal was to be a platform for discourses advancing toward a “unity of knowledge” that would address the “total human enterprise.” Aspiring to a “supra-individual, supra-national world integrity” as the true “measure of man,” it made recourse to a “new type of thinking” promising a “synthesis of knowledge” among the varied disciplines of the arts and the sciences. […]

Trans/formation was, however, anything but a modernist vehicle. The initiative of Harry Holtzman, a New York–based artist best known as the champion of Piet Mondrian’s work in America, and co-edited with Martin James, the journal was an eccentric and short-lived enterprise. Three annual issues were released before the journal folded in 1953, and at the height of its popularity it had about 1,000 sub-scriptions. While embedded in the art world, trans/formation was devoted neither to art nor to architecture but to a proposition that the arts and the sciences could be brought together in a common enterprise. To that end, the journal solicited contributions from natural and social scientists. Further, in addition to the CIAM contingent, it featured an array of other voices in the arts—Gyorgy Kepes, BuckminsterFuller, Marcel Duchamp, Ad Reinhardt, John Cage, Bernard Rudofsky—representatives of plural modernisms, “alternative” and “avant-garde.” Trans/formation therefore encompassed within a single historical object positions that have often been conceived to be communicating along an axis of oppositions: major and minor, central and marginal, dominant and critical.”[2]

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[1]Holtzman, Harry and Martin James. “Measure of man,” transformation (New York), no. 1 (1950): 1.

[2]Vallye, Anna. “The strategic universality of trans/formation, 1950-1952,” Grey room (New York), no. 35 (Spring 2009): 28-57.