The SSRU works on many different levels to contribute to the shaping of a conscious, non-exploitative and ecological society. Our contribution has as much to do with the methods and approaches we generate as it does with our thinking, ideas and reflective exchanges.
The sharing of these methods, approaches and ideas, as well as the reflective exchanges take place in many different forms and contexts: through participatory public projects and actions, research projects and university programmes, workshops, symposia, dialogue processes, publications and through this web-platform.
We work with groups, organisations, individuals and networks committed to shaping a viable future for both humans and the other-than-human world.
We frame our work in the following ways:
PROJECTS AND PROCESSES
The SSRU undertakes projects, develops processes and gets involved in different kinds of actions for different reasons. Although all the projects and processes related to the SSRU are informed by social sculpture and related ideas and principles, each project is as much an enquiry into ways of working with, exploring and developing these ideas and practices as it is an attempt to contribute to the shaping of a viable world. This is an emergent and evolving field as are the ways forward to a viable future. And so the projects are as much a means of sharing as they are of ‘researching’ and discovering what supports the evolution of ecological citizenship and viable ways of being in the world. Please see the section on Projects and Processes
NEW THINKING AND REFLECTION
Although social sculpture draws and reflects on a body of knowledge that includes Beuys’ social sculpture proposals and their roots in Goethe’s phenomenology, Schiller’s ‘aesthetic education of the human being’ and Steiner’s ‘threefold social organism’ and a new ‘social art’, it also makes links to other disciplines and movements – from ‘permaculture’ to ‘occupy’; from explorations in ecological citizenship and activism to direct democracy, necessary utopias and the rethinking of profit, progress and wages for labour. Relating the social sculpture proposals and their sources to the work being done now in and beyond the field of social sculpture, generates new thinking and reflection in the form of lectures and writings, interviews, connective dialogues, processes and practices, seminars, symposia and other exchanges. Please see sections on Publications, Projects and Processes, and Events.
GRADUATE STUDY AND RESEARCH
Social sculpture is as much a field of research as it is one of practice. The taught Masters degree in Social Sculpture offers an approach to practice-based research that helps to integrate theory in practice. Doctoral Research in the field of social sculpture can take several different forms on the spectrum from 100% practice-based research to 100% theory. This depends on your aims and the nature of your work. Both Master and Doctoral study can be undertaken either part-time or full-time. We also welcome expressions of interest for post-doctoral research in social sculpture and related fields. All these research programmes benefit from close links to the SSRU and its practitioners and theorists. Please see the section on Graduate Study and Research.
EXCHANGES AND COLLABORATIONS
Social sculpture as a field is nourished by extensive roots, both old and new. But these roots need also to be nourished by insights that come from addressing the challenges of now. We therefore welcome exchanges and collaborations with others working in related projects, disciplines and actions. Recent and current collaborations with members of the permaculture network and a range of civil society groups, or ‘education for change’ projects and foundations exploring connections between imagination and active citizenship – are an integral part of our work. It is through such exchanges and collaborations – whether informal or more formal – that we can continue to enliven, sharpen and extend our work. We have experienced how productive exchanges with organisations, foundations, networks, projects and individuals can really enhance the understandings and the work.
Many people want to be involved in the work of the Social Sculpture Research Unit or the field of social sculpture. There are several different ways for you to support and engage with us that offer creative opportunities for us all. Some of these invite participation in projects like Earth Forum and University of the Trees, or joining the Social Sculpture Initiatives Forum, which is open to all. There is also a great need for support with specific tasks – like updating the website, fundraising for a specific project or supporting a project team in other ways. Apart from volunteering to support specific tasks there are possibilities for non-financed internships and short-term researcher-in-residence roles, as well, of course, to help us find funding or offer financial support yourself. More details can be found here.
NEW PEDAGOGIC PRACTICES
The field of social sculpture is also the field of connective perception and practice: of exploring how we can come closer to and connect more deeply with the world – as an important towards discovering what needs to be done and to developing transformative actions. A key part of our work has therefore been to explore and develop new methods of connecting and engaging – in which the HOW is always as important as the WHAT. And so we continue to put much energy into exploring and developing our Creative Strategies programme and other phenomenological approaches that generate new enlivening methods of engagement. These methods can be experienced in the programmes and projects of University of the Trees; in the Masters in Social Sculpture programme and in our Agents of Change workshops. You can also read about them in some of our publications.
RESEARCH TERRITORIES AND CLUSTERS
People closely linked to the SSRU share a number of core interests, understandings and concerns. We differ in how we focus our energies and the specific forms we work in: some of us focus more on practice-based research, others more on theory. And so in our various research projects and the supervision of research students we collaborate internally as well as with others committed to connective practice and the shaping of a humane and viable future.
Current research territories include: Agents of Change and Ecological Citizenship; Art, Culture and Sustainability; Connective Practices and New Methods of Engagement; the significance of Goethe’s holistic science and ‘new organs of perception’ for social sculpture; the roots and evolution of Beuys’ social sculpture proposals; Connective Aesthetics and the relationship between imagination and transformation; Aesthetic Education for Ecological Citizenship; the philosophy and practice of Imagination; the phenomenology of connective thinking and practice; Social Sculpture, Activism and Transformative Social Process; contemporary dimensions of Beuys’ and Steiner’s ‘threefold’ social organism; re-schooling the senses and the role of the University of the Trees. Details of our PhD students’ research projects highlight the interdisciplinary reach of our concerns. See section detailing PhD students’ research.
EXTENDING THE NETWORK / DISSEMINATION
The commitment to extend the network is embedded in all our projects and publications. We want to disseminate our approach, insights, questions and ideas, not because we want people to think like us, but because we would like to share and scale-up the things that seem relevant in our work to shape an integrative way of being in the world. Dissemination and extending the network also means extending our capacities through the questions and insights of others in contexts beyond those we know. And so, because dissemination can and should be a two-way process, we create opportunities for exchange and for collaboration. Working together on a project can be an arena for strengthening and deepening the ‘viable-world’ network that goes beyond our existing projects and organisations. Our disseminating work therefore includes developing new practices and processes through collaboration, as well as by sharing our understandings through forms of ‘training’. More traditionally it also means organising symposia and other platforms for dialogue and exchange, sharing our thinking and questions widely through social media, as well as writing, documenting what we do and facilitating translations.
Because we are engaged in an on-going reflective process ourselves, in our projects, writing, actions and teaching, we try and give these reflections form that others can use. Sometimes a resource is a ‘training’ programme integrated into a project – like it is in Earth Forum. In other instances is a book like Death Keeps Me Awake that unravels and presents the Beuys’ social sculpture roots and his links to Rudolf Steiner. It might be a workshop in connective aesthetic in medicine led by a PhD researcher, or even access to a social sculpture, connective practice approach as is the case through University of the Trees. The web-platform will in time be a resource that opens up access to all these other resources: lectures, events, archival material, publications, workshops, symposia and seminars, social sculpture projects and a field of interconnected individuals, initiatives and organisations.