News and Events 2008

2008 December, Oxford, UK
The national UK Research Assessment (RAE) results released recently, place all the work being done in the Art Department at Oxford Brookes – that houses the Social Sculpture Research Unit and its projects – in the international category, with some of the work regarded as “world leading”. Six new doctoral students are now doing doctoral research in areas related to Social Sculpture Shelley Sacks and Prof. Walter Kugler are supervising these students – with Dr. Paul Whitty, Prof. Roger Griffen and Dr. Wofgang Zumdick as second supervisors, or special advisors. The SSRU continues to develop international collaborations and projects that contribute to this highly rated Art Department at Oxford Brookes.

2008 October 30/31, New Orleans, USA
The WORLD CULTURAL ECONOMIC FORUM is a two-day forum in New Orleans on Oct. 30-31 for world cultural economy leaders from approximately 60 countries invited to Louisiana to discuss best practices for growing cultural industries as key segments of a global economy.

Shelley Sacks has been invited to make a contribution about social sculpture and transformative process as part of a panel on Creative Communities chaired by Steve Dahlberg, and to co-lead a workshop on improvisation / new methods of engagement. The aim of the international forum is to build cultural economic development opportunities through the strategic convening of cultural ambassadors and leaders from around the world, whilst positioning Louisiana as the driving force of the global cultural economy movement. The WCEF will provide the opportunity to explore best practices and engage in critical conversations for improving our cultural economies, growing culture and engendering creativity.

2008 October – November, Oxford, UK
From Paradise to Social Sculpture & Beyond
The Philosophy of Imagination: 3 Lecture-Seminars by Dr. Wolfgang Zumdick, International Visiting Research Fellow in Social Sculpture at Oxford Brookes University.

On Tuesday evenings 5.30 – 8 pm, 21 October, 4 November, 18 November, at Oxford Brookes University. Hosted by the Social Sculpture Research Unit, The Institute for Historical and Cultural Research at Oxford Brookes University

Lecture-Seminar 1, Tuesday October 21
From Paradise … Life-changing energies in poesies’ and imagination

Lecture-Seminar 2, Tuesday November 4
To Social Sculpture Joseph Beuys: Evolution. An artistic perspective on the development of mind and earth

Lecture-Seminar 3, Tuesday November 18
And Beyond Everybody is an artist: Transforming society by developing individual potential

2008 September, Hannover, Germany
The Kulturbuero in Hannover has confirmed support for the Ort des Treffens social sculpture project. Initiated by Shelley Sacks, with a team that includes Hannover based artists, Anja Steckling and Nicholas Stronczyk, Alex Arteaga – Berlin based sound artist and philosopher, Lukas Oertel – Masters student in social sculpture, and Wolfgang Zumdick, philosopher and author from Aachen – the project will work with the citizens of Hannover from March to September 2009, exploring connections between imaginal thought (bildhaftes Denken), listening and dialogues processes.

It will also relate the social sculpture ideas central to this project to the work of Leibniz, Hannah Arendt and Joseph Beuys. For full details of the project see: Developing the Territory/Ort des Treffens. The project has its own website

2008 JULY 26–27, Exeter, UK
UNIVERSITY OF THE TREES at CCANW Haldon Forest, Exeter, International Weekend Forum
University of the Trees will become an exploratory forum to experience and consider new ways of connecting with the world and what we mean by developing “new organs of perception”.

It will also be an opportunity to get closer to the social sculpture ideas and their relationship to the University of the Trees as an “instrument of consciousness” in our work toward a humane and ecologically just society. The three guest speakers Dr. Chris Seeley, Dieter Schuhmacher and Prof. Volker Harlan are all actively involved in the University of the Trees project or related connective practices.

Through presentations, discussion and experiential processes in the forest they will open up the space to explore how the University of the Trees relates to our work towards an ecologically just society.

Day 1: Presentations at CCANW and participatory processes in the forest with the three visiting presenters, introduced by Shelley Sacks (10.30 -6 pm)

Day 2: Further exploratory day for UoT Group, Exeter and interested Day 1 participants (10.30 -4.30)

If you have not been involved in the University of the Trees meetings and processes before, please come one hour earlier on Sat 26 July. Shelley Sacks will introduce you to the project. It would be helpful if you could look at the UoT website to acquaint yourself with the project beforehand.

*”New organs of perception” is a phrase that stems from the scientific work of Goethe, who contrasted a participatory, holistic mode of seeing to onlooker consciousness. Joseph Beuys‘ used this phrase too to emphasise the need for new forms of knowing and perceiving that would lead us to act in a more connected way. Some of our organs of perception – like eyes, ears and tongue – are already fairly well developed at birth. But others, our higher human organs of perception – like the ability to empathise, to develop a conscience, to perceive the idea in things and the interconnections in the world – need to be developed.

University of the Trees creates an arena and a framework for exploring our relationship to the world, and for enabling us to develop actions based on new insights and perceptions. Find out what University of the Trees groups are doing – get information on University of the Trees events and meetings

July 2008, Exeter Region
This 2-day participatory event in Haldon Forest, Exeter explores the University of the Trees‘ emphasis on new organs of perception. This idea and practice, first developed by Goethe, was central to Joseph Beuys‘ work.

On Saturday 26 July University of the Trees advisors, Dr. Chris Seeley, Dieter Schumacher, Prof. Dr.Volker Harlan and Shelley Sacks will make presentations that engage participants in this territory. On the Sunday 27 July the Exeter group and people who have attended the Saturday 26 July presentations, will work together in the University of the Trees in Haldon Forest to further explore the methods and ideas presented on the previous day.

2008 JUNE 17–18, Oxford, UK
The purpose of this small international gathering is to explore in some depth the transdisciplinary notion of connective practices being used by the 20 practitioners attending the event. The event – designed and facilitated by Shelley Sacks and Chris Seeley – is hosted and funded by Oxford Brookes University‘s Institute of Historical and Cultural Research; The Art, Culture and Sustainability research group and the Social Sculpture Research Unit. FOLLOW UP EVENT: In Autumn 2008 a follow up event – open to all – will present the findings of this consultation to others who actively wish to engage in the ongoing work of this growing international connective practices network.

2008 JUNE 12, Haldon Forest, Exeter, UK
Using the “tree bands” from the University of the Trees kit, foresters and members of the Exeter University of the Trees group will create a central “main forum” in which regular meetings will take place. A further 12 bands will also be positioned around the periphery of Haldon Forest, defining the entire forest as a university of the trees.

21 June 2008, Exeter Region, UK
Open to all. See and for details

2008 April 16, Oxford, UK
THE HIGH TABLE INTERVENTION Nicholas Stronczyk‘s presentation of works, questions and research, as part of the work towards his practice-based PhD.

2008 April, Oxford, UK
A Professorship at Oxford Brookes University has recently been conferred on Walter Kugler (author, musician and curator of many contemporary exhibitions) which will enable him to develop his work in this field and play a much more active role in the Social Sculpture Research Unit. Walter‘s own transdisciplinary background (contemporary music, philosophy, pedagogics, politics and work with Beuys) makes him well suited to co-teach on the MA in interdisciplinary Arts and to supervise graduate research students in social sculpture related fields.

2008 March, Weimar, Germany
From Bauhaus to Social Sculpture: The Shaping of Humane Societies as an Aesthetic Challenge. This 12-day programme runs annually in the summer. It actively engages participants in an introductory exploration relevant to cultural workers and interdisciplinary practitioners in the 21st century. The programme is led by Dr. Hildegard Kurt and Shelley Sacks.

2008 January
SHELLEY SACKS and CAROLINE TISDALL on Art and Climare Change programme hosted by Cornelia Parker for RADIO 3

The Guardian 14.01.08: Last night‘s Sunday Feature – Rules of Engagement (Radio 3), presented by Cornelia Parker, featured possibly one of the lines, and certainly one of the diverting mental images, of this young year. “I‘m a vegetarian”, said artist Shelley Sacks, “but I cover my arms with raw bacon while I‘m giving this quite academic lecture”.

The rest of the programme wasn‘t quite so peculiar, though it featured a soundtrack that made Tom Waits‘ more experimental moments sound positively pedestrian. It began with something akin to silent movie music of apocalyptic doom, and then slipped into a section that suggested rumbling tummies at war. Parker had assembled a cast of hypnotically clever contributors who said fancy things about art in the age of global warming that were hard to disagree with, largely because you‘d long forgotten what the question was. Artist Olafur Eliasson tussled with the relationship between art and politics: “sensational questions in terms of our senses, neurological questions, cognitive questions, can be very political… political in social, ethical, environmental ways”. Gustav Metzger had an altogether pithier analysis. “It‘s a disaster in which we live”, he said, in a low, dark grumble.