Staff and Core Network

SSRU Staff are responsible to the university for giving direction to and running the SSRU, as well as being actively involved in the development of its projects, processes and resources. This staff team together with a few staff from the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes, as well as research fellows and associates, research assistants, doctoral students and interns actively involved in specific SSRU projects form the Core Network. The core network shares a commitment to the development and global dissemination of our work in the field of social sculpture, as well as enabling appropriate exchanges and collaborations.

The SSRU staff team includes:

Prof. Shelley Sacks (Co-ordinator)
Shelley is an interdisciplinary, social sculpture practitioner who writes, performs and lectures internationally. For four decades she has been involved in developing the field of social sculpture with specific emphasis on the role of imagination in transformation and relating this to our work for an ecologically viable future. This has included an exploration of Beuys’ social sculpture ideas and proposals, tracing the roots of these ideas, relating them to other enquiries, disciplines, visions and practices, and creating an approach that makes such ideas accessible to others. Projects she has initiated such as Exchange Values, Frametalks and University of the Trees: Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future, together with her writings, performances and lectures, are part of her ongoing explorations in the field of contemporary social sculpture. She is Subject Leader of the Masters in Social Sculpture and supervises doctoral research students in the field of social sculpture linked to the SSRU and the School of Arts.

Listen to talks, panels and radio programmes [Berlin panel, Hong Kong MaD lecture, Global Dialog, US radio, Hong Kong radio, Jarna, Sweden lecture, TEDx 2017].

Shelley’s recent projects and publications can be found on this site and on the School of Arts page.


Dr. Wolfgang Zumdick
Wolfgang is a philosopher, author and independent curator working internationally, with a focus on Beuys and Steiner. His writings, lecturing and curatorial activity explore the philosophical foundations and dimensions of Beuys’ work and relate this to Beuys social sculpture ideas and the field of social sculpture today. He co-supervises doctoral research students and works in collaboration with Shelley on social sculpture projects such as Frametalks and Death Keeps Me Awake, an English translation of his doctoral monograph on the connections between Rudolf Steiner and Beuys, the foundations of their thinking and the connection between this and Beuys’ social sculpture ideas. Wolfgang’s publications, lecturing, projects and curatorial activities can be found on this site and on the School of Arts page. Email:

Prof. Walter Kugler
Walter is an author, lecturer and independent curator developing collaborative projects with the SSRU. He has written many essays for over 40 exhibitions of Rudolf Steiner’s blackboards, which since 1992, he has co-curated and developed in conjunction with contemporary art museums around the world. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Steiner’s and having worked with Joseph Beuys in the late 60s, Kugler is one of the first people to make explicit significant links between Beuys and Steiner through several major exhibitions, in which he encouraged museums to exhibit Steiner and Beuys blackboards alongside each other. In 2003 Walter worked with Shelley on an exhibition of blackboards entitled ‘Visible Thought’ that toured the UK. In Oxford they collaborated with Enno Scmidt on a 3-day symposium related to the exhibition. For publications in English see the publications section of this site. Email:

Markus Stefan and Annelinde Kirchgaesser are research assistants and part-time lecturers on the MA in Social Sculpture. They have both completed their Masters in Social Sculpture and have begun their PhDs in the SSRU. Both are actively involved in the development of the University of the Trees: Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future.

Sarah Drain in a research assistant who has recently completed her Masters in Social Sculpture. She coordinates the Social Sculpture Initiatives Forum and the Social Sculpture Platform and supports the social media. She is actively involved in selected projects in the SSRU such as the University of the Trees and contributes to the teaching on the Masters programme.

Suzanne Dhaliwal is a research affiliate with the SSRU. Since completing her MA in Social Sculpture, and alongside her ongoing activist work, she contributes to the teaching on the Masters programme.

PhD researchersDianne Regisford, Stephan Siber, Dr. Helena Fox, Axel Ewald, Beatrice Catanzaro, Anna van Zelderen, Martin Lofty – are actively involved in some of the SSRU’s projects, and collaborate on selected research projects.

The Core Network

This includes relevant members of the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University.

Prof. Paul Whitty leads research in the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University and is a founder of the Sonic Art Research Unit. Recent collaborative projects include Sound Diaries and a soundscape for The Swimmer – A True Story, installed at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. See his School of Arts page for details. Email:

Others who contribute to discussions about priorities, developments and new directions:

Dr. Volker Harlan studied theology, biology, painting and art history. He is a Beuys-Steiner-Goethe-morphology specialist who writes, develops projects, runs workshops and lectures internationally on many topics relevant to the field of social sculpture, and the philosophy of nature and aesthetics. He has been a lecturer in natural philosophy and aesthetics and a co-worker in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Morphology at the University of Witten/Herdecke. He is best known in the English speaking world for his book What is Art? – A conversation with Joseph Beuys and related essays. His monograph Das Bild der Pflanze in Wissenschaft und Kunst [Stuttgart 2002] is an important contribution to the field of social sculpture that connects Aristotle, Goethe, Paul Klee and Beuys. Since 1998 he has led intensive seminars at Oxford Brookes focusing on Beuys’ ‘evolution’ theory, and ways of engaging with ‘water’. He has also played a significant role in the development of the social sculpture programme at Oxford Brookes and in projects like University of the Trees. He is an Associate Research Fellow linked to the SSRU. For key texts in English and German see publications section. Email:

Prof. Dr. Alex Arteaga is a sound artist, philosopher and lecturer UdK (University of the Arts) Berlin who studied piano, music theory, composition and architecture in Barcelona and Berlin. Following numerous instrumental and electroacoustic compositions as well as space-specific sound installations, he did his doctorate on cognition and aesthetic practice at the Humboldt University Berlin’s Institute of Philosophy. In 2005, Alex founded the research group Auditory Architecture in cooperation with Thomas Kusitzky. In 2008, he founded the research group Embodiment and Artistic Practice at the Cooperative Dance Education Centre, Berlin. Alex researches new ways to understand the connections between aesthetic practice and sustainability. His PhD entitled “Sensuous Framing as Strategy to Realise Sustainable Ways of Life” focuses in part on Sacks’ Exchange Values social sculpture project. His new project Architecture of Embodiment (AoE), supported by the Einstein Foundation and hosted by University of the Arts, Berlin, explores how the built environment conditions the emergence of sense. Alex is an Associate Research Fellow in the SSRU. Link to his c.v. Email:

Dr. Graham van Wyk lectures in social science and critical thinking at Oxford Brookes University and is a PhD special adviser in Social Sculpture and Development Economics. His many years of work in South Africa building the democracy movement and in cultural and community organisations, as well as ‘Quiet Desperation’, his Carnegie Foundation photographic-research project with South African farm workers, have fed into SSRU projects, including the Sustaining Life Project [2000 – 2003], focusing on NGOs in northern Russia. It was Graham’s idea in the mid 90s to develop a university-based social sculpture research unit. His particular interest in social sculpture has to do with Beuys’ notion of ‘capital’ and how this relates to an economics of human wellbeing. Listen to his Winnipeg talk, or read a summary here. Email:

Dr. Maritta Koch-Weser is Founder and President of Earth3000, an international NGO that supports strategic innovations in governance for environment and development. She coordinates a programme on Amazonia at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Sao Paulo. Her work at Earth3000 builds on over 3 decades in international development, as anthropologist and environmentalist, including a period as Director of the IUCN. Her current work includes a focus on the development of a global ‘rainforest business school’ that would strengthen the capacities of communities to develop ecological, community controlled initiatives. Her interdisciplinary interests include the role of creative methodologies in attitudinal change and new forms of social investment. Maritta holds a PhD from Bonn and Cologne Universities, and a 2010 Honorary Doctorate from Oxford Brookes University. Link to Earth3000 website: Email:

The SSRU’s Patrons are:

Prof. Caroline Tisdall has published 7 books on Joseph Beuys and worked with him to organise many of his major exhibitions including The Secret Block for a Secret Person in Ireland and his major retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York in 1979. Her best-known work with Beuys is Coyote: I like America and America likes Me, in which her photographs and text documents Beuys’ iconic dialogue with a coyote in New York in 1974. This marked the beginning of a way of working with nature that has guided her work in the field of conservation ever since, and has led to an active involvement in national and global conservation projects. She helped to find and participated in the SSRUs Sustaining Life Project from 2000 – 2004, which spawned the Earth Forum in South Africa in 2002 and the University of the Trees. Her early commitment to developing an alternative university through her collaboration with Beuys on the Free International University continues now through her work with University of the Trees. Caroline was awarded an honorary professorship at Oxford Brookes University in 2003. Email:

Johannes Stuttgen, author and initiator of the Omnibus for Direct Democracy studied with Joseph Beuys in the 1960’s becoming a master student and tutoring assistant of Beuys’ in 1971. He participated with Beuys in several of the international Documenta exhibitions, was a founder member of the German Green Party and co-ordinator of Beuys’ Free International University. He has lectured widely on social sculpture and has been a guest speaker and professor at academic institutions around the world. From 1982 to 1986 he organised several social sculpture projects with Beuys. In 1999, he withdrew from the Green Party to focus on issues of Direct Democracy through his social sculpture work. He continues to do his social sculpture projects across Germany where he is also widely published and gives regular lectures. Through projects such as ‘Art and Economy Expanded’ and the ‘Omnibus for Direct Democracy’, which has involved millions of people in social sculpture processes, Johannes is linked to the explorations and interdisciplinary enquiries of the SSRU. He was awarded an honorary fellowship in 2004 by Oxford Brookes University for his contribution to the field of social sculpture. Email via:

Members of the Wider Network may from time to time become advisors to this Core group and collaborate in research projects.