What am I doing in the world?’

This is a question that all citizens of Hannover will be invited to reflect on and discuss as part of the Ort des Treffens social sculpture that is taking place in the city for six months between April and September 2009, as part of Hannover’s Garten Region Projekt program.

Initiated by Oxford based artist, Shelley Sacks – who studied and worked with Joseph Beuys for many years – Ort des Treffens has grown out of a long dialogue with Gabriele Cicieor from the Hannover Kulturburo about developing a space for new vision in the city and an ‘integration’ project of a different kind involving everyone, not just newcomers.

Working with a team linked to the Social Sculpture Research Unit in Oxford, UK, that includes Hannover social sculpture artists,Anja Steckling and Nicholas Stronczyk,Berlin based philosopher and composer,Alex Arteaga , Wolfgang Zumdick , a philosopher from Aachen, and  volunteers – Lukas Oertel, Anne, Karin, Gudrun, Le and Christoph Schomann, this social sculpture project consists of two main processes: an Ort des Selbsttreffens and an Ort des Einandertreffens.

The Ort des Selbsttreffens can take place anywhere -in the home, in the office, on a city pavement, or in a park. Sitting on a 1.8 metre felt circle individual citizens are invited to reflect with one of the team present, about what they think they are doing in the world.

Between 100 and 1000 audio recordings of these individual reflections will be heard at listening posts throughout the city, highlighting the field of individual thought and beliefs that constitute the substance, invisible life and real power of the city.

The Ort des Einandertreffens will take place, 100 times, in the Hodlersaal in the Hannover Rathaus, between May and September 2009. A larger, three metre felt circle will create an intimate, but protected space in the public domain, for people to participate in an exchange based on a process of careful listening to one another’s thoughts and views.

An open public event in mid September 2009 will mark the end of these two processes.

Between April and September 2009 a number of parallel seminars and events involving a range of Hannover individuals and groups will take place.

These events will explore connections between the social sculpture ideas, outlined by Joseph Beuys and aspects of Leibniz’ and Hannah Arendt’s work.

The first one is being hosted by Reflex and Hannover philosopher, Dr. Gerhard Stamer on 14 March 2009 (17.00 -20.00 uhr). Shelley Sacks, Wolfgang Zumdick and Gerhard Stamer will present the project and explore links with key notions in Leibniz and Joseph Beuys.

Just as Beuys emphasised the need for every human being to be able to develop their potential as a social artist, we could also say that every human being needs to recognise their philosophical potential to ask and explore life questions in an open and creative way.

From early 2009 Shelley Sacks will begin to expand the team by offering a series of workshops for people who want to assist in facilitating the self-reflection and exchange processes. These invitations will be communicated via website, leaflets, posters and radio.

The whole project will be documented both digitally and in book form in 2010. This material will create the basis for a growing archive, initiated by the social sculpture ‘integration’ and new vision processes amongst citizens of Hanover during 2009.

The project has been initiated by Shelley Sacks – in partnership with Anja Steckling, Nicholas Stronczyk, Alex Arteaga, Wolfgang Zumdick and the Kulturburo of the city of Hannover, Germany.  It is supported by Gartenregion, Hannover; by Region- Hannover;  the Hannover Kulturburo, the Stiftung Niedersachsen, and by Hannover’s Office for Women and Equality.Italso has support in kind from REFLEX, Hannover, the Social Sculpture Research Unit and Oxford Brookes University.

The project website -still in German only- and details of how to participate, can be found at www.ortdestreffens.de

A Project for the Garden Region

Ort of Treffens explores the notion of place, and our relationship to place, in many different ways. The ‘maps’ in the small ATLAS that accompany the project reflect this.

They are maps of both physical geographies and spiritual geographies: maps of our questions, of our fears, of our challenges. They depict constellations of understandings, insights and ideas.

Through such maps we become aware that we live in a cosmos of inner and outer forms.

Some of these forms have been given to us -the forests, the oceans, the rivers, the mountains. Others we have shaped and cultivated ourselves.

From the first garden – of Eden, in western culture -to the much more complex garden of society. Cultivated for pleasure and our use.

In most cultures there are stories and images of the garden, because this is the image of an ordered world, a place under control: of a place for cultivating food and herbs and scents; of a place that can embrace us; of a place we love to go.

In a more literal sense, several aspects of Ort des Treffens do also take place out of doors: the sound field has 50 listening stations – 25 indoors in different communities and 25 outdoors, some of which are in parks, woods and gardens. And people can also participate in the Selbstreffens outdoors, exploring the question ‘what am i doing in the world’ near the trees, under the sky, on the ground; aware of our relationship to the world we live in, that supports us; aware of our relationship to the animals, plants and stones.

‘Gartenregion’ can therefore be understood as a specific place or it can be extended to our entire human world. ‘Gartenregion’ is not about nature as opposed to culture. ‘Gartenregion’ ist both the beautiful and not so beautiful world that we have formed.

Ort des Treffens: A different understanding of Public Art

For a long time ‘public art’ has focused on positioning objects and things in the city and the places that surround it – as objects of interest that attract public attention (maybe even tourism and revenue); that decorate and enhance, that honour heroes or try to hide ugly forms.

But the public realm is also a place where views get challenged and restructured; where artists intervene; where they work with less visible energies and materials on shaping the most challenging sculpture of all: a social order that grows out of the need for a healthy economics, direct democracy and freedom for all.

Ort des Treffens
 is this kind of public art – an art beyond the gallery walls and the quick interventions in the city. It is a long term process that invites the participation of citizens, that stirs our imagination and our sense that we are all contributors to shaping the greatest ‘garden’ of all.

February 2009

Hannover: City of the Golden Circle

“In the Ort des Treffens project there are two different circles: a ‘yellow felt circle’ and a ‘golden circle’. The yellow felt circle is a physical, artistic element that generates a process. The golden circle is a spiritual space that comes into being through this process. (And then there is the difference between the big yellow circle and the small circle – but this has to do with another aspect of the work).

The ‘golden circle’ is, for me, a wonderful image for the whole idea of ‘social sculpture’ -for both the circumstances and the way that social sculpture comes into being!

With such an image and understanding, I think it might be possible to make the idea of social sculpture tangible in Hannover… to show that Hannover can become a city in which the charactersitics of the artist – that Beuys described as spiritual individuality, openness, creativty and imagination – are known to be the qualities and capacities of every citizen… for Hannover to become a place where, in keeping with the idea of social sculpture, such qualities are developed and cultivated.

Then it will be increasingly evident how a golden circle can come into being, by means of a yellow felt circle or in some other way – anywhere in Hannover and at any moment – that really reflects the power of imagination and formative potential inherent in every citizen.”

Dana Bolte – March 2010

The phrase – City of the Golden Circle – and the sense that Hannover could become such a ‘place’, was formulated by Susanne Degenar, in a discussion that developed at the end of an Ort des Treffens process. Susanne is now a member of the group that includes Dana Bolte and others, that is exploring ways for Ort des Treffens to  continue in Hannover as a citizen’s initiative.