University of the Trees

The University of the Trees takes forward the social sculpture strategies and commitments embedded in Joseph Beuys’ ‘expanded conception of art’, especially the awakened relationship to nature and the emphasis on ecological consciousness initiated with his 7000 Oaks.

Within this flexible social sculpture framework the trees are seen as our teachers and the ecological crisis is as an opportunity for consciousness.

Local groups constitute this growing social sculpture network – connecting individual insight, focused dialogue and collective action towards the shaping of a humane and ecologically viable world.

Each regional group identifies a particular area of trees or forest as the locus for the University of the Trees ‘main forum’.
A kit of ‘instruments’ is made available to each regional group

The instruments in the kit are designed to:

•    initiate dialogue and reflective processes;
•    open up new relationships to trees, forests
and social-ecological questions;
•    inspire appropriate action.

The initial ‘instrument’ is a set of 7 to 12 tree bands that creates theUniversity of the Trees ‘main forum’ through minimal intervention. These bands, placed on the trees in one or more areas of woodland or forest, initiate the University of the Trees in a particular region.

The main forum creates a space in the world, and in the imagination, for working with the trees as our teachers

The website explains the ethos of theUniversity of the Trees project and how the project works. It also presents key ideas like ‘instruments of consciousness’ and ‘new organs of perception’ that are central to the understanding and evolution of the project.

The University of the Trees can develop wherever there are trees and a group of people wanting to create a ‘space’ for exploring, discussing, reflecting and acting on issues related to trees, to how we live in the world, and to shaping a humane, ecologically conscious and viable society based on mutuality and interconnectedness.

The project has been developed with the support of Clive Adams, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW). TheUniversity of the Trees evolved in response to several invitations.


This first invitation in 2002 from Gordon Campbell in Ireland to develop a tree planting project, partly as a hommage to Beuys, and then later in response to Clive Adams’ invitation to develop a social sculpture project related to forests and trees. The first group in Germany, began with an invitation from Dr. Christiane Klein to develop a University of the Trees in Darmstadt, linked to a conference, Stetig Wachsen in 2006.

The research and development phase of the UoT project has been facilitated by CCANW, with a grant from the Arts Council of England.

For general news, information on events, meetings, and what University of the Trees groups are doing, please contact the UoT team via the University of the Trees webplatform: