• Ivan A. Kirchgaesser

What are artists of society?

Updated: Oct 13, 2018

My field of work is Social Sculpture & Connective Practice. The term 'social sculpture' was coined by German artist Joseph Beuys, who also said that 'every human being is an artist'. By that he meant that every person can develop the perceptive, imaginative, reflective, and communicative capacities required to become a creative co-shaper of society. Society could thus be shaped as a work of art - as social sculpture.


Picture taken after an Earth Forum, a social sculpture practice developed by Shelley Sacks

I have studied and worked in this field since 2012, when I came to Oxford to do the Masters in Social Sculpture. Ever since, I have been engaged in projects of the Social Sculpture Research Unit, one of which is the alternative and mobile University of the Trees: Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future. In particular, I have been working together with Professor Shelley Sacks, a former student of Beuys. She took on the question of how to develop pedagogical strategies and connective practices that would enable people to build these creative capacities for becoming agents of change in society.


My understanding of Global or Active Citizenship is strongly coloured by social sculpture ideas and understandings. One of these understandings is that in the face of the current ecological and social crises, we need to widen our considerations of how we shape society to include a planetary and other-than-human perspective. Also, it is essential that all people can find a way to meaningfully and creatively contribute to the process of shaping a future viable for us all - not just those in positions of power and privilege. To achieve this, new approaches, practices, and ways of thinking are required in all dimensions of society - nothing less than a paradigm shift!

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