Coming Together as a Global Social Sculpture

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Thomas Steininger in dialogue with Shelley Sacks

Joseph Beuys, one of the most influential artists of the 20th C., introduced a new vision, a new human possibility. He talked about social sculpture. In social sculpture, the way we think, the way we act, the way we live together, becomes a form of commoning, or connective, eco-social art, a living symphony. Shelley Sacks, one of his closer students and co-workers, is continuing this work today together with a group of co-creators and multipliers from around the world. They are building on a huge artwork that Beuys created as part of one of the most renowned global art exhibitions, documenta, in Kassel, Germany. In 1982, he planted 7000 oaks in this modern city that has now become a forest in the middle of a city. Sacks and the 7000 HUMANS team offer all of us a way to take Beuys’s remarkable social sculpture ideas further.

They ask us to connect with the image and reality of these 7000 oaks and then to connect with a tree or a place that is important for you. Then, supported by the Internet, you connect with each other around the globe to create a social reality of 7000 humans, 7000 trees, and 7000 commitments in a shared global conversation and investigation. In this social sculpture we create a field of commitment and connect with each other, with the more-than-human world as a living being, a living heart held by each person’s individual commitment to life. In this episode of Radio evolve, Thomas Steininger speaks with Shelley Sacks about this social sculpture of 7000 humans, 7000 trees, and 7000 commitments to which we are all invited. 7000 HUMANS is an initiative of the Social Sculpture Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future. It grew out of the Kassel21 Social Sculpture Lab hosted by the documenta Archive for the Beuys centenary, curated by Sacks. It is Sacks’ response to questions from lab visitor, and permaculture and social process designer, Ulrike Oemisch: “What follows the 7000 oaks?’ Ulrike is one of the co-creators of 7000 HUMANS. Now there is a team from many countries taking it forward.