School of Arts

  • Social Sculpture Research Unit (SSRU)

    Linking artists, activists, projects, members of the public and researchers from various practices, thought spaces, and regions of the world, the SSRU creates opportunities for dialogue processes, transdisciplinary research and connective practices that contribute to creative transformation, social and ecological justice and the shaping of a humane and non-exploitative world.

    History of the SSRU

    The SSRU has a rich history that echoes the evolution of the ideas and practices that we are currently working with. It was launched in 1998 at Oxford Brookes University connected to a new interdisciplinary arts programme developed by Shelley Sacks. The programme is focused on 'creative strategies' for developing an 'engaged contemporary practice' drawing strongly on the commitment central to the field of social sculpture – that every human being is an artist, called upon to transform their conditions.

    Its core impulses, commitments and concerns link it as much to the ideas of Joseph Beuys, Rudolf Steiner, Goethe and Schiller, as to the liberatory stream of 'free university' and 'free school' initiatives across the world. It also has close affinities with other movements and approaches: from the permaculture movement and the sustainability thinking of E.F Schumacher with his call for 'the culture of the inner human being' to the experimentalism embodied in groupings from Fluxus and to the change management groups in America.

    Beuys, Transdisciplinarity and a Sustainable Future

    The SSRU encourages and explores transdisciplinary creativity and vision towards the shaping of a humane and ecologically viable society. It engages with Beuys thinking and work, as well as those before and after him - making available some of the insights, inquiries and explorations in this multidimensional field.

    Connective Aesthetics and Agents of Change

    Our work as agents of change includes a focus on connective practices, which explore the role of imagination and other modes of thought in transformative process. Informed by an expanded conception of art, we are active both within and beyond the sphere of art.