Shelley's interdisciplinary work is both text and practice-based. She is concerned with dialogue, creative agency, the relationship of aesthetics and ethics, freedom and responsibility, facilitating new vision, art and activism, working toward an ecologically viable and just society, and the role of imagination in transformative social process. Her work ranges across performative actions, mapping processes, pedagogic practices, lecturing, text-based work, interventions and dialogue processes. She describes the 'flexible frameworks' and 'kits' in her social sculpture projects as 'instruments of consciousness' not 'objects of attention'.
- Artists as agents of change
- New methods of engagement towards a just and ecological society
- Joseph Beuys’ social sculpture proposals and ‘expanded conception of art’
- Dialogue and listening processes
- Participatory practices and creative agency
- The role of imagination in transformative social process
- ‘New organs of perception’
- The poetic and imaginal in 'instruments of consciousness'
- Practice-based research methodologies
- ‘Connective practices’ across sectors and disciplines
- The gap between information and awareness
- Phenomenological and experiential knowing
- The connection between love, play and social sculpture
- Rethinking the 'aesthetic' as the basis of our 'ability to respond'
- Imaignation and ecological citizenship
Her work also considers:
- The relationship between art, culture and sustainability
- Creating spaces in civil society for ‘making visible the invisible’
- Strategies for becoming ‘imaginatively active’
- The relationship between responsibility, the aesthetic and an ecologically sustainable future
- Non-discursive thought and its relationship to strategies for connecting more deeply with the world around us
- Participatory practices, ‘tools’ for consciousness and ‘spaces for new vision’, that engage participants in working consciously with thought, feeling and will as materials of an expanded conception of art
- 'Parallel process' methodologies that combine rational argument with imaginal thought
- Different modes of consciousness and thought, with special reference to areas of new science and Goethe’s holistic methodology; Schiller’s ‘aesthetic education of the human being’, archetypal psychology and eco philosophy
- ‘Memory work’ and approaches for shifting from habitual thinking into new territory
- The role of the net and ‘mapping’ technologies in social sculpture processes
- Joseph Beuys’ idea of an expanded conception of art and its relationship to freedom, direct democracy and sustainable economic forms
- The role of active imagination and synthetic thought in empowering us to shape a different kind of world.
Ort des Treffens: 100/1000 Voices Hannover, Germany 2008-2010; since 2011 continuing as a citizen's initiative. A social sculpture project including dialogue and listening processes, and a city-wide sound-field. Original team included Alex Arteaga (Berlin); Anja Steckling and Nicholas Stronczyk (Hannover); Lukas Ortel (Bonn); Wolfgang Zumdick (Aachen/Oxford). Invited and supported by the city of Hannover and several German cultural foundations. The project continues as a citizens’ initiative entitled: Forum Ort des Treffens.
University of the Trees is a long-term social sculpture project, hosted by several organisations including the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World in the UK (2005 -2012), by the Uberlebenskunst project, Berlin 2011, and by Citizen Art Days, Berlin (2012, 2013). From 2014 University of the Trees will be part of the ongoing Renewable Energy, Renewable Culture programme at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb. Its ongoing development in India will also be facilitated. (see http://www.universityofthetrees.org)
Exchange Values on the Table – Zurich, 2011. (New version of the project, first researched for Social Sculpture Today exhibition, Dornach, Switzerland 2007). New catalogue: FIU Verlag in German and English, edited by Wolfgang Zumdick, with texts by Zumdick, Sacks and von Plato. Catalogue from the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development includes texts by Sacks, Richard Demarco, Luke Desforges, Polly Patulo, NGOs and farmers' representative, Renwick Rose; unpublished material from Social Sculpture Public Forum and Think Tank (International Project Space, Birmingham 2004) includes papers by cultural geographers Gail Davies, Luke Desforges and Prof. Paul Cloke) (See www.exchange-values.org)
Earth Forum is a mobile ‘permanent conference’ process that emerged from the ‘Sustaining Life Project’ in 2002. In 2011 it was redeveloped as a module of University of the Trees, incorporating imaginal processes and methods from Exchange Values on the Table (Switzerland 2007 and 2011).
Earth Forum in South Africa was initiated and developed by Shelley Sacks for the Climate Fluency Exchange in the run-up to the Climate Summit in Durban, 2011. It has been used extensively in South Africa by a small team of Earth Forum facilitators, and continues to grow as part of the Climate Summit legacy project, designed to engage people at all levels in connective practices that 'mobilise them internally'. Earth Forum in South Africa was funded by the British Council.
In Germany (Berlin and Kassel) over 75 people have been trained as Earth Forum facilitators. (For more on Earth Forum in South Africa, Germany, UK and India.
With its focus on creative, connective practices and actions promoting transformation - it opens up a space for new insights and dialogue across disciplines and sectors, enabling project people, policy makers and other practitioners to share their experiences and to explore:
- the connection between values and actions
- different ‘takes’ on our relationship to the world
- the role of imagination, creative strategies and new methodologies of engagement in moving toward ecological and social justice
- capacity building for transformation toward a sustainable future.
Frametalks is a new ‘instrument of consciousness’ project, incorporated in University of the Trees. It was first presented as a 24-hour action in Bern (2012) and then in Berlin as a 3 x 12 hour action, as part of Citizen Art Days (2013).