Social Sculpture: A Plastic Process of Mutual Transformation
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Joseph Beuys, the originator of the term ‘Social Sculpture’, stated that the objects he made were stimulators for the formation of thoughts, i.e. that they were intended to mold or to shape thoughts. Beuys believed that the essence of Social Sculpture was to shape and mold the world by working with invisible materials to make new thoughts. His aim was to develop an evolutionary process to share his ideas about the universal nature of plasticity, and thus the ability we all have to constantly transform. This practice as research Ph.D. explores Social Sculpture as a contemporary process of transformation. The transformation of my practice from the start of my PhD has moved from producing objects in my studio (and then subsequently destroying them), to working with participants of different ages and from different institutions in a variety of settings. Through this journey I expanded my understanding of plasticity and came to recognize that my practice could be understood as ‘Social Sculpture Explorations’ or ‘SSE’. In this iteration of Social Sculpture, plasticity manifests as ‘liveliness’, the “live” element consists of being fully present in both senses i.e. being in the present time (simultaneously) and being present in space, being there physically. In my work, I perform for and with the camera: I cannot make Social Sculpture without the camera, as it crystallizes the process of making SSE and Its presence opens the space for the self-awareness that making SSE requires to come into being. While the camera has the potential to be a documentation tool, and performs this role for me, in my work the camera is more than that: it is a presence that offers many possibilities, each of which affects the performance itself. I perform for the camera and with the camera and I understand the camera as an assemblage of all the elements of the exploration with its own agency. Finally, I argue that the objective lens has a subjective quality. That is to say, it functions a little like a subject, at times, even though we tend to think of the camera as being more 'objective' than 'subjective'. This in turn points to the impossible objective of the lens (also known as an objective) to actually be objective.