Social Sculpture | illuminating interpersonal abundance

the last two weeks i was in a Social Sculpture course titled “Agents of Change and Ecological Citizenship” in Oxford together with 15 other wonderful people (amongst them Jasmine, who told me about this course months ago, tak!), lead by Hildegard Knut and Shelley Sacks (check out the University of the Trees, a fantastic Social Sculpture project initiated by Shelley and carried now by her, Dylan McGarry and others). 

it was an important and wonderful journey for me. it’s a field that i have been at home since many years without knowing it… i got big ears though when hearing about Joseph Beuys since i first heard about him – and now i am conscious of it and hungry for more :) such a spacious and sensitive way of working and all the time in connection with the energy field of imagination and emerging reality… i can feel that it had a profound impact on me! more about this way of working maybe another time when the experience converged in my memory into essences :) what i can say though is that it added a calm and somehow bodily spaciousness and artistic notion to the more facilitated or outcome-focused processes that i was used to so far. just placing one seed and one space… filled with your personal care and energy – but no forced desired outcome…

talking about ‘gathering substance‘ and bringing it into the space to allow it to interact and move around with the substance of others and of us as a whole… talking about ‘new organs of perception‘ and ‘instruments of consciousness‘ as way more broader, more subtle and life-connected expressions than ‘tools’, ‘techniques’ or ‘exercises’ for instance.


the 2nd week was dedicated to developing our own work further and create a process of some sort to share with the rest of the group. i titled my process “illuminating interpersonal abundance – a playful exploration” :)
the core of it is to map connections in the interpersonal space (in this case of 1&1 groups). the initial spark for this occurred in me in Bogotá through Adri Luna’s invitation to lead a mapping process and through a 1st prototype with her and Sofía (more about these two magical beings in my story about Jim).

while the mapping does indeed help to discover concrete synergies i see it more like a vehicle to create a warm sense of abundance and possibilities as we encounter with openness in social landscapes to re-find (beyond re-search) the potential between us. building ‘new organs of perception’ and leaning into finding the hot links of meaningful synergies between us…

i will talk you through it – expecting you to know that it is oceans deeper to experience it yourself. my intention though is for this to possibly trigger similar/other process-design thoughts in you as you read this :)


After starting with a short guided mediation of honoring and holding one’s own very own naked space of intimacy with the universe i invited people into a little milling (walking around the room) to give some good-morning-smiles and to warm the social landscape in this room while holding the intimacy with oneself.

The following parallelophoring-practice (term ‘parallelophor’ by Tijmen for parallel metaphors) had the intention of massaging some flexibility into the mind’s hunger for structure and clear instructions – i asked people to form groups of 3 and handed out these cards, each displaying an abstract energetic dynamic or phenomena:

The invitation then was for each person to think of a concrete example from their experience or imagination and to get into a dialogue around the dynamics that occur around this specific situation/context withOUT mentioning the example that they have in mind. so only talking about dynamics and relations – not naming subjects or objects. I’ll leave it to you to see how/if this practice relates to mental flexibility :)

nourishing a warm center while stretching the edges.

Another practice that i had in mind to do after this one and will surely try another time is to amplify the ununderstandable – an idea that i described in an earlier post – basically people form pairs and one starts sharing something that the listener will not completely be able to follow, either because the subject is out of his/her range or if it’s still to understandable than the person sharing will start leaving out parts, switch between languages or other ways to make sure that the listener will only understand fragments of what he’s been told :) The task for the listener then is to NOT ask clarifying questions and fill the missing gaps but to amplify what’s been shared and to explore with angle of questions would help move the edge of this story, without understanding it :)


then i handed out  “me-spaces” to be filled with ones name/avatar and some ‘tagwords’ (=profile-buzzwords) of what you feel is an important part of your identity.

On the floor i put a circle of black A4 papers which i introduced as ‘windows into interpersonal spaces‘ – so people would gather in pairs, take a black paper and find a nice spot in the room on the floor or on a table. They will start by laying down their me-space at the two ends of the paper and draw a line around theirs with white chalk.  While each pair were going into conversation and mapping out their interpersonal space i was writing suggestions of what also could be used to navigate through the mapping – i called it the expansion sheet. similar to the parallelophoring-practice this was meant to inspire a liquidity in what objects/nodes can be mapped and navigated across…

and indeed they came up with a beautiful variety of how to fill their interpersonal space windows – here a few of them (not higher resolution to protect privacy):

due to the time-frame we could only do two 1&1 encounter-round (meaning that everyone did two mapping-sessions with a different partner each) whereas you could do that for a whole day and sinking deeper into it for sure. that was a strong feedback i got – that this was a 2day-process packed in one hour! so here is my big lesson on spaciousness and letting grow from within other than trying to facilitate the emergent spaces…

finally people put all interpersonal windows and me-spaces up on a fabric at the wall and drew connections from their me-spaces to the windows they were part of. more meta-connections would be possible from this stage onwards – ranging from mapping gravity around issues or mutual friends mentioned across all 1&1 spaces or mapping story-lines of who went with whom and in which order… also impressing and somehow humbling to notice (for me at least) that we as a group did 15 interpersonal windows out of 136 possible different ones amongst the 17 people we were…

sensing what it did with people and the appreciative feedback afterwards gives me a warm sense of the big potential in this and i will surely in one form or the other continue to explore this :) you’re welcome to do with it what you want – i hope you allowed it to move something in you…


Published by

Benjamin Aaron Degenhart

Currently pursuing a Masters in Computational Science and Engineering at TU Munich.

5 thoughts on “Social Sculpture | illuminating interpersonal abundance”

    1. hi gregorylent (is that also your tw-username?), welcome, that’s wonderful, i am glad it was still worth your comment – and you are practicing already the ‘stretching the edges’ process that i tried to describe ;)

      Social Sculpture in Oxford is indeed an academic field – its nature is participatory and transdisciplinary.


  1. Your experiment of intentionally subtracting content and discussing the meta-meaning – Wow! I’m a moderator on an author’s lateral thinking social networking site. He complains that people are so focused on goals and results, they don’t want to put energy into changing the “how” – even though it brings benefits.

    Your grid of possible choices that you’ve shown reminds me of an experiment I dreamed up to loosely outline improvisation by making up words to talk about the arrangement of music. In action, the arrangement to improvise within is determined by similar cards that can be endlessly recombined.

    You might like to give it a look. Perhaps my form could give you more ideas for future experiments. To find it, search out4improv
    or if the link works: – otherwise the link is below…

    Even if you don’t know anything about music, it might possibly give you something interesting ideas. Don’t get hung up on the terms. They’re trying to describe what music “does” in English. (In effect it’s translating the language of music into English.)

    Anyway, I’d love to hear what ideas it might spawn for you!


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