The imaginal work with the producers in the Caribbean was an intensive social sculpture process: working with the invisible materials of images, perceptions and attitudes.
However, from 1996 until 2006, the Exchange Values installation functioned like many more traditional forms of socially engaged art. It enabled consumers to enter the ‘invisible lives’ of the producers, individually and, when fora were organised in the space, to have group exchanges. These often included farmers’ representatives and campaigning groups.
A Social Sculpture-Connective Practice
In 2007 Exchange Values was redeveloped to include a social sculpture-connective practice as an integral part of the work. A new physical element – a 5 metre table – was added to make this explicit and to facilitate the structured social sculpture-connective practice at the table.
The Social Sculpture-Connective Practice at the table was experimented with in Dornach throughout 2007, as part of the international Ursache Zukunft conference. Here, with a number of co-workers -including Alex Arteaga, James Reed, Rosa van Wyk and Nicholas Stronczyk – we explored ‘connective’ ways of working at the table.
Through the daily fora we developed understandings, practices and new language that became central in many University of the Trees/Lab processes and in the Earth Forum, a mobile social sculpture practice which was developed for the Climate Fluency Exchange in South Africa in 2010.
The 5-metre forum table was designed in collaboration with the Schreinerei carpenters at the Goetheanum in Switzerland.
The structured process in Exchange Values at the table – even when there is not a specific theme – offers every participant the opportunity to understand their relationship to the global economy, to explore in what sense they are ‘an artist’, to consider what they ‘produce’, and what helps or hinders this. This process and the social sculpture / ‘connective aesthetics’ principles underlying it are detailed in the Exchange Values training handbook.
The handbook will available to a wider public in autumn 2017.
Exchange Values – 11 years on, describes the shift from Exchange Values: Images of Invisible Lives -where the 10000 unnumbered skins were on the floor, to the 2007 version Exchange Values on the table.