Working with the project

Exchange Values on the table can be used in a number of different contexts within and outside of the art-world. As a social sculpture ‘instrument of consciousness’ it is designed for use in a wide range of social, political, educational, art and other cultural contexts.

Whilst Exchange Values is an arena for engaging individual receivers at its listening stations, it is also a social ‘workplace’.  Through its integrated forum processes at the table it explores and enables an active and multidimensional engagement with many significant issues.

Scale of the forums
Since 1996 over one hundred forum processes have taken place. Some forum processes are small with about 10 participants. Many are between 20 and 30 participants. In South Africa some of the processes involved up to 80 participants.

Themes have included…
freedom and responsibility  /  ‘free trade’  /   globalisation and gender  /  contemporary colonialism  /  empathy and action  /  colonialism and slavery  /  the global economy and the nature of work  /  unconditional basic income   /   de-growth economics  /  global trade agreements  /  new economic and working for each other  /  environmental and social justice  /  ‘beyond unfair trade’ and ‘fairtrade’  /   alienation of producers and consumers  /  the consumer as the ‘contract giver’  and the role of boycotts  /  sustainable agriculture  /  social sculpture and connective practices  /  the relationship of the individual and the collective  /  connecting inner and outer work  /  sensuous knowing  /  invisible lives and unheard voices  /  how we live in the world  /  needs and wants  /  creative agency and the role of consumers  /  the field of transformation  /  understanding what Beuys meant by ‘every human being is an artist’  /  direct democracy, new modes of thinking and eco-social economics   /  the role of imagination in transformation.

A structured process
Since 2007 there is a structured process for working at the table, which visitors, educators and museum staff can be trained to facilitate. The draft ‘handbook’ developed in 2011 for the Zurich is being formalised for wider use. Anyone can be trained to facilitate the process.

Who can use it
Exchange Values has been used by NGOs/Non-Profit organisations, International Conferences, Museums, Art Galleries, Universities as part of research enquiries, Education for Fairtrade and Sustainable Agriculture programmes, and as part of philosophical and spiritual explorations of the nature of freedom and responsibility.

Between the structured forums
With the 5 metre table as part of the installation, visitors, by sitting at the table, realise more easily that they are ‘participants’  in the global economy, than simply receivers in an installation.

Space and infrastructure required
Although it is clear that it works very well in diverse contexts, it does need a fairly big space with walls on which the 20 sheets of skin and their metal frames can be attached. Such venues are usually found in museums and university galleries. However, this is not a necessity. On several occasions we have erected temporary walls especially for the installation in deconsecrated churches, and even in a conference venue for a one week period. See SPACE in Logistics

Other support
It is great for participants to be able to touch the skins. And there are headphones at each listening station. So it requires the kind of invigilation that one finds in museums and galleries, including some daily switching on and off process.

The rates for use vary depending on the organisation, venue, group and country. We can discuss this when you make contact. The aim is to use Exchange Values and not let rates hinder this. All logistical costs have to be covered. Exchange Values has received many forms of sponsorship. Often local venues apply to organisations, including the Arts Council of England, the NGO ‘Banana Link’ and other growers organisations.

If you are interested in presenting Exchange Values and making its social sculpture process available, please contact Shelley Sacks for full details and to discuss the viability.

Shelley Sacks Tel: UK (0)1865 484961 E-mail:


Formerly known as Exchange Values: Images of Invisible Lives.
Please contact Shelley Sacks for use of site content or images (c) 2016