Social Sculptures

Banner Social Sculptures BEUYS100

From April to October 2021 the Goethe-Institut Cyprus celebrated Beuys' 100th birthday with an event series curated by Marina Christodoulidou, consisting of a workshop for artists, an exhibition, film screenings and a discussion with Rhea Thönges-Stringaris, art historian and friend of Beuys.

Joseph Beuys (12 May 1921 – 23 January 1986) is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential artists of the second half of the 20th century. He was a German Fluxus, happening, and performance artist as well as a painter, sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist, and pedagogue. His extensive work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy; it culminates in his "extended definition of art" and the idea of social sculpture as a Gesamtkunstwerk, for which he claimed a creative, participatory role in shaping society and politics. His career was characterized by open public debates on a very wide range of subjects including political, environmental, social and long-term cultural trends.


The Social Sculptures event series kicked off with a workshop for local artists, which started in April and continued in September 2021. The impactful term social sculpture, which Beuys developed in the early 1970s, is centred on the belief that art could include the entire process of living – thoughts, actions, conversation, and objects – and could be enacted collectively by a wide range of people, beyond artists.

The exhibition featured the practices of artists Spyros Anastasiou, Mehveş Beyidoğlu, Stella N. Christou, Eirene Constantinou, Rafaella Constantinou, Marietta Mavrokordatou, Andreas Papamichael, Simone Philippou, Zoe Polycarpou, Korallia Stergides and Nicolina Stylianou. Their artistic approaches employ different media, comprising of sound, sculpture, engraving, photography, installation, performance, some of which are participatory, and so forth. Yet they share a departure from the concept of ‘artwork’, unveiling within and drifting throughout hybrid forms and processes of art-making.

The works and actions created for the exhibition presented social sculpture in its diversity and plurality, as acted and mediated through the participants' encounter and exchange. Sculpture is explored as a metaphor of movement, a metaphor we live by as society. Metaphor in its etymological sense to “transfer”, or “carry across”, seems to rearticulate the relationship between plurality and discursive practices through which the idea of movement occurs.  Social Sculptures’ movement carries across compositions of reality, not because it reflects the aim or will of an individual and a singular artistic act, but because it derives from collaborative praxis, which is enacted and restaged. By sharing ways to get closer to the unceasingly forming and reforming of social compositions we are part of, the featuring artists grasped the notions of ‘social’ and ‘sculpture’ in their plasticity and resilience.


Audiences will have the opportunity to get to know Beuys and his work through a selection of films.

A black&white photo. From left to right Rudolf Bahro, Joseph Beuys and Rhea Thönges-Stringaris are seated on a stage. In the background you can see the rear part of a grand piano.
© Archiv Rhea Thönges-Stringaris

Social sculpture is the groundwork of an ongoing research that adapts to the political, social, and environmental situation of a given time and place. In between chaos and structure, there is movement; this movement was mediated by Beuys as the theory of sculpture, mentions Rhea Thönges-Stringaris in a recent discussion with curator Marina Christodoulidou. Movement in sculpture was shaped by social compositions and his belief that everyone is an artist and can react and move creatively. Reflecting on the social sculpture term, Thönges-Stringaris suggests: artists and creatives carry means to observe and respond to situations, and can practise and do it well, but the awareness of what surrounds us, is necessary to be present within ourselves and outside of our bodies.

Podcast: "The Earth is speaking"

One of the central cooperation projects between the beuys2021 team and the Goethe-Institut is the podcast "The Earth is Speaking". In a critical analysis, different perspectives from Germany and abroad shed light on the relevance of Beuys today, his work and his impact on artists worldwide.

Beuys2021 © Beuys2021

International artists deal with the heritage of Joseph Beuys.

Armin Mühsam

“Marcel Duchamp's silence is overrated”. Beuys wrote this sentence on a sheet of paper during a live television broadcast in 1964. The action was part of a Fluxus performance and referred to the Fluxus artists' debate on ''Duchamp's concept of art''. In his video, Armin Mühsam contrasts the legacy of the two artists.

Screenshot  © Armin Mühsam

More about Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys
“Beuys wanted democracy to be effective”

Joseph Beuys’ art was often political, as was the artist himself. What exactly was his stance though? Beuys co-founded the Green Party, but also met up with former Nazi comrades. Above all, he was a pragmatist, according to Bettina Paust, head of the city of Wuppertal’s cultural office and author of a new handbook on Beuys’ work.

Joseph Beuys (left, with felt hat) at the 1980 Green Party convention in Dortmund. Photo (detail): © picture-alliance / Sven Simon

Goethe-Institut projects worldwide

Follow us