Gesamtkunstwerk - Practice "Social Sculpture"

1 min read

I recently came across the German word "Gesamtkunstwerk." 

So the first thing I had to do is message my dear German friend, Marina Diel and ask her, what the heck is this word!?

She quickly shared it means that several parts are coming together and thereby create "a


I did a bit more research and came across an artist by the name of Joseph Beuys. He approached his art as a "Gesamtkunstwerk," which he made use of many different elements to create a final masterpiece. Not only did he aim to create masterpieces by utilizing many different elements, but he also did it as a form of "social sculpture." 


Social sculpture is a phrase used to embody the art's potential to transform society. Social sculpture includes human activity that strives to structure and shape society or the environment. The central idea of a social sculptor is an artist who creates structures in society using language, thoughts, actions, and objects. 

Wikipedia's definition of Gesamtkunstwerk is, literally "total artwork", frequently translated as "total work of art", "ideal work of art", "universal artwork", "synthesis of the arts", "comprehensive artwork", or "all-embracing art form," is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms. 

This is such an empowering perspective to live in when you are trying to create a thriving and sustainable culture. Or simply be a true "Culture Champion." 

It takes the synthesis of many different elements to create a thriving and sustainable culture. Being able to do this effectively is an art form itself.  

The funny trick about life and our cultures, is these elements are coming together regardless if you are intentional about it or not. Being unintentional about it provides a higher chance that these elements will come together in a way that is not a masterpiece of art and a culture that is toxic and unsustainable for its social group.  

Being a culture champion is all about making art with the many different elements in your environment.

We often try to duplicate elements that we already have and ignore other ones that don't easily "fit." I'm sure you have heard the term "culture fit" before. Taking this approach creates a piece of "art" (or culture in this manner) that becomes plain, disengaging, and boring. Not a masterpiece by any means.

It's not about eliminating elements or changing them, but utilizing them to add to your masterpiece. Embracing their differences to create a complete piece of art.

Or in other words, a "Gesamtkunstwerk."

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