Spinoza, for those who missed this 17th century Dutch philosopher’s moment of celebrity, is one of the guys who helped put God – the idea of god – into its rightful abstract place. For Spinoza, nature was absolute and his political philosophy spiraled out from this essential truth. He was one of the godfathers of the Enlightenment – our Western wriggling out from under the ravaging weight of theocracy in favour of rational inquiry (yay science!). And despite its ruinous culmination (or detour, depending on your view) mid-20th century, the shift away from God’s law to reasonable law was essential in the development of democratic forms of governance.
The folks in Amsterdam want to celebrate this and all things Spinozian this Fall during the My Name is Spinoza art festival dedicated to Spinoza’s philosophy.
The festival includes public dance performances interpreting Spinoza’s work; a “Squatter’s Memorial” sound sculpture that will highlight the history of Amsterdam’s squatters movement; performances of Sturtevant’s Spinoza in Las Vegas, a theatrical fantasy radically displacing Spinoza into present day Las Vegas with its slot machines, dancing girls and strip lights; public discussions on the role of artists in social and public affairs, to name only a few of the events planned.
It is an inspiring idea. What an intriguing way to bring to into public view ideas that largely languish on dusty bookshelves or in all too narrow academic conversations. What about an art festival in the streets celebrating the ideas of Vandana Shiva? Or Taraq Ali? Or Edward Said? Or Donna Haraway? Or Ken Saro Wiwa? Or Noam Chomsky?
If you’re lucky enough to be in Amsterdam this September, check it out.