“...or might it be better to relinquish completely the idea of a natural hierarchy?” Adam raises his glance and frowns; his own thought seems to surprise him. He realises that in some way he is still a romantic, striving for a union of himself and nature, for the alienation that he himself once set in motion. “O sweet Nature, magnum mysterium! How could I ever leave you?” But could he truthfully maintain that he is equal to all those things around him: the stones, the trees, the mosses, the stray dogs? Could they truly become his brothers and sisters, and would he be able to recognise them as such? Besides: only he, being human, can even ask himself these kinds of questions at all, and is that not a proof of his own superiority?
Adam shoots a questioning glance at the housecat lying at his feet. So far Murus – Latin for ‘wall’ – has declined to answer him. “What use are you to me?” The cat looks up, gives a frightful yawn, and starts cleaning his fur. Adam heaves a deep sigh; so far, this day had been a good one, actually. He had meticulously prepared his lecture for the Drift festival, which dealt with broccoli and posthumanism. Now, however, during the dress rehearsal, his whole lecture threatens to crumble to pieces. Looking into the mirror, he repeats the last sentence of his presentation: “De transversale beweging van primitieve broccoli-culturen kan zeker een symbool worden voor de triomf van de niet-menselijke Ander over de kloof tussen natuur en kunstmatigheid.” His mirror-image strikes him as strange and unconvincing. It is ashamed. Why does everything have to be so Gordian? Yes, the theme of Drift is ‘In staat tot natuur’, but where for most this would seem to be an attractive wordplay on state and nature, for him it poses a mocking question as to his own ability ‘to nature’. For the harder he tries, the more forcefully nature seems to want to withdraw from his grasp.
The thoughts keep gnawing at him, and he resumes his attempt: ‘I can ask myself these questions, but this I cannot do alone. Indeed, I am only a sort of ventriloquist’s dummy, a serving hatch for human history. Just as the frog is known by its croak, so I ask these questions, not knowing what else I should to. All the same, that does not permit me to place myself above nature.” Hunting desperately for inspiration, Adam walks to his bookcase and consults his encyclopedia of the animal kingdom. He first visits Amphibiae, then Hominoidea. Homo sapiens is not even mentioned in the index. “How very surprising…” Suspended between despair and hope he continues to unload his spiritual tribulations on his cat. Taking Murus onto his lap, he strokes him: “Do you know Murus, man all too easily hands himself the proof of his own superiority. If once he saw himself as the crown of creation, now he fancies he is king. The stones, the plants, the animals he places at his own feet. Over himself he once accepted angels and gods, but they, too, ultimately were run to ground. But it cannot come as a surprise that at the end of the day humans turn out to be best fitted to climbing the ladder they themselves constructed? What if anything is the appeal of these hierarchical standards that mankind imposes on both himself and all of nature around him, and which never fail to make him emerge as conqueror?
Adam looks at the clock. The moment of truth is nearing. He puts on his black costume, and black lacquer shoes. As he is knotting his tie, he resumes his monologue. “But what is so difficult to see, is that a true king has no subjects. He is not submissive, nor is he lofty. He neither descens nor ascends– if anything, he rises downward or drops upward. He has no land to rule, but gains the whole world in return. He understand what people today fail yet to grasp. That the yardstick with which they have measures and meted nature has been their own practical design. With trick and artifice humans trap and draw animals, fruits, metals, even neighbouring peoples into their own domain. And they do this first and foremost without questioning the location of this domain. Where exactly ís this domain of man, supposedly isolated and cordoned off from nature? Every human being– with the exception perhaps of idiots and madmen– can point to his own city, country, or house on a map. But who can tell me how these areas are involved with that from which they seem always to withdraw: nature? Are these areas completely cut off from nature? Highly unlikely. But if not, are they part and parcel, integral to nature, or do they include her, as possessors? Who belongs to what? Or what to who?”
While Adam distractedly rearranges some small items, in order to give his living room at least the semblance of orderliness, he sees that his cat has taken place squarely on top of his lecture notes. The title plays exhibits an extravagant hairball. Murus regards him with a mocking gaze. As if he understands the subject much better, and Adam will never be able to pry out the secret. Annoyed by this thought he pushes the cat from his desk and grumblingly climbs down the stairs to the ground floor, his mind still mid-dream, mid-reality. Once downstairs, however, he is confronted with a new complication, which takes up his full attention and immediately places him solidly with both feet on the ground. “How could that cat have gotten down here before me?” Across the street he sees Murus run away at amazing speed. The cat has almost rounded the corner. Adam is just manages to catch a glimpse of his own manuscript, tightly clenched between its jaws. Would not he, but his cat take all the credit in the end? That would be most detrimental for his career. (On the other hand, he already had his doubts about the lecture. Perhaps he should let is rest). After this short rumination Adam decides to admit his defeat. A light headache is setting in. He drags himself up the stairs, only to find himself up against a locked door: naturally, Murus also took the house keys. He will have no other choice than to head to the festival...
Below you will find the programme for DRIFT 2016 ‘In staat tot natuur’. Furthermore you can find the schedule online.
As of 2015, it is possible to become not only a visitor, but also a Friend of DRIFT. By doing so, you will be supporting DRIFT and helping it remain a successful festival.
In return for your support and Friendship, you will receive two entry tickets to the festival each year. In addition, we will send you a number of gifts by post. Most importantly, we will be your Friend, and remain ever grateful for your contribution. You will become a Friend for 40 Euros per year. After confirmation, this amount will be transferred from your account each year, until notice of termination. Of course, you can also opt for a greater amount, to be indicated in the form below, where you can leave your other details as well.
Did you have trouble following a lecture or debate, or were you unable to attend an interesting part of the programme? Not to worry: as of 2013, DRIFT yearly compiles and publishes a written record of the night’s lectures and debates. They are free to download it as an e-book below; if you prefer a printed version you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The publication of DRIFT 2015 ‘Towards Chaos’ will be launched on March 29, in the Athenaeum bookstore (Roetersstraat 41) from 4:30 pm (kindly apply through email@example.com)DRIFT 2013: De dingen de baas
Since 2006, a group of philosophy students at the University of Amsterdam each year work hard to organise the DRIFT Philosophical Festival. DRIFT was first founded out of discontent with the quality of the philosophy events on offer. However, this was only the concrete catalyst for the festival. Something else is at its base, namely a passion for philosophy and the wish to share it with others.
DRIFT wants to make accessible academic philosophy to a wide audience of laypeople and academics. By inviting national and international philosophers, DRIFT stages a demonstration of contemporary developments in philosophy, provoking visitors to make contact with theories and thinkers they might not otherwise have encountered. DRIFT also forms a unique combination of philosophy and culture. The programme comprises lectures and debates, but also poetry, literary prose, music, theatre and figurative arts. Thus, a trade-off arises between theoretical reason and artistic expression at the limits of philosophy.
At the festival renowned names enter into a discussion with young talent. There is room for complex, specialist, and rigorous thought, but also for getting down on the dance floor. Every year, philosophy students are invited to present, in a ‘staircase lectire’, their vision on the world and the current philosophical climate. In this cacophony of voices and images, the visitor is jolted from theory to melody to conversation. The audience is caught adrift, finds itself suddenly getting the drift, or maybe even becoming driftig (fiery-tempered) with new ideas.