Saturday, 27 June 2009

Spinoza mon amour

Some time ago on this blog I wrote I wanted to develop some notes on what I feel are Amsterdam's most intriguing aspects. Among them I listed Spinoza - as this happens to be the city where Spinoza was born in 1632. Quite fortunately a 'spinozian festival' was held until very recently, thus providing the possibility to go back to the previous inspiration and to collect some materials that I share here. First of all, the Spinoza Car (see below):

This is truly a piece of work! The car is completely covered in glasses with the stamp of Spinoza's face, different editions of Spinoza's work and, above all, tributes of love and passionate messages addressed to Spinoza's images.

The kitsch-effect is consciously and tenaciously pursued so the viewer sees the ironic and almost surreal intent. But more than this, I think the excessive-love messages that frame the smiley-sweety face of Spinoza especially infuse a feeling of mirth, which Old Spinoza, defender of the virtue of happiness, not as a reward, would certainly like. In one of the most insightful passages I have ever read, Spinoza defined "true happiness" as "the enjoyment of what is good, not in the pride that" somebody "alone is enjoying it, to the exclusion of others."

He who thinks himself the more blessed because he is enjoying benefits which others are not, or because he is more blessed or more fortunate than his fellows, is ignorant of true happiness and blessedness, and the joy which he feels is either childish or envious and malicious. For instance, a man's true happiness consists only in wisdom, and the knowledge of the truth, not at all in the fact that he is wiser than others, or that others lack such knowledge: such considerations do not increase his wisdom or true happiness. Whoever, therefore, rejoices for such reasons, rejoices in another's misfortune, and is, so far, malicious and bad, knowing neither true happiness nor the peace of the true life. (from the Theologico-Political Treatise).

Spinozian spirit is also fulfilled in one of the funniest installations presented in the Spinoza Exhibition. Here artist Thomas Hirschhorn explains how to dance Spinoza. Like lambada, or tango or salsa, spinoza is a love couple-dance, fully faithful to Spinoza's idea that "love is pleasure" that "may be excessive"... (Book IV, Prop XLIV, Ethics).

One of the greatest moments of the Spinoza Festival, however, was the participation of Toni Negri, the author - among other things - of a book that is considered to be one of the most insightful ever written on Spinoza, i.e. The Savage Anomaly. With his renowned passionate style, Negri presents the "revolutionary force of Spinozian utopia" as follows:

The festival was organised in South-east Amsterdam, finally outside the white-glacé fakely peaceful centre of the city ... I think Spinoza would have felt at home.
The festival ends today but the website with all materials and contacts will be available till mid july (here). Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. What a bizarre and fantastic event - thanks for sharing that.