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John Jordan, art activist, in an Elevate-Interview about the Festival theme Human Nature.

John Jordan will join Elevate Festival 2020 on Saturday, 07.03., in the discussions about "We are Nature defending Itself" and "End Game against Climate Breakdown?".

Free entry at the Festival location Forum Stadtpark! -> Full programme info.


Elevate's festival theme 2020 is "Human Nature". What's your second thought about it?

There is no such thing – no such nature particular to humans. The idea of a singular human nature, like all universals, is a dangerous reductive idea, another invention of the modern era.

There are as many human natures as there are humans, that is the beauty of all life, its boundless desire to diversify always, to create a myriad of forms of life all so unique and particular, all folded into, being transformed by and transforming, the worlds they emerge from, be it the forest or the Savannah, the cities or the mountains, the sea shore or a jungle.

For 99.8 percent of our human history we were hunter gatherers, and from one community living in one valley to another a few kilometers away we were likely to have had different languages, different ways of treating our elders, different ways of loving each other and burying our dead, different ways of seeing and sensing this world of ours. If there is one thing that unites these different bodies it could be our need to be fed, literally and psychologically, by ever flourishing nature.

And your first?

The idea of a singular human nature has managed to naturalize ideologies that have and continue to have to ecosidal and genocidal consequences. The scientifically disproven fantasy that nature is a total war of all against all, and that humans and all genes are thus only selfish and competitive individuals, has been the leitmotif for our dictatorship of the economy, which puts money before life, profit before everything, the market as god.

This vision is ignoring the deep symbiosis and cooperation that is a major part of all biological life, which is life lived in relationship with others always. You reading this are inhaling the carbon from other humans around you, in the form of C02. That carbon is partly their bodies and partly the bodies of the beings (plants or animals) that they have eaten. Your body is sharing other bodies to live, always intermingled with other lives to continue to live. In fact your “nature” is more than human anyway, only 43 percent of your cells are human, the rest, the majority are fungi, bacteria, viruses and archaea. You are much more than human nature, you are a whole biome, an ecology of selves. All those selves that you share your life with are not dead matter, but other lives that desire, that want something and that something is to live more. Italian philosopher and writer Francesca Ferrando sees “an urgency for the integral redefinition of the notion of the human” and with it a dissolving of everything that separates human from nature and vice versa.

Quo Vadis Humanity? In 2009 Elevate's main theme was the climate crisis. 10 years have passed. Whats your take on the next 10?

According to the IPCC, the UN's climate scientists not known for their revolutionary imagination , to avoid the worst of the climate catastrophe we have 12 years left for “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society…. “ That was written in 2018, which leaves us 10 years.

The next ten years are crucial, and we know that market mechanism and the proposals from governments are simply more greenwash and theatrics to keep business going as usual. Only mass movements of disobedience and desertion are going to get us out of this mess. We need movements which merge building new common ways of living together (with each other and the non-human, which I prefer to call more than human worlds) with creative ways to fight and resist those who continue to burn and destroy our worlds.

In my collective the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination we think that these “unprecedented changes “ must include changing art, this invention barely 200 years old, that emerged from the modern extractivist cutlure. We must return it to a place, a habitat and give it back a useful function, give it back its capacity to transform worlds rather than represent them, to be shared rather than privatised, we must uncover the magic at its heart. We don't need new forms of art in this crisis, but an art of life, a new way to pay attention.

The relationship of humans and technology - more reasons to be pessimistic or optimistic? Can you name some?

One of my great heroes is British 18th century artist activist poet designer and proto ecological revolutionary utopian, William Morris. If from his grave, in which he has been for over a century, he can hear the call for the “ Green Industrial Revolution”, which we are hearing more and more about, he would for sure be spinning in angry pessimistic circles.

He had seen how the first industrial revolution separated us from nature, turning it into an non-living dead matter, a slave and resource to be consumed for the profit of a few. To experience "the natural fairness of the earth" is a vital human need, one that can be fully satisfied only with the dismantling of industrial civilization, he thought.

The words Green and revolution go very well together, but Green and Industrial is like Oil and water. Technology is not liberating us from work, but causing more alienation, the factory is now everywhere, even in your pocket.Technology will not save the planet, if it continues to be produced within the logic of economic growth, profit and industrialism. A real green revolution will re think scale, outside of the logic of industry, closer to that of small scale craft production, and it will do what Ivan Illich the great radical priest and philosopher wished for, put technology back into the hands of its users, for us to be able to shape our own tools and production systems again and thus reform creative communities, a process he called Conviviality.

And our relationship with nature? Of course we are "part of it", but....where are we going?

We are not fighting for nature, but nature defending itself ! (slogan of Climate Games, 2015)

We must dissolve the separations between humans and “nature,” “nature” and “culture,” and body and mind, which have dominated our self-understanding since the Enlightenment. Moderns see “culture” and “nature,” as separate and distinct. But if we can recognize that reality is not founded upon dead matter, an objective thing that us subjects use, but rather we live in a world of subject to subject relationships, then these divisions seem useless. If we can see reality founded on the the idea of an aliveness - the fact that every living being from the cell up to a blue whale, has an interiority, a subjective self that senses and feels, makes choices based on its desire to flourish and unfold – and that this is the key element that connects every living being, then both nature and culture are driven by the same thing, the desire for aliveness, intrinsic to all social and biological systems. We may be all made up of different stuff, but we share an interiority, a self whose experience is expressed in our flesh.


"Psycho-spiritual crisis", "a psychotic society",... How bad is the status quo of humanity?

The status quo of humanity depends if your a white and rich enough to pay for a ticket to go see some nice radical culture in a well heated concert hall or you are a person of colour who just lost their farmland to a swarm of locust and are struggling to feed your children tonight.

The crisis is an opportunity to change our ways of living and thinking, feeling and doing, fighting and loving. The psychosis is that we have forgotten that the world is made up of a myriad of other persons, and only some of those persons are human.

A message to the Elevate Festival community?  What can we do?

Start where you are at. Find each other and rebel against this world and build better ones that put life before money. Never forget that everything you take for granted: the right for women to wear trousers, for the use of contraception, the weekend, the abolition of slavery, voting, publishing independent media – everything came from disobedience, history is built by people who desert and disobey and there has never been a more urgent time in the history of humanity, there is everything to loose and everything to win... Start here, Start now...

Elevate features many amazing artists in the music & arts programme. Can we meet you on the Dancefloor too?

"Dance your anger and your joys,
 Dance the military guns to silence,
 Dance oppression and injustice to death,
 Dance my people,
 For we have seen tomorrow
 And there is an Ogoni star in the sky."

- Poet, writer and activist Ken Saro Wiwa - Hung in 1995 for opposing Shell Oil company which is destroying the Ogoni People's territory in Nigeria.


John Jordan will join Elevate Festival 2020 on Saturday, 07.03., in the discussions about "We are Nature defending Itself" and "End Game against Climate Breakdown?".

Free entry at the Festival location Forum Stadtpark! -> Full programme info.

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