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Sigrid Heistinger, an Austrian artist and environmental activist, in an Elevate-Interview about the Festival theme Human Nature.

Sigrid Heistinger will join Elevate Festival 2020 on Sunday, 08.03. She will host the workshop "Can Psychedelics save the World?" and join the discussion on "Feminism* 2020"

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?

Human nature - what is this?
Does it lead to sorrow, end in bliss?
Yet another false dichotomy,
where something broader ought to be?
Must everything that´s precious
take effort to appear?
Is everything you want
just on the other side of fear?
Stop the battle of your mind
Close your eyes, end being blind!
You are where you´re supposed to be-
this current moment sets you free.
Human nature - nature human?
Twist it, turn it, watch it flow.
Bathe in the depth of consciousness
see the circles in which you grow.
Before anything else just be willing to change
to expand your views and widen your range.
Let go of your future, let go of your past,
change is eternal, the one spark that lasts.

I felt inspired to write a poem about this subject.  And since Plato said “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history” please see the previous words as my humble attempt at collecting a fraction of human nature and binding it in pretty words.  

Now for a more rational approach:

Human nature needs to be experienced, rather than defined with words. Yet, I obviously love words! :)
I think in the western world we suffer a profound lack of knowing what human nature is capable of, because we were deeply socialized and soaked in the neoliberal “divide et impera”(divide and rule). We have learned, that we are never enough yet always too much. That we cannot trust our own intuition, our own feelings, our own internal guidance system. Therefore we supposedly rely on outside definitions of who or what we are, and what we should be.

Think again! Who benefits from our insecurities?

"Human nature" in capitalism is commonly portrayed as the “homo economicus”, an always rational, self-interested, competitive and division based collection of character traits.

What a deeply depressing depiction of humans.

I don´t think humans are inherently good or bad. I think we carry within us the potential to be both. Maybe we even have to overcome the judgment of what is good and bad, to be able to integrate all of our separated parts and become whole?  As Carl G. Jung put it: “No tree, it´s said, can grow to heaven, unless it´s roots reach down to hell.”

Maybe true human nature escapes the rationality of our prefrontal cortex? Maybe we need to open ourselves up to another layer of consciousness to be able to catch a glimpse of it? Maybe we are not yet supposed to see the vast possibilities, which the seed that we are holds within?

I don´t know. But I do know that anyone who claims to know what human nature is makes me raise my eyebrow in suspicion.  


And your first?

How the hell did we, as western humanity, come up with the concept that we are separated from nature? And not dependently connected to earth herself? Nature is us. We are nature.


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

The next ten years will be an epic struggle between the apocalyptic patriarchal machine of capitalism and a rising consciousness about our place in the hoop of life, a reconnection to truly systemic thinking, feeling and acting.

Interesting times we live in, truly.

Of course I root for utopia.


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

As many systems of our society the internet is a byproduct of the military. If we would design technology completely different from scratch, I would be very hopeful.
Under the current circumstances in my opinion, technology maybe carries the possibility to solve all the problems that it created in the first place. It annoyingly might be necessary to organize billions of people without hegemonial hierarchical top down approaches, since governments are currently already hyper connected and acting globally.
I am very skeptical about relying on technology for solutions. If the network itself isn´t free, so aren´t the ones using it. We need to have safe, open source solutions, that are built by diverse people, aka not just white cis-men.

We´ve got a lot to do!


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

If I get to choose: We are not going anywhere, we are standing and feeling the ground underneath us. We are (re)experiencing our roots.

I think we are slowly figuring out again, that we need to reconnect. That our sense of disconnection from nature is an illusion and not a fact. (Think you are independent from nature? - try holding your breath for 10 minutes!)
I think more and more people are waking up to the idea, that the scientific, materialistic post-enlightenment world-view of dividing living beings, as well as living systems into parts, is not only a scientifically wrong approach, but the root of the multiple crises we are finding ourselves in.
 "We are all one" sounds like an whoo-whoo hippie concept, that instantly gets discredited by grown up, logical people (mainly cis-men?).
But the arguments one can make to support the thesis "we are all one" are very rational, as long as we live on an interconnected planet that runs on complex systems.

But damn it, what would happen, if we overcame patriarchy and "feeling something" would count as a valid source of information?
Just dare to imagine...what could happen!

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

On a scale from 1 to extinction: 9,5

If there ever was a challenge for humanity, this is it.
Also, it´s interesting, that we tend to speak of humanity and mean western, white cultures. Indigenous peoples did not cause the mess we are in! Are they not included in our colonial white concept of “humanity”?  
So listening to indigenous tribal communities is key! The future is inclusive…or bitter.
Also queer people and folks with what we call mental illnesses, black people and people of color, they all bear solutions we need right now. Looking outside of the box means, to listen to the ones we threw out of the old box before. We have to become aware of our own privileges, our biases, as educated men or as white women.
Western societies have built their wealth upon the exploitation of other peoples through colonialism, racism, sexism, speciesism.
Even Adam Smith, the so called father of capitalism wrote that capitalism can not work, if it runs on the whole planet, since it lives on exploiting other countries. Our whole processes are only possible through violence against earth herself. If we would feel the connection and dependence that is actually there, we would not let this happen. Despite the material wealth, we live in a culture that is deeply trenched in trauma. Our whole economical system is built upon the priciples of warfare. Our schools were built to make soldiers even the internet is a byproduct of the military.
Just imagine the potential our societies could have, if we started building the systems that govern our lives with the purpose of promoting peace and the utmost wellbeing of all living beings instead of war and terror- What a crazy idea!
Just take a look around, how we treat our own needs of rest, connection or meaning. How everything gets to be prioritized after profits. We have disowned our bodies, we have lost connection to ourselves, to our feelings, to our surrounding, to each other. We are the loneliest society imaginable, tranquillized on pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol and addictions to asocial media and other "acceptable" substitutes for connection and meaning. We feel empty and don´t even notice it, cause we don´t know what else is possible. When in fact, we should start to change these systems, that make us sick in the first place.
The neoliberal "divida et impera" made us withdraw to our single households where we eat plastic wrapped single person-microwave meals with pre sliced bread and plastic wrapped single portion salads on the side. We try to escape our meaningless hamster wheel jobs with netflix specials. Panem et circences.

Why not get up, cry as much as necessary, share our vulnerabilities and then go out and built the paradise?

A message to the Elevate Festival community? aka. what can you do?

"We have the duty to fight for our freedom, we have the duty to win." Assata Shakur

In the internal world:

In an economy that runs on your own insecurity, loving yourself is a radical act.

You are so much more powerful than you are made to belief.  Remember: whatever you are feeling, the fear, the shame, the loneliness, whatever you are going through: you are not alone. Many others are feeling the exact same thing, so: talk about it. Share it. Connect!
It´s not you, it´s not your depression, your "mood disorder" or your character, neither your lack thereof!
It´s patriarchal, racist, neoliberal capitalism you are suffering from. It´s the pain of a dying world that bitterly is asking to live. Dare to feel what you are actually feeling. Prioritize how you are feeling. Emotions are not an annoying side note to life that should get eradicated to function even better in a sick system gone mad.
" It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." said  Jiddu Krishnamurti. I believe, it is healthy to grief, to feel profoundly sad and hopeless at times, about the insanity and the injustice that is going on currently under the name of reason. It´s time to be unreasonable!
Feelings are the compass that actually can guide us towards a survivable and in fact worthwhile future.  Connect! Healing can only be found in community.

United we stand, divided we fall...on our couch to watch the end of the world on netflix.

so: get up, connect. organize and act!

In the external world:

Reduce, reuse, recycle?
Become vegan, stop flying!  But most importantly: overcome the dangerous idea, that anything you change on an individual level is enough for the mess we´re in.  
Climate change doesn´t care that you recycle!
We need systemic change in epic proportions.
Yes, this seems impossible at first. It is frightening, it´s difficult. Yet: Believe it is possible!
I do. Not every day, but I try. Drop the cynicism, dare to dream about utopia and then make it happen.

Go, get organized and change the system! Find a community: join "System change, not climate change" or any other organization that focuses on systemic solutions. Start growing a community garden, begin a project with others, or organize a political campaign. You can learn anything if you set your mind to it. Explore alternatives to capitalism and then built them!

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

I guess not. I don´t particularly enjoy neither loud music nor being in larger groups of strangers. But I am very much looking forward to dance intellectually and emotionally with the people during the discourse program. ;)


Sigrid Heistinger will join Elevate Festival 2020 on Sunday, 08.03. She will host the workshop "Can Psychedelics save the World?" and join the discussion on "Feminism* 2020"

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

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