Interview: WunderPlatz x SKILLS: Henrietta Müller and Charlien Adriaenssens

WORM spoke to artists and curators Henrietta Müller and Charlien Adriaenssens about their bold vision for our #Wunderbar and motherhood in the cultural sector. Before Charlien went on maternity leave, the two conceived WunderPlatz x SKILLS, a project where makers and bar-goers meet, an anti-White Cube occupied by artists with a different view.

Henrietta, could you introduce yourself?
Henrietta: I am Henrietta Müller. I was born in 1992. My favourite number is 4. I am from Transylvania in Romania. I am a multimedia artist who loves horses and I am interested in the sound and image of distortion, memory, pain, suffering and blood (this sounds very Transylvanian indeed :D).  I have become really driven in finding peace in the last months and how the inner world and the outer world are reflecting on each other. I think also because I am in my late 20s, I am realising that the amount of fire which I have been always carrying in me and wanted to burn everything around me with, is now transforming. And I want to dedicate this energy towards a bigger inner love which might also resonate with my surroundings. Hopefully deal with my anxiety too.
I like ambient and spacious works, ideas, which you enter and it can change your perspective.

Why is the WunderPlatz x SKILLS project important to you?
Henrietta: It is important because I would like to see the #Wunderbar, and the wider space around it blossoming more and more. At the same time I am interested to find the right artists who are authentic to their medium; those who are interested in developing their own language with strong audio and visual imaginations. I want them to be able to show us their “inner, crazy children”. For me it is important that I am a perfect helping hand for them.

Was that also a consideration when you made the programme? Finding the right people you can help develop?
Henrietta: Somehow I am becoming more and more conscious of art as a community. So I don’t see these collaborations only as a one-time curatorial project. I am also interested in these artists’ futures as well. Anybody can have one show, but to be able to maintain feedback in the art community and especially in the community in Rotterdam is something else. I think this continuous feedback system, through opening new spaces, talking and showing and experiencing all together, is important as it will “feed the feedback”.

Charlien, why is the WunderPlatz x SKILLS project important for you? And why did you decide to start this project before maternity leave?
Charlien: (Laughs) Perfect timing. Why is it important? Well, I had this wish for a long time. When we talk about the art programme at WORM we usually talk about S/ash Gallery. I was thinking, could art happen in different places here, how can we research the artistic potential of WORM as a whole? And usually at the #Wunderbar and in the Foyer we have club nights and a lot of people so it’s not often possible, productionally, to host artists and residencies. So, because the club and bar thing is not happening at the moment, there is suddenly this space where we can try out stuff.

I think it also started from this little experiment with the barbers from PEOPLES Barber Shop (Don and Ivan) in the S/ash Gallery in the summer and now that they’ve moved to #Wunderbar, they still want to do projects with visual artists. It is very nice to explore how to make connections together with them. So that created a lot of new energy.

And then of course I realised I was pregnant. And as a coincidence many people from WORM’s catering team couldn’t do their tasks at the bar. I heard that Henrietta might have hours available. She is also a visual artist herself and she is interested in production. I thought, “ahhh that is a cool combination”. She can do the project and also develop a new skill set. For me it is also important that she has freedom. In the beginning, I really felt that I should book artists for each month and then Henrietta realises it. But it actually feels much more like Henrietta’s project, and she is in charge.

Henrietta, could you tell us a bit more about your role in the project?
Henrietta: I am beginning to learn how to be an art programmer and producer. As my mentor Charlien said, you need to find a nice balance between 80% production and 20% programming. I think of this role as the person who is able to recognise the vision, the bigger picture and then be there for breaking down all the details. Requires high flexibility, being able to enjoy problem solving and improvisation. Each moment of entering another artist’s vision and working flow takes objectivity from me, to keep their artistic goals in first place. Being able to reflect, think critically without over projecting my own storm of thoughts. It’s a complex and fulfilling process, working with same minded people with different cultural and social backgrounds can be challenging. To be part of WORM’s artistic visionary I feel super chill about it, seems to me that I am working with a team which speaks the language of culture with more than 24years of expertise. These people here in WORM Rotterdam are the craziest family I ever wished to be part of it.

What do you hope to learn during this process?
Henrietta: I do have concrete goals. I come from an alternative theatre background, but one in Eastern Europe, so pretty classical in Dutch terms. The performance and art programmes at WORM often show a middle finger to all conventions. So, first when I moved here I saw a few events organised by Charlien, and I was like: “Does she call this theatre?’’ And now I want to feel this freedom to organise and go for what I believe in. So, I want to develop a thinking process which is letting me be more free. I do feel trusted, in the sense that Charlien is giving me some lead but I can make up my own mind and plans.

Charlien you are becoming a mom for the first time very soon! There are all these preconceptions about pregnancy and women in the art world. How was it for you working at WORM during this time?
Charlien: It has been super nice actually. I always thought before that it is super weird to get pregnant. That is why I waited for such a long time. And since we made this decision, we were so happy that it also worked, it feels like part of life. And I also see myself as very naïve that I always saw pregnancy as something so alien. Now I am so used to my belly that I can not imagine it will be away. I just feel like a fat guy who had too many beers (laughs).

At WORM, as there are almost no colleagues who have children, or they have grown and left the nest, it almost feels like everybody is very excited and happy together with me. And I feel there is a lot of space; Janpier [General Manager, WORM] is very flexible about it. Janpier told me how he took his children everywhere and also that in the beginning it is okay to work from home a lot. So, it feels like I have a lot of freedom to search for the kind of mom that I want to be. And it is also funny because many people that I have Skype meetings with don’t know because they only see my upper part. So, when I was doing the radio, people were very surprised to see me and my belly!

For such a long time, I thought it wouldn’t work to have children in the cultural sector. But I think we are past that stage. Of course with Covid-19 it is also different because we almost don’t have night programming, or the stress of working on productions until 2am. And then having a crying baby at home who needs your breasts (laughs).

Henrietta, you are a familiar face in #Wunderbar. You work at the bar and in the kitchen and are an important part of the community and you know the bar’s culture. What are your hopes for the #Wunderbar when the Covid-19 era is over.
Henrietta: While I was a Covid host I did a survey. One of the questions was: Why do you come to WORM / #Wunderbar? And there was this answer that really moved me. A girl said that she had a lot of problems at home with her family and her only safe space is #Wunderbar. I don’t want to brag about it, but maybe we should see that it is becoming a safer space for everybody who feels disconnected from the mainstream. So, I see us working more and more on this in the future. Developing a stronger voice in that, becoming even more a space for the outsider.

And you Charlien, what is your vision for the post Covid future of #Wunderbar?
Charlien: I would like it that we can develop The Wunderplatz x SKILLS project and keep it sustainable even after we reopen. I submitted a plan to Janpier, we will see. You know people always find their way to the beer, but not always to the art. #Wunderbar is usually the first connection, the easiest connection to WORM. It has a surprise effect, but I hope we can push this little further. And that beer selling becomes less important and there is more space for art.