Meet Indonesian artist Ratri Notosudirdjo. Following her family’s immigration, she was raised in different towns and cities across North America, a journey that eventually brought her to Rotterdam. Her research and practice engage in de- and postcolonial theory, centring on contemporary mechanisms of the cultural and poetic identity and often forming new languages, new rituals, and new meanings from them. The works reconstruct these new forms through the exchange and bridging of cultural and existential realities, resulting from cross-disciplinary work processes that engage collaboration with an array of creatives in Rotterdam.
On the 16th of September, as part of the latest Wunderplatz x Skills project, she took over a park in central Rotterdam. The action she created with the help of 6 performers, 45 meters of fabric and her experimental compositions is called UUAHIB! These elements came together to form a mini world of people and landscapes in flux! In this short interview, she is revealing more about her inspiration and process.
Please introduce yourself and your work to us:
My full name is Ratri Arundhati Notosudirdjo, I go under the pseudonym of ‘saynotosu’ for most projects that I do. Since I moved to Rotterdam in 2016, I’ve been combining performative practices like theatre, dance and movement with sculpture, textile and sound. The academy I went to doesn’t dedicate areas for performance, so a lot of the experiments I first created tried to open up that space.
The core themes of the work extends from my experience of migration. Often we explain the factual consequences or effects of it but we don’t often know how to express the internal crisis of belonging: what does it mean to belong to one or two or three different places, or none at all? The in-between zones of cross–cultural production is where we can explore the notion of belonging and how we can construct liminal landscapes when we cannot attach ourselves to a land or infuse ourselves to the practised culture. The UUAHIB performance is a way to translate these themes into poetry and surrealistic storytelling.
Could you explain why you named your work UUAHIB?
The term is totally nonsense, at least phonetically it may resemble words in different languages but the spelling is a part of the invention. If you look it up, Google pulls up the artwork but also a number of unrelated web pages that focus on content for people in Wales, Romania, Pittsburgh, China, Manchester, and other places. So it’s nice to see the all-knowing engine reflect this scattered locality with unconsolidated information. But the phonetic combo: Oooo—-AAA___hhHHiBb! became a recognisable pattern in the composition of the soundscape that accompanies the performance. This soundscape was made in 2020 during the MINT Podium residency which also took place at WORM and it is a collaboration between Lili Ullrich, Kerem Akar, Bintang Manira, C00stanza Calzavara, Magdalena Petrova, Rafael Durao and myself.
How was your experience of working on your performance UUAHIB at WORM?
WORM is a place where experiments are made possible and with each experiment it goes without saying that chaos and uncertainty seems to always follow the process of making a new work. The aspect of this piece being an exercise was to comply with Rotterdam’s strict busking and public performance policies. Henrietta, who really supported and helped make the performance happen, did a lot of the research around the possibility of the work being presented in public space. Approaching the performance in these circumstances made the collective act of building non-uniform landscapes, conceptually and materially, even more important. We choreographed deep trenches and wide plateaus between each acting body. It’s also an exercise that requires no serious training or experience before the performance so all bodies can participate.
I also really enjoyed the ending that happened very spontaneously. Audience and performers merged and together we walked through the streets from the park to #Wunderbar underneath this huge colourful fabric.
In which ways was this experiment different from other times you have presented the performance?
Initially the composition we made stemmed from translating an existing sculpture that contained rows and columns of cotton tiles. These tiles were dyed in red clay and covered with stains and beanstalks. There was an attempt to see how we could make a transcription from object to language possible. Through a three-day workshop we were able to catalogue each marking to a sound, and composed this speculative language into a narrated soundscape.
In this edition we created movements that related to the phonetic progression in the composition and the made-up location within the sound piece. These exercises were also explored in a one day workshop. In each stage of the work there’s always an opportunity to create our own intuitive science within the work group. It’s a process of making that I consistently come back to and find surprising outcomes from.
Why is it important to you to bring your work into the public space?
These experimental moments we take up for public performance are important to stimulate public curiosity into artistic practices that don’t always get the opportunity to be presented widely. It’s an ongoing work, so every time it performs it expands, materially but also in dialogue with previous performers, participants, facilitators and audiences. These days we talk a lot about how we can make art accessible, for me this is exactly one of those ways. Public artistic acts are bridges for all sorts of worlds to come into contact and bring spontaneity into the everyday. There’s an undervaluing, I think, for public performances, even while Rotterdam is known for this experimental scene. Municipal policies around this don’t appreciate the potential of the city’s performance art community. In some ways it rejects some practices and mystifies performance art altogether. I’m curious to know what’s out there, and presenting in public space is a warm-welcoming invite.
What is your next project, long and short term?
UUAHIB continues to move forward, growing bigger in fabrics and performers. The dream is to find my way to Rotterdam Central Station, out on the square and intervening in the unconscious motion of commuting. We’ll see how it can all be worked out! The works, events and performances I will be working on in the future all focus on creating these intersections in different disciplines and craft while also reworking these concepts of landscape. November 19th is the opening of an exhibition I am working on with MAMA that re-examines language outside its lingual framework and highlights the way heritage, history and culture help shape the tools we use to shape our own forms of storytelling; and to imagine the spaces where these narratives coexist in.
This is what Wunderplatz x Skills curator had to say about Ratri’s practice and why she invited her:
“I am always fascinated by the urge within her work to break out, find unexpected locations and contexts. She is one of our generation’s actively dedicated action artists who invests her time in background research and translates issues of decolonization with a delicate approach.” Henrietta Müller
Performers: Joana Cavaco, Magdalena Petrova, Szu-Yi Wang, Iohan Figueroa, Siva Canbazoglu
Photography: Eden Calgie & Julia Gat
Learn more about Wunderplatz x Skills HERE.