WORM 25 – Future focus – with Stellata Koppe

As the institute turns 25, WORM announces its new relationship with the world: Ultimate Playground. We encourage you to read all about our new plans here. We asked those who have experienced, and experiences of, WORM, to comment on how they see us in this transition year. Artist, weaver and WORM’s ‘systems girl’ Stellata Koppe looks back on her time here.

You live in Rotterdam, can you tell us a bit about your relationship with the city?

I started living in Rotterdam in 2000, first temporarily, because of my internship at V2_. But then I made a switch in my studies and started my bachelors at the Interfaculty Image and Sound – now At Science, part of the Royal Academy and Conservatory in The Hague. Rotterdam felt more free and less defined than The Hague, and became the European capital culture the next year. Besides that there was that [famous] industrial atmosphere that for me connected with Eindhoven where I was born and living before I moved. Basically I felt home here. The rough edge in Rotterdam also means it’s not always a safe place. I guess that in itself does create those special warm places where people who are diverse come together.

About four years ago I moved to Hoek van Holland, just two months before Corona took hold, and just before I discovered my own identity. Or maybe I moved there to find out… Until then, I would not have believed that I would be transgender, but now I finally, after discovery and transitioning, love to live my life. Hoek van Holland is also part of Rotterdam, so I never really left.

You have been an integral part of WORM over time: but can you remember your first impressions of the place?

Yes, I do. There’s a vague memory of the construction of the place, again that rough edge, haha! But I also remember how it looked after everything was ready to be used. There was Mariëtte’s WORM shop, now functioning outside of WORM as Underbelly. The Wunderbar did not yet exist, that was two simple looking office rooms where we had our meetings and Moddr workshops. Yes, Moddr was also still there, a geeky hackerspace that at some time ceased to exist. One of their main computers is still my working machine! I’m actually quite amazed that the floors in the foyer and Central Station, and the LED lighting in Central Station are still functional! I also remember the old WORM venue in Delfshaven. I started working at WORM about half a year before we moved to the centre. We made cardboard computers after an idea of Moddr.

Tell us a little bit about your activities: such as your IT /Systems work here, your art exhibitions, your collaborations with Filmwerkplaats for instance, why did you do it all at WORM…

In 2011 I started work here after the system guy before me had left in a worrying state of mind… Sometime after that, the server, which was situated in the vault, caught fire. Alexander, who was then working in PR, had tried to make me a member of the team for some time. I remember how Mike, then financial director, called me when I was literally driving away with my son from a stranded marriage. So in a way WORM was my saviour and I was theirs.

WORM has also been a stage for my work as an artist. Even before I started working there I was invited to show my work. It was not only a safe base income so I could pay my rent if freelance work or subsidies were lacking, but I also felt recognised for my arts. Also, the Filmwerkplaats was a great place to experiment and further explore my own artistic realm. Somehow I grew out of that, which I sometimes regret. The analogue 16mm film can be magic, and It was such a nice group of people to work with!

The people in WORM have changed a lot, and not without arguments. But I was never really part of that, being system administrator. And somehow the people working here always re-formed as that warm WORM team. The reason I left is because I want to spread my wings, now that I recognised myself as being a butterfly. Or at least that I allow myself to feel, or live, that way.

How have you seen WORM develop, and operate, both from close up and in your peer group?

Somehow, over the last few years I was a bit “outside the whole”. Since my transition and mostly my operation, I stopped attending the company meetings. But [looking in from the sidelines] I think WORM changed a lot over the last thirteen years, certainly since I worked here. When I started the focus was “avantgardistic” art, which is still there, but I think the main focus now is LHBTQI+. I love both, and I’m grateful for the safe space WORM has become.

I think the function ‘sysadmin’ has always been sort of strange within WORM. IT was not always seen as important, especially when I started here. I mean, I think the IT budget was always very slim. Actually it still is. I remember that for the new WORM building back in 2011, 150 euros was set aside for the wifi network. But that fact also made it possible for my artistic mindset to play. Like the barebone computers I made on wooden planks in the office, some are still around. In the end I think Mark [Molenaar] was mostly part of my ‘peer-group’. He understood my IT wishes. And over the years we managed to create quite a good wifi network, I think.

Which of the three points of WORM’s new principles (found here in our Mission Statement) do you feel most attuned to, or affiliated with, when you use WORM?

To answer this, I have to start with saying that I basically got totally bored with system administration. And during my personal changes over recent years, I realised I worked harder when getting funding or learning how to network than fixing computers and internet problems, or reading about new security regulations. Now, I found that my heart for creating is in weaving, and that I’m doing quite okay in that, I think this is my future. So I hope I still can show my work in WORM every now and then, when it fits with whatever is developing there.

A second might be the Wunderbar. Somehow I don’t attend many of the evening programmes, but I think I will visit Wunderbar more frequently. When I’m unworked a bit I will choose the cosy Wunderbar terrace or foyer, where I end up now, not wanting to think about IT when I’m not working.

But most of all I’m grateful for WORM embracing the LHBTQI+ community. Sometimes I think the main reason to work at WORM was to create a safe environment for myself where I could find my identity as transgender woman. Though it wasn’t necessarily like that when I started to work here, it changed over the years, just like I started discovering my own personality and identity. For me it went hand-in-hand with the changes in WORM, which I’m grateful for. Now I’ve found my true identity and transitioned in this safe environment, it’s time to fly out of the nest. But I’ll keep visiting this lovely, warm venue! So, my answer? Culture of Play!