WORM 25 – Future focus – with Ratri Notosudirdjo

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 and longterm WORM ally Ratri Notosudirdjo reflects on her work here.

Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with the city of Rotterdam?

I’ve built a nest-base through my friends, research and practice, through the places we go to play, slip through cracks and find solace. Through these peepholes, I know the city. There is a lot I am still learning about Rotterdam, including its history, how locals know the city, how they perceive the way the city has changed, and how myself and many others are part of that change. I have a foundation here that I am attached to, not just to the people but also to the familiar mundane cycles, patterns consisting of resistance and complicity, a winter of reclusion and spring awakening, sudden joy to a greyish bleak, seeking then finding things that make us feel homeful. I’ve made circles through the city for eight years and I have a lot of gratitude to Rotterdam and the people who live here, to those who’ve given so much.

Can you remember your first impressions of WORM as a place to party and work in?

My first impression of WORM was when I was still a student in the art academy. A lot of our friends would go there to present new work or watch new performances. WORM was one of the only places where we could try out a lot of different ideas. There was no space in the academy where Performance Art had practice facilities or classes that were directly about this craft. (Although I did take a class titled “The Act of Reading” in the academy, taught by Frans van Lent and it was fantastic.) A place to perform was incredibly important for me and my friends, and this need also echoes from the creative community too. Now we have an opportunity to reshape WORM’s stages for performance and what kind of performance community we want these stages to be based on. I see a lot of organizations, collectives and initiatives doing this, through trial and error, with success and filling in what is missed in the city.

Tell us a little bit about your activities: such as Wunderplatz x Skills residency, why did you it all at WORM

There are moments in the creative process where I feel sucked into a vortex and it’s not exactly clear what I am trying to do – but this is an embedded process of making art. Through WORM, I’ve had moments where I’ve tested major artworks and developed foundational methods. I started experimenting with new performances at WORM in 2020 with the MINT Residency in S/ash Gallery and UBIK. The first thing I tried out was the UUAHIB workshops, a series that built up towards sounding and embodying “place”. These workshops relied on a collaborative environment, together as a group we would explore how to translate landscapes through body movement or how we can find lingual material in bean stalks. Of course, the conversations were expansive, we did not just simply land on these topics… it took time and retrospect. In these experiments, I worked with an amazing group of artists, musicians, students, activists and researchers, whose contributions were crucial for each spontaneous outcome.

The second work was during the Wunderplatz X Skills residency where I worked a little more technical-driven… a little more sparky-spark-spark with the equipment. We explored two different performances with a group of 9-12 participants using methods based on the UUAHIB workshops. The second workshop was a collective research and reflection on burnout. We were all simultaneously artistically exploring the concept and experiencing it or have experienced it in the past. We reshaped WORM’s office space into a harbinger of ghouls and ghosts, creating a composition based on the phenomena of burnout and the sounds of our bodies under extreme work conditions. For me, both these moments have been important steps in deepening my storytelling. They weren’t only opportunities to experiment with tools and methods but also brought in an orbit of people interested to participate, experiment along and present on stage.

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

I see WORM filling in that space in the city where the porous threshold for art breathes freely. This is highly needed. It’s still a radical and marginal concept in this world, not just performing it but also being it and organizing it. We need institutions that give space for all types of art without the pressure of categorizing our works as amateur, professional, trained or untrained etc. We already know we live in a capital-driven system, we already know about the high competition that exists within the art world and we already know most of the world defines things by 1 to 10 levels of expertise, quality, and how things are written. We know this and it’s predictable where it’s leading us. I see WORM countering this, blurring the lines between low to high levels and giving space to create something new. There are a lot of familiar faces, friends and general people we know from a distance who work at WORM, all who are parts of different scenes/communities that bring in different things. They work at the bar or in the office or do the tech stuff. They’re producing, organizing, and building up all sorts of events with well-known artists and lesser-known artists. They’re encouraging their friends or people they believe in to present work, create art, and organize events. I think WORM exists as a porous threshold because the people who work there are in the surrounding community and continue to invite people from close universes.

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?

I think it’s obvious I’m going to say that WORM is most attuned to being a place for a culture of play and fertile grounds. The reason that stands is because of all the things I’ve mentioned in the other questions: the porous threshold, the openness to different types of art, the different levels of professionalism that are invited and so on. The way the building is made is a playground, there is a bar, a theatre, an exhibition space, a room with synthesizers, a room for developing 16mm film etc. It’s a lot of fun.