Even in the most uncertain times, WORM never fails to deliver and adapt. Recently, providing zines for care packages as situations worsen for the citizens of Rotterdam, they are making the most out of these times to ensure the wellbeing of all pirates. COVID-19 has changed the game as museums, cultural institutions and initiatives have been shut down and all events that include mass crowds have been postponed. On a lighter note, the venue has changed but the party lives on because WORM has now opened up their archive for browsing to keep the weird party going even in our bedrooms.
–How has the spread of coronavirus affected the initiative’s lifestyle and creative activities?
Janpier: We have stopped all our public activities in the physical space. We have moved dozens of events to a new date. Most activities will take place after the summer. We currently assume that our physical activities will not occur until June 1. Most WORM employees work from home, some of them use the time for reflection, others just want to develop and test alternative ways of presenting art and alternative ways of being together.
I notice that they observe the measures in the field of “social distancing”. Today I spoke to someone who hasn’t spoken to anyone in two weeks, except via phone / skype / zoom. He likes to DJ for friends, he now tries that via Facebook, but Facebook immediately mutes his music because of copyright. He sees a future where the physical distance between people still continues, and there are regular cancellations of events because a virus rears its head. Most of the people I know from our organization are at home, take a stroll now and then and meet each other online.
Rae: When I began working with the Pirate Bay Archive in 2018, I was became focused on creating events as a way to build a community around the archive and greater WORM. Obviously now, we cannot meet in person. But this allows me to go more in depth to the archive than I was able to previously. It allows me to do some serious research about what we have, and find new strategies to make it more accessible to the public.
–Please share your thoughts and realizations about the current situation and anything in particular you have become aware of that has changed you or the initiative in any way.
Janpier: I am concerned about a few things. One, that this virus is at the expense of people who are on the margins of society: unregistered people, status holders, the low-skilled, people who have few opportunities to deal with conflicts. Two, that this virus has a lasting impact on public life, enjoying each other’s presence, enjoying live music, dancing together, the excitement of a crowd. On the other hand, I see that a number of things that were previously open to discussion – a basic income for creative entrepreneurs, the suspension of air traffic and empty highways – now seem to be possible. I miss the daily dynamics of WORM, the unrest, people on the floor, making plans with colleagues and implementing them immediately.
Rae: For the Pirate Bay, I realized that our working pace was unsustainable. I think that the situation forced many of us to reflect on quickly we put out events or parties.
–As a person in your position or a creator, how has the lockdown affected your mental and physical well being?
Janpier: The first week I was very tense, because I was afraid that we would not make it financially and that people could lose their jobs. That fear has now disappeared. We are all in the same boat. Instead, I now try to look at what is possible and how we want to shape our activities in the post-corona period.
Rae: It’s been quite difficult. I live in a different city than my colleagues, and live alone. This can be extremely isolating. But I’ve been discovering new ways to reconnect with people. I work with the windows open, even if this means I’m sitting in a coat- just to get some fresh air. It makes my space feel much bigger than it is.
–In light of your own activities, what kind of ‘creation’ or artistic endeavors are possible indoors?
Janpier: As a rule, you may not be with more than three people and there is 1.5 meters between the people. Furthermore, you should limit yourself as much as possible in moving yourself in public space. With that rule and some common sense, something is still possible, for example being active in one of our workshops or recording or performing broadcasts. I also notice that our space is used by employees as an escape room to avoid having to be at home.
Rae: Now is the perfect time to be experimental, to explore, and to get weird. The WORM Pirate Bay has a zine club, where individuals come together to create zines. This is something that you can do at home, and with materials that you have around you. All you need is some paper, and pens…. There’s plenty you can create.
I think now is the time to become as DIY as possible. Try to create something you usually do with completely different materials. Just do things that bring you joy, curiosity, or pleasure.
And perhaps the most important thing that you can do during this time is to rest, and reflect. I think it’s important to resist the urge to work like everything is ‘just like it was,’ because it’s not. Rest, read a book, journal, be slow, and take moments to just enjoy yourself.
–Please share any recommendations or ideas on how to use digital platforms to their full extent during the circumstances regarding COVID-19 or any measures that one can take themselves to use this opportunity for better and not for worse.
Janpier: In our online activities we are looking for a “live experience” with interaction between the participants in the activity in the short term. So no monologues or “things to look at”, but looking, reacting, making, sharing. In the long term, this can complement our program. As Tess Martin, one of our program partners, said: if a lot of events are going to be going online from now on (either for long periods, or also online as well as in person after things go back to ‘normal’), then it might be good for WORM to get good at streaming. In the same way that WORM supports grass root events like mine, by providing a venue, advertising, etc, it could support these programmers in getting professional streams online.
Rae: The WORM Pirate Bay is actually moving away from digital platform by sending personalized selections from our archive by post. We’re doing this because there are so many things online, and sometimes it feels good to wait for something to arrive to you in the mail.
I would say look for connections outside of the digital world– the world is saturated with instagram lives and challenges at the moment!
You can of course, use this as an opportunity to bring your work online! For example, in the greater WORM environment, our PR team has created an incredible online platform called ‘WORMworld.’ This is an adaptation of WORM for the digital space. What I like about it is that it’s not just moving all events online, but has instead created a completely new digital space that WORM can occupy. So check out hotglue.me to create your own digital artistic world if it’s something that is of interest to you.
–During this time is there anything you or the initiative would like to challenge yourself with?
Janpier: Our challenge is to set up these on-line activities and to have some form of coordination about them.
Rae: I’m using the time to make personal connections with people, and to reignite a public interest in the archive.
–After situations concerning COVID-19 improves, what would you like to do?
Janpier: When the situation gets better, I would like to get together with everyone again to be informal, talk, eat and drink. We want to pick up our program and do what we are good at: supporting people who want to show something and bring an audience together. In the future, an online environment will be added to this, I suspect.
Rae: Come back together in a physical space, finding ways to support the work that the artists were creating during this time period. Party together, laugh together, hug each other. But I hope that we also retain a bit of a slower pace.
–Do you agree with the measures taken by the government in your own country? If not, what other measures would you recommend taking?
Janpier: I think that the government is paying too little attention to the consequences of this situation for the unprotected in our society. I believe that the government speaks too little and too little in support of these unprotected people. There should be measures for financial support, debt cancellation, basic income, healthy and affordable food and measures to reduce stress.
The WORM Open City is a collage of communities, artistic interests and passions.