What I've Learned

My Internship in Phillippines

Irma van Doornmalen
Sat 20 Oct

Irma introduces herself:

Besides studying Fine Art, at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, I aim to create interdisciplinary projects. Within collaborations between dancers, theatre-makers, and composers I literally bring my visual artwork to life and invite the spectator to slowly enter my surrealistic landscape.

I observe and objectify the presence and absence of the human body, my own body, into the world it lives in. Fascinated by the construction of this system that we call a ‘body’ constructed out of organs such as the brain, that with its own identity and endless fantasy goes beyond the borders of our vulnerable cover of flesh and blood. By making this strong distinction between body and mind, I question the body of the inner self. Within my artworks, I like to create human-size installations where I use light, water, and mirroring materials to touch upon this thin line between imagination and reality.

Internship period: January - June 2017

Why did you choose that particular place and collaboration for your internship?

After many years of full-time study, I decided this was my chance to literally be ‘free’. I wanted to reduce my overfull schedule to a scale of ‘nothingness’. I have sort of quit school and my job. The weeks in my diary became nothing more than blank pages. It was quite scary in the beginning. How do you fill your days when there is no 'must', but only what you would like to do? I started feeling restless and decided to travel to the Philippines. I stayed there with a local family, travelled around, and came back into the Netherlands with notebooks full of texts and sketches, new video and photo material, a lot of new thoughts and a new contact. A musician I had met, asked me If I was willing to design the stage environment for her performance. This project had opened a new door in my artistic practice. The next months, still without really ‘planning’ something, I said yes to every collaboration that felt right and worked on a few very inspiring projects.

What did you learn during your internship?

This internship period played a very important role in my study. Especially, because I had chosen not to go for an internship, to not be lead by others than myself. I guess this was also one of the best lessons of this period. I always like to use the see as a metaphor. It is easy and safe to float around a bit on the waves and forget about the big deep black water underneath. So I learned to dive and even found the courage to dive deeper than I did before.

What didn’t you expect to learn but experienced as a bonus?

I didn’t expect at all to find out that the vague things I always used to work on seem to come perfectly together in a certain art practice called Scenography. When I first found out about this I noticed how all the different pieces of my life puzzle fell right into their place. It gave me confidence and energy to continue doing what I love doing the most.

Did you gain any insights that can be used in your further life and study?

Yes. The 'follow your heart' cliche sentence - how cheesy it might sound - is the most important thing to do in life. Now I understand that I am in control over my own life and that the decisions I make with my heart are the most reliable ones. I had also found out how important collaborations are, you learn to work and grow together.

What kept you awake at night?

Adrenaline. The excitement when a deadline of a performance was approaching, but also from looking at my empty diary. Tha had made me worry sometimes about how I could develop myself as an artist, how I could hold on to adrenaline to continue working, even when the work I created had no purpose. I am not a lazy person, I always have to get rid of my energy. The contrast between not knowing what was coming and the responsibility/pressure while working in a collaboration was really exciting, but sometimes kept my head full of thoughts awake at night.

What was the greatest obstacle?

The greatest obstacle within this half a year was, I guess, was an attempt to quit my structured life. I felt a huge responsibility not only to myself but towards my environment. I grew up with the idea that hard working pays off. It was not really that easy to convince myself to take a step back, to conclude that my heart and my body were both working hard, but in a different way. All I needed, literally, was the time to bring them in balance again.

Irma has graduated from WdKA in 2018. Read about her graduation project here.

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