The co-founder of Studio Drift, Lonneke Gordijn, celebrated her 40th birthday two days ago. She spent it self-quarantined at home, which was an unusual reality for someone so inspired by nature. Arguably the most important element in her work, nature is now forcing her—and the rest of us—to stay inside.
To wish her a happy birthday and see how she’s doing in Amsterdam amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we got in touch. Our conversation led to a deep dive inside the artist and designer’s mind. She’s been mostly alone for days, virtually and digitally communicating with her team, and spending time reflecting on the past and analyzing our current culture.
Gordijn spoke with Whitewall about what is keeping her inspired, how uncertain times may bring reinvention, and what her message is right now for those that support Studio Drift.
WHITEWALL: Lonnke, you must be reflecting on your 40th birthday. We are currently in the middle of a global pandemic, and the world is responding. Tell us a bit about how you’re personally doing, and how you’re spending your time right now.
LONNEKE GORDIJN: This has been my weirdest birthday I can recall, but it was special, and I think I will remember it so much longer as the moment that everything changed.
It is already strange and unreal to turn 40, but it is even stranger when you turn 40 and you are not allowed to kiss or touch anyone or be together in groups.
I live alone, and the last 5 days, since I am back from my travels to the U.S. and South Africa for the last 3 weeks, I self-quarantined and literally did not see any friend or family in person. I even didn’t see my boyfriend yet to make sure I don’t pass on any potential virus and be healthy for 14 days. So, I spent my day literally non-stop on the phone, mostly working, but mixed with family and friends sending the sweetest videos and recorded serenades. I was alone, but not lonely.
In the afternoon a dear friend brought me flowers, and when I opened the door, she literally threw them at me, so we didn’t touch. But it was so lovely and precious to speak with someone in front of me. A strange sensation that this becomes so valuable and special already after 5 days.
Later on, Ralph passed by with the studio van and we drove to the Cherry Tree gardens close to Amsterdam. He in the front, and me in the cargo box to stay separated. No kiss, no hug.
The trees were fully blooming, it was the golden hour, we walked—a beautiful and meaningful gift to be outside and present. It felt unreal after all these days staying inside my house.
Apparently, the world keeps on turning. The trees are blossoming. We tend to forget this, and be absorbed with our own Corona reality.
WW: Tell us a bit about how you’re working today, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. From what we know, nearly everyone in your studio is at home and you’re in constant contact via phone, video, etc.?
LG: Yesterday we had our Monday morning meeting via a conference call with 35 people from our team in 35 locations—sometimes joined by their kids who also have to stay home right now—that was pretty special; felt like family. We realized that we are completely tied to each other, like small strings in the big net of life. We are an ecosystem that will be cut off from regular streams soon and have to work out new ways to survive. It really feels like survival modus at the moment. Everyone gives 200 percent extra power right now.
Personally, I shift between being very productive, energetic, optimistic, and almost happy to know that I don’t have to travel or meet or be obliged to anything for a while, and feeling tired, confused, locked up, and frustrated on the other hand. In the normal life, I am almost never here, so to be stuck in this box that I call home feels almost alien to me.
WW: How are you staying inspired? Is there anything in particular you’re doing, seeing, or experiencing that’s providing creativity or inspiration?
LG: This time is extremely interesting. I analyze almost every single minute my emotions on all the different levels simultaneously: stress, insecurity, calmness, excitement, adventure, opportunity, hope, disbelief, loss, frustration, surrender. The status of the world at this moment and especially how we behave right now is the biggest trigger for thought and inspiration. It reveals our true nature. Finally, we are cutting the bullshit. No matter how rich or poor, black or white, indigenous or immigrant, man or woman, we are all subject to the same circumstances. It doesn’t stop at borders or race. It is unheard of what is happening right now.
But it is an insane opportunity to unite mankind and pushes us to find a solution that overwrites the old rules. Our nature, our survival instinct, is driving us together. Like a herd of sheep. And we will flock together like starlings or schools of fish, blind with no leader, not making any decisions, in an undefined direction, until we can see where we are going. This underlines clearly that we need to find a common goal. Otherwise, we will keep on going nowhere. Yes, endless inspiration, and endless opportunities. I can feel that the solutions will come to the surface at some point, but we cannot see them clearly yet. I think we are going to find them together as an organism and will start acting all together but as individuals. I believe the politics will follow this trend.
WW: How do you feel the Coronavirus outbreak is impacting the art community—from artists and curators, to gallerists and the viewer?
LG: Although it is incredibly inspiring for artists, I think everyone, no matter who, has to reinvent himself/herself and rethink everything. For this we need a little more time. We cannot rely anymore on existing structures. Personally, I don’t believe that this takes two to three months and that we then go back to normal. But art will always stay important. Especially in these difficult times. The question is if in the next few months people still want to pay for it… Of course, we all fear our income and independent existence.
WW: Your work has long explored the relationship between nature, technology, and humankind. How is that message being impacted, or amplified, right now?
LG: It is basically nature that forces us to stay home right now. The nature of a virus is the only thing that can stop humanity from taking and taking without giving back. Technology is our only means to stay in contact with each other. But now we use it far more than we already did. I hope we’ll find even better ways to communicate and be truly connected. Somehow, we miss touch and feeling in these video conferencing methods.
After just a few days I already feel how incredibly real and valuable it is to take a walk outside. I truly hope that the next few weeks or months will give us new insights that take us closer to our nature and that we will re-appreciate the beauty and gifted nature of this earth.
WW: For those who have long supported Studio Drift, what’s your message to them right now?
LG: I wish everyone strength and wisdom in these insecure and strange times. Stay close to yourself, allow yourself to feel what your real needs are, and act upon truthful considerations and real connections.
WW: What are you working on next? Is this sparking new work?
LG: We at Drift have to reinvent ourselves in some ways. Ralph and I were traveling maybe too much. Our projects are extremely complex. I feel challenged to see how we can do things as meaningful, but more simple. As impactful, but closer to home. We have an entrepreneurial spirit and are used to unknown situations. This is where we are at our best, so at least I am positive it will bring us something.