Pirates of Worm Wood

Sunday 8th December 2019. The last time Steve and I meet before 2020 arrives.

Today we have a business to do. No longer just observers, we want to leave a mark. Not out of sentimentality, but because we want to experience small taste of this violence to come, to understand in our own bodies what this destruction of our beloved Worm Wood might mean, as a physical act.

For now, this redundant theatre set, this place that we call Worm Wood, is ours to play on, play with.

We come equipped with a bucket of paint, brush, hammer, two cameras, spare batteries.

Steve tells me he is dressed as a developer: This means smart pale trousers and shirt, under his less formal fur coat. Yes, the beast is peering out.

There are sparks flying as he digs his metal claw into the amber walls near the Cargiant Empire. Even a smashed car still screams, in agony, when its door is forced open. Its head wound looks painful and severe, the inflated airbags like torn lungs, scattered across the shattered interior.

This place, this wood of worms, is full of this kind of injury and pain. So it’s ok for us to inflict a bit more. This place is used to pain, just look at it, it’s so broken, in so many ways.

We find a nice stretch of a wall, that hides some sort of scrapyard, with bold graffiti already painted over it.

Steve adds a thick layers of poetry, in celebration of the dying, sore location, painting words with satisfaction and sticky white paint, which stinks of solvent.

When this particular intervention is finished, the fake developer chucks the pot over the fence, to join all the other pots, cans and discarded products.

His hands are almost clean, but his collar is in the way of freedom.

So he gets rid of it too.

And we march on, towards the Grand Union Canal, in search of something satisfying to smash, with a hammer. But we don’t find it. My hopes were too high: I saw a ritualistic dance of destruction, smashing of car parts in the middle of the Scrubs, then setting these on fire.

But we have other adventures to seek, like the encounter with a vision of white rooftops of the Elizabeth Line, all stacked up, so that one could almost walk over them.

Finally, as the last stage of this exploration, we meet a boat that, in my view, carries the essence of Worm Wood, with all its components in place: little trinkets, plants, flowers, weathered puppets, toys overgrown with moss, strange headless figurines, a floating garden of Hieronymus Bosch. It’s charming, curious, creepy, endlessly fascinating, and I could spend days exploring its every detail. It has a pirate flag flickering in the wind.

It’s time to go. We are pirates, that’s what we are, the pirates of Worm Wood, who have taken it upon ourselves to illegally reproduce, according to our own whim, this land, owned by somebody else. And to think that the TFL would allow me to broadcast some of this on their announcements system, so that it could fall upon the ears of the unsuspecting commuters, on their way from work, in the Willesden Junction Wonderland, as it was called by the manager of the office, who no longer works there! This TFL employee, just like the owners of our pirate boat, understood that people don’t just want a plain utilitarian language of train delays, but appreciate poetry, especially when it drifts to them across platforms and through pedestrian tunnels when nobody asked for it.

Don’t drink and drive, especially not in Kensal Rise, lest you want to end in Paradise.

Tereza Stehlikova, December 2019

NOTE: The finished film, the making of which these blog entries document, will be screened on 30th January, at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, together with a reading of some of the texts which have been generated in this multifarious project, including a free, new chapbook publication by SJ Fowler from Sampson Low Publishers, and the gifting of tiny pieces of the location, stolen so they might be kept safe, by you. 

The film is a a kind of ritual, often meandering, meditative, limping from documentary to invention, minimalism to maximalism, starting without an exact goal, propelled by the joy of simply being in a place, not knowing where it might take us. 

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