I’m done with MadLab (officially) – looking back at my internship

Some MadLab’s devoted regulars might have noticed a bit clueless looking new face with a bizarre accent wondering around the building, bullying people with a camera and asking questions, making notes and sitting in in events. Well, that is me, Kaija-Luisa, an Estonian girl who in search for ideas for future ended up doing an internship in MadLab. Those three months I have spent here have flown by too fast.

My connection with MadLab started through studies in MMU. During a crazy year of travelling and studying in a programme called POLIS European Urban Cultures one stop was Manchester were we had a project researching creative networking in Manchester run by Steven Flower. MadLab was our centre and focus and though I was sceptical about the idea of creative industries I already then noticed it to be an interesting space. During those few winter months I grew attached to the city and started hatching a plan for coming back. So I contacted Natalie and Hwa Young and they welcomed me to MadLab with trust and openness. My stay was funded by ERASMUS scholarship.

There is often so much going on, but it is good to sometimes slow down and reflect on it and I was given the assignment to document the events and groups meeting in here. The idea of creating profiles for different groups is valuable in helping to demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of the space. There are hundreds of cultural-creative spaces all over Europe and more and more emerging every year, but never before I have seen such an interesting combination of technology and arts, writing and reading and education. Rather the focus seems to be on one or the other – technology or arts. A connection between the programmers, hackers and artists is one thing that is definitely also lacking in the creative spaces of Estonia and this is an idea that I can take back home with me one day. All the videos I have made can be seen on MadLab’s vimeo channel.

Coming from the background of art history urban studies and social sciences and been taken out of my comfort zone (the library) has taught me a lot about people. It has been a great opportunity to peek into the world of hackers and programmers through the safe protective shield of the camera lens, and the chance to sit in in the writing groups without being a writer has been good way to reflect on my own ideas. If not much more on the technical side with such a short time I have widened my vocabulary with a range of terms and names of programming languages (a step forward in becoming a great conversationalist :)) One thing I really got into was DrSketchy, an anti-art school live drawing event. I also enjoyed all the film nights (The Crow, CineMADtic) and reading groups (especially SkepLit) and was amazed by the idea of Kinokophonography. The best days have been those when something out of the ordinary has happened, when MadLab got involved with a festival or a project or ran workshops. All in all the word ‘geek’ that you often hear here has gained a meaning of someone having a very particular passion. I wish I could be one. Often it seems that my interests are all over the place.

The fact that I was a beginner in film editing has not been a problem (or are you English people just polite?). The first insight to the field has given me a real interest in learning more about film making. In addition to interviewing the melders of groups and putting together short videos I have been writing short introductory texts for the MadLab’s webpage. For a non-native speaker this has been great fun – an area were I know that I am allowed to make mistakes, and can test my skills and learn. I hope one day MadLab can have a good archive of events and groups. I also was given a change to co-organize a film festival Parallel Visions and I took part of the Omniversity course Web Design Foundations.

Being a volunteer based organisation expects similar input from all the participants. What I especially like about the space is that there seems to be no specific hierarchy – everyone can carry the beer cases and wash the cups, but also be in charge of great events, if they wish to do so. I enjoyed working with Hwa Young, Dave, Natalie and Lia a lot and I peeked with jealousy towards the actions of Comma press at the office. I regret that I have not organized an Estonian film night, but maybe it is not too late. Thanks for having me MadLab.

What next?