Birmingham Open Media

Patricia Nistor only began her internship with Birmingham Open Media in January, but by the sounds of things she’s already made herself quite at home…

After spending Christmas on the Sunshine Coast in Australia I somewhat feared the moment I would have to move back into Selly Oak. As it turned out, my fears didn’t materialise and Birmingham welcomed me with a pleasantly frosty air and fresh new opportunities. I started my internship with BOM (Birmingham Open Media) on the 9th of January and now, a few weeks later, I’m still a neophyte wallowing in the characteristic mixture of wild excitement and crippling fear.

I spent my first week in a daze trying to get my head around all the projects taking place here simultaneously. This is the part of the blog post where I brag about how cool my organisation is and I just lazily list things: BOM has twelve fellows who are offered space to work, mentoring and support, access to various networks and a range of other opportunities. We also do outreach; one of our projects takes place in Indonesia in partnership with British Council, exploring new possibilities for women working in tech and creative industries. An exciting new addition is the STEAM Autism project, aiming to test and prove that teaching Science with Art can improve outcomes for teachers and students. Moreover, there are always workshops and events going on, like the monthly Art and Tech Social which I got to help with. Not to mention the fact that there’s always an exhibition in the main gallery space.

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Our first Art and Tech Social of the year

I should also acknowledge that BOM only has three permanent staff: powerhouse and super-woman director Karen Newman, unstoppable bag of energy (and most of the time also joy) head of programming Louise Latter and amazing Susan Kruse as gallery assistant, in charge of making everyone who walks in feel welcome (it’s contemporary art, so you can imagine that’s a task!) To be perfectly frank, I still don’t know how they manage to pull it off. Hopefully in the next six months, I’ll find out what the secret is.

The main project I’m working on at the moment is an event around our next exhibition Genecraft: Art in the Biogenetic age. The exhibition explores an imagined future of bioengineered beings through actual ‘living’ artworks produced by artists working alongside scientists. For this show Laurie Ramsell is growing his very own bacterial cellulose. Gina Czarnecki, on the other hand, collected DNA from her daughters’ saliva and used it to culture skin cells on glass moulds of their faces. This refreshingly outside-the-box approach is precisely why I chose to work here. My job is to organise the Genecraft Biohack, a day-long event of academic talks, zany workshops and ~spoiler alert~ possibly even performances. That is, if I don’t become involved in a freakish bio-art accident that will turn me into a mutant in the meantime.

Apart from the experiences that I willingly signed up for, BOM already impacted my life in several unexpected ways. My “office” is in the middle of the coworking space, so I’m always surrounded by artists and volunteers and researchers and people making things and coming and going. I enjoy the energy of the space immensely so I constantly feel inspired to start creating myself. I downloaded Photoshop at last and I have already started doing Free Coding Camp challenges because it’s 2017 after all and I need to catch up with tech. But catching up does not mean relinquishing the Old School, so I nicked a film camera from my housemate and I carry it around everywhere now.

Overall I’ve had a wonderful introduction to BOM – I probably need to stop now otherwise I’d go on and on forever about the fantastic things we’ve got planned…

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Turning myself into slime at the Experimental Capture workshop

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