Sent From Space: An Interview With Lab 99's Rujanee Mahakanjana

Sent From Space: An Interview With Lab 99's Rujanee Mahakanjana


Iris is proud to announce the launch of our bimonthly in-store gallery events, and super excited that we have the opportunity to be involved with and support the Chicago arts community! Our first featured artist is Rujanee Mahakanjana of Lab 99. 

We can't give too much away about the film as it is still a work-in-progress, but Lab 99 is a Sci-Fi fantasy film that will make you curious about yourself, life, and your relationship with the universe. While Lab 99 addresses real issues in our society, there is also plenty of adventure, cinematic dreamlike storytelling, witty comedy, and compelling sound/music.

Rujanee's Hotaru jewelry collection is inspired by magnified images of real stardust from space taken by Norwegian author Jon Larsen, and plays a key role in the Lab 99 story. Her jewelry will be on display and for sale in our Water Tower Place store through January.


         Hotaru Jewelry From Lab 99


Please read on for our exclusive interview with Rujanee, and find out what inspires her and her work! Watch the Lab 99 Film Trailer and learn more about the film at lab99thefilm.com.


Iris: What was your main inspiration for the story of Lab 99? 

RM: This is a good question and also a tough one to answer, because I have been brewing this project for 9 years; there are so many inspirations, influences, and thoughts going into the story. It’s like a combination of my life changing experiences starting from 2010 up until this year, and what I’ve learned from them since then. Other significant inspirations in the mix are also derived from Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, David Bowie, the recent death and ashes of my best friend of 18 years Dave the Cat, Doraemon, and Space X.



Iris: Is this your first filmmaking endeavor? What led you into filmmaking? 

RM: This will be my 3rd long-form film. I like being able to relate to other people, and film allows me to grow and connect much better than painting or drawing for me. I initially went to school for design and interior architecture, then practiced for couple years before I went back to get my MFA in studio arts with an emphasis on sculpture and installation. The idea of film came up when I was trying to document how audience interacted with some of my installations and became part of the art experience. Since it began it has brought me so much excitement in learning both the creative process and the collaboration with others. 


Iris: Have you always had an interest in Sci-Fi?

RM: I have always been curious about life, how things work, and why. Watching a lot of Japanese animated TV series as a kid, I was subconsciously introduced to existentialism, symbolism, quirky humor and the creative process. 


Iris: How did jewelry come to be a part of the Lab 99 plot?

RM: The Hotaru necklace connects all the pieces and brings all the characters together. Siri, the main character in the story, is a disenchanted gallery owner who has passion for space. When she was little, she witnessed a strange incident near the river while she was walking home from school one evening. She walked up by the river and found an unusual-looking rock. Its dimly glowing charm got her attention so she took it home and gave it to her parents on their anniversary. Her mom made it into a necklace that she wore before she passed away. After her father died, she keeps the necklace as a remembrance of their love, unknowingly that it leads her to an existential adventure of a lifetime. 




Iris: What is the main take-away that you hope viewers will get from the film?

RM: I experienced loss and grief when Dave passed away. His death makes me think even more deeply about life and death, and the time we have on this planet. After all - we come as dust, we go as dust. Life is singular, and that we are more alike than we are different. Appreciating and accepting our similarities and differences can help us live more fulfilled and purposeful lives. 



Iris: What other art media have you worked with in your career as an artist?

RM: I draw, paint, build, and sculpt things. 


Iris: What has been your experience as a woman in a male-dominated film industry thus far?

RM: I had never thought of this until recently. I always got along better with male friends when I was growing up. There were more men in my classes when I was studying in high school and college. Even so, I’ve always had this feeling of not being given the same opportunities or getting my voice heard. But, having the right people to support you and to believe in what you can do is the key. As long as you have the knowledge, skills, passion, competency, and experience required for the job, it shouldn’t matter whether you have a pussy or a penis. 



We can't wait to see the finished product of Lab 99, and we are so thankful to have met this talented and inspiring woman! Stay tuned for updates on our upcoming gallery events and artists.



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