More experimentation, please!

The artist Ollie Palmer, dressed in a respirator mask, stands in a laboratory room next to an experimental machine he is building with Heechan Park.

Testing breathing equipment for the Ant Ballet project, nearly ten years ago

It’s been a while – actually a few years – since I paid any attention to my website. I’ve been off doing other, non-updating-my-personal-website-y things, like teaching at the Master Institute for Visual Cultures (where I’m pathway leader for the Situated Design masters course) and being a researcher at Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design and Technology. In the Coronavirus lockdown, I made an open-access podcast course which is about to publish students’ work, and I am just about to release another open-access design/podcast series which merges themes from my PhD with modes of artistic practice I’ve been working with for the past few years. And also, in the past few years, I finished said PhD, worked at a few places, wrote some courses, moved country a couple of times, renovated a house, had a baby, am about to have another, and move house again. None of these things count towards the traditional metrics of an artists’ career as much as having big shows in galleries or residencies at some prestigious location or being given an award or whatnot, but they have all factored in to the way that I practice, and my identity as a creative practitioner.

But alas, the long and the short of it is that I have failed to maintain any semblance of an up-to-date website, never really using this self-owned platform to inform or update, nor capture thoughts – only to belatedly push something I am doing, usually months after it has elapsed.

This post is a sort of apology for that, and a vague commitment to use this site to keep track of thoughts and ideas in a more public way, and generally to keep more up to date. I had a great conversation with my sister, artist Abi Palmer, earlier this year, in which she expressed how framing her entire creative practice as an experiment enables her to be more free to make mistakes, and carry others along for the ride:

Back to this blog: I talk about performing work in public with students all the time, but like so many things, don’t drink my own medicine. My work is always sailing close to the wind – there isn’t a project I’ve enjoyed where there hasn’t been the potential to fail. Ant Ballet was supposed to have four experimental phases, and relied on weird home-made technology and experimentation with synthesised pheromones and actual ants, but never got beyond Phase I; 24fps Psycho was a performative film which was in part live-coded whilst the performance was running (not intentionally, either); Network/Intersect was a film about Russian Troll farms from 2016, before we knew what the Internet Research Agency was really working on, made in Paris but supposedly set in Seoul, where none of the actors knew the whole story (like the people working in the troll farms themselves); Scriptych was the first vector-space-word-embedding / dance performance that I’m aware of, and could really have gone wrong very publicly. The new project I’m working on, All the Worlds, has been slowed down drastically by COVID-19 measures, but still has a lot of things that are new and experimental and feel like they’ve been gaffa taped together and could definitely fail.

I like the danger of failure. I also like writing. Yet for some reason I haven’t  combined the two on my own website for quite a while.

So here I am, taking inspiration from the blogs I know and love, such as Matt Webb, Tobias Revell, Shannon Mattern, the New Shelton wet/dry, we make money not art, BLDGBLOG, and a lot of others. I will be attempting to revive the silly, experimental, fun, ideas-based version of the internet and social media that I’ve been missing for a few years. Of course it could fail, but what’s the worst that could happen? Probably that I look a bit silly. But then again, I have always looked silly (see below, and see above).

So, onto making more things, putting more thoughts out, etc. I want to write and post more here, and post things that I think are interesting – like my old, old posts about a cowboyish drone-defending technology, melting an Oyster card to see what was inside, my mysterious Schrodinger’s radio, iPhone insurance for the cost of a stamp, or just videos of waves lapping, exhibitions I visited, chasing a shadow, or my sister and I dancing (made way back when video ratios weren’t all 16:9 or wider). And hopefully some new ideas too.

Thanks for reading.

Posted: 2020-09-23

Categories: Blog