I haven’t spent a day in the studio just doing studio-ish meandering things for ages, despite this being part of “the plan.” Today I was able to head in, finish production on three podcast episodes for my students, and then spend some of the afternoon exploring my video archive, making some sound and images work together. Ironically, I’ve been teaching video production recently and the importance of experimentation, yet hardly manage to do it myself.
I shot this video in Iceland in the early 2010s, which seems like a few lifetimes ago. It was the first week of real snow as autumn turned to winter, and my long-suffering friend and I drove over this particular bridge quite a few times holding various tripods and cameras on the roof of our rented jeep in order to capture the video-game-esque single-point perspective, emphasised by the fog in the distance, and bitmap-style textures of what I presume is normally a riverbed below the bridge.
I’ve been wanting to do something with this video clip for a while. This isn’t the thing, but it’s something – sketch to re-acquaint myself with the faders and dials as I ramp up towards more audio / video / game production for the All the Worlds project, among others.
Of course, anyone who came of age and got into making videos at a similar time in the 2000s will recognise this as the inverse technique from Michel Gondry’s video for Star Guitar by the Chemical Brothers:
The Creators Project DVDs, featuring work by Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Jonathan Glazer and Chris Cunningham were cult-like objects whilst I was an undergraduate, and still prove to be strong influences on me today. I obsessively watched and re-watched Gondry’s process for making this video. My favourite bit is with the shoes:
And here is the same Icelandic-shot video as above, with a second layer and infinite loop:
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).
With the recent turn to online education, I’ve reformatted the Parallel Worlds course I run at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures to be an open access podcast – so anyone can listen and take part. The course is about using practices from world-building to augment and enhance your existing creative practice.
There are a few weeks’ worth of daily activities, as well as interviews with strong voices from within the field (Sarah Lugthart, Amy Butt, and Abi Palmer). The daily activities take about 20 minutes, so (hopefully) you can fit them around whatever else you do.
I’ve also transcribed all of the episodes so that they’re accessible to people who find it easier to read, or use a translation tool to convert to a non-English language. All of the transcriptions are available on the course website at parallel.olliepalmer.com/podcast
We received a grant from the Stimuleringsfonds and Film Fonds to develop the concept, technology, and stories to a proof-of-concept stage. Over the coming months we’ll be making things and testing them in and out of the studio in Rotterdam.
Selected excerpts from my work Hawaiian Wisdom have been published in the book No, Robot, No!. The introduction to the work is a merging of narrative – describing the project in a speculative project – but also functioning Python code which can be used to generate your own “Hawaiian Wisdom”:
There are great authors and poets included in the book – it’s nice to share company with Rowyda Amin, Andre Bagoo, Clive Birnie, Theodoros Chiotis, Angela Cleland, Iris Colomb, Joey Connolly, Ria Dastidar, Rishi Dastidar, Sarah Dawson, Harry Giles, Matthew Haigh, Cliff Hammett, Tom Humberstone, Yvonne Litschel, James Midgley, Gabrielle Nolan, Astra Papachristodoulou, Abigail Parry, Flo Reynolds, Adam Samson, Ruth Stacey, Alex Stevens, Becky Varley-Winter, Katy Wareham Morris, Rebecca Wigmore, Chrissy Williams, and Cat Woodward!
I started working with this corpus in 2016, with the project Scriptych. Part of the project involved building vector embeddings for words from Hollywood movies; as a side part of the project I started to play with alphabetising movie lines from the films in the Cornell Movie Dialog Corpus. Some of the outcomes were oddly poetic, for example this section beginning with “Oh dear”:
Oh dear God. Its all right...a bad dream, just a nasty old dream.
Oh dear God...
Oh dear God...
Oh dear girl, your extracurricular activities are of no consequence to me. I don't give a damn who you sleep with. I'm concerned about David.
Oh dear! But then where did the motorcyclists come from?
Oh dear! George, this is gonna kill Tony. He's waited his whole life for this break.
Oh dear, I didn't really mean to...
Oh dear, I feel like doing a bit of work.
Oh dear, are you actually laughing?
Oh dear, why is life so complicated? Sometimes I really wish I could be someone else.
Oh dear, yes. You were an excellent student, before all that clarinet nonsense. You loved Chopin. You used to call it "heaven music." "Teach me some heaven music," you used to say.
Oh dear- -you're geting that downtrodden look again-
Oh dear. Have I made a blunder?
Oh dear. He wasn't friendly during the filming?
Oh dear. I have made you nervous.
Oh dear. I'll never work in this town again?
Oh dear. If one must have a clinical name.
Oh dear....easy honey...
Or this list of things that people forgot:
You forget what I went through to give ya the best.
You forget where I work?
You forget yourself!
You forget yourself, Homer. This here's my daughter! You got your own mess to deal with--ain't that right?
You forget, I dislike YOU at least as much as him.
You forgetting the gag line, Killaine. The police don't take anything for granted.
You forgetting who sat next to you for a thousand missions. I know how you drive.
You forgot "sexy".
You forgot her degree in literature. She's a writer. She published a novel last year under a pen name. Do you want to know what it's about?
You forgot something.
You forgot something...
You forgot the "Now I'm going to tell you what the hell is going on" step. See usually that comes before the, "It's over" Step. And it always, always comes before the "You can go" Step. What is over?
You forgot the Hula!
You forgot the mangoes, didn't you?
You forgot the milk.
You forgot the tent?
You forgot this.
You forgot to be there.
You forgot to say 'Simon says."
You forgot to tell me what a City Sealer has to do.
You forgot to wash my purple shirt. I told you a hundred times it was Purple Day at school today.
You forgot your keys!
I liked some of the outcomes so much that I took the section which begins with the word ‘Love’ and used it as poem at my own wedding (romantically titled 48 Lines about Love, alphabetically ordered), which was read out loud in inimitable style by my good friend Craig Nunes:
48 Lines about Love, alphabetically ordered
Love a cup of tea. With lemon. Love and happiness for ever. Love at first sight? Love demands it. Love doesn't have to be right. It just has to be love. Love gives you wings. It makes you fly. I don't even call it love. I call it Geronimo. Love him… Yes, it is true. That's the hard part for me… I knew him better than anyone … I knew him best. Love holds you to me. And we are in danger, not you. Love is different for different people. Love is funny. Love is just another name for sex. Love is sexy and sex is lovely -- I don't care what you call it, an android can't have it. Love is… love is… love is… Love it! Love it. Love it. Which way? Love me oodles and oodles? Love me. Love me… keep me safe… Love me? Love that name. Love this car! Is it new? Love to, sir, but no can do. No spare room. Period. Love to-- Love to. Love to. Love was never our problem. Love ya, Margie. Love ya. Love you too. Love you too.. Love you! …Well, why don't we turn in? Love you, Dil. Love you, man. Love you, too. Love! You don't love anybody! Me or anybody else! You want to be loved - that's all you want! Love! I'm made of love! Love! What do you know about love? Love's a killer, isn't it? Love's the same as it always was. It's people who change. Love, Sire! Love, secret, and uh, sex. But not in that order, necessarily, right? Love, you can still write to each other. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Passion. Obsession, all those things you told me to wait for. Well, they've arrived.
Both courses are open access, and run from their own websites, so anybody can follow the course, try the exercises, and use them in their own practice or teaching. The courses are both run by websites which are open source, so anyone can copy, adapt, and use them as they see fit. All of the code used to write and publish the courses is on Github.
Students of the Scripted Design course I run at MIVC are putting on a show at V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media on 17 December, in which they will showcase their work from the course: a series of rules-based videos, and films which compile videos made every day throughout the course into one video artefact.
I decided to participate in NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month) this year with a project called Directory Directory – an online directory of fictional companies, all located within the Alphaville-Zulutown region. It’s organised like an old phone book, by service type, and each company has a name, slogan, address, and phone number.
Some day in the future I’ll update the directory to have more information, and use more advanced grammar, and maybe even be printable. But the project was a nice excuse to learn some new things (the Tracery library for python is fun to play with; it’s also the first time I’ve built a workflow to build a whole generative website).
This week, I made a silly Twitter bot. It was mostly an attempt to make a tutorial about making Twitter bots using Dreamhost servers, but ended up being a bot who periodically tweets lines from Des’ree’s 1998 hit Life.
The bot itself is inspired by the africa by totobot, which simply tweets a random line from the song every few minutes. It is actually so irritating that I’ve stopped following it myself, as I found my days permeated by twee earworms about preferring toast to ghosts, or the desire to fly around the world in a beautiful balloon.
The codebase is on Github – you can use it to build bots yourself if you use Dreamhost, or adapt the code slightly if you use another host (or have your own server).