Category: Blog

Hybrid Futures talk video

Here’s the video of the talk I gave yesterday at Central St Martins as part of their Hybrid Futures series:

It was great to be able to present work from my PhD (which is now open access!) and my residency at the Palais de Tokyo. Many thanks to Betti Marenko for inviting me to talk, and posing insightful questions and comments, to Jacob Watmore for excellent technical support, Kaye Toland for fielding questions to ask, and everyone who watched, for your time.

Projects I talk about in this lecture include 86400, Scriptych, and Network / Intersect.

PhD thesis online

Well, it’s finally happened! Three and a bit years after submission, my PhD thesis is online. I’m very happy about this – I believe that publicly-funded research should be open access, and mine is now available for anyone to read.

Front cover of Ollie Palmer's thesis

The thesis introduces the idea of scripts in computation, psychology, and performances, along with the philosophical absurd, and describes seven projects that I made which each explore different ideas about script, performance, and computation. It’s designed to be printed at A3, but at some point I’m hoping to make a website that houses all the same information in a more mobile-friendly and searchable manner (but don’t hold your breath, this might just be a pipe dream).

It describes the process behind the creation of the Godot Machine, Ant Ballet, Nybble, Scriptych, 86400, 24fps Psycho, and Network/Intersect. There are videos to accompany the research here on this website.


‘Scripting’ in architecture is usually associated with computer-based design programming. However, this narrow usage belies a rich vein of concepts intrinsic to architecture and authorship. This thesis frames scripting as a critical mode of computation, performance, and design process. It does this through seven projects that explore relationships between technology, society, and the philosophical absurd. Works include films, performances, programmes and installations produced independently and collaboratively with experts from scientific and artistic fields. This thesis asks: how might an expanded definition of ‘scripting’ act as a critical methodology for performative architectural design?; how can this methodology mediate between, and comment on, technology and society?; and what is the relationship between scripting, authorship and agency? Computational scripting has been explored in depth by a number of practitioners and theorists; performative scripting has been examined within the context of theatre and artistic practice; this study adopts an expansive definition of scripting that embraces each of these approaches whilst simultaneously proposing scripting as a critical design methodology. Furthermore, the thesis introduces the philosophical ‘absurd’ as a framework for critiquing emergent technologies and their impact on society. In chapter 1, two projects (Ant Ballet, Godot Machine) are discussed as modes of diagramming absurd theatrical scripts. The ‘framing’ of these projects provides direction for further work within the thesis. Chapter 2 introduces two dance pieces (Nybble, Scriptych) which represent scripted performances and a novel computer-scripted feedback mechanism. Both are diagrammatic modes of presenting contemporary computing mechanisms. Chapter 3 then discusses two experimental computationally-scripted absurd films exploring the practices and impact of contemporary technology companies (86400, 24fps Psycho). Chapter 3 introduces a film (Network / Intersect) created through a novel design process imposing strict rules on the creation of work. It concludes by naming this practice ‘reflexive scripted design’, proposing it as the thesis’ main original contribution to knowledge.

You can download/read the thesis here.

No research happens in isolation, and I think that it’s only right to reproduce the thank-you section here for everyone who helped.


It would like to thank the many people who have, directly or indirectly, supported my work over the past few years.

Firstly, to my supervisors, Professor Stephen Gage and Professor Peg Rawes, both of whom have taken my research in wildly different directions, enriching and informing the way that I work. I owe much of the way I see the world (and make objects in it) to Stephen, and I consider myself fortunate to have been one of his students for longer than most. At the same time, this thesis would not be where it is without the compassionate, rigorous, and always enjoyable conversations with Peg, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to nurture this work. I am truly grateful. The Bartlett has been a wonderful place to inhabit for the past eight years. I would like to thank the PhD faculty who work so hard to make it such a vibrant, inspiring, and intellectually rich environment – especially to Professor Jonathan Hill, Professor Barbara Penner, Professor Penelope Haralambidou, as well as Professor Adrian Forty, and Professor Murray Fraser.

A great deal of this work comes from a period spent at the Palais de Tokyo. I am immensely grateful to Ange Leccia for developing and running the Pavillon Neuflize OBC programme for sixteen years, enabling the development of over 130 artists, myself included; as well as to Dr Fabien Danesi for supporting my work, to Chloe Fricout for making sure it really happened, to Justine Emard and Justine Hermant for helping so much with every project, and of course, to Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel for inviting me to take part in the first place.

I would not have been able to produce this thesis, or the project featured in chapter two, without the Arts and Humanities Research Council: long may they support experimental practice.

Thank you to everyone who I have collaborated with over the past few years. It was a privilege to have worked with such wonderful people as Simon Valastro, Dr Seirian Sumner, Professor Jim Anderson, Max Colson, Heechan Park, Helen Floate, and Cesar Harada. And, of course, Abi, whose input can be subtly found woven throughout all of my work.

Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends: to David Roberts and Amy Butt, for rescuing myself and my work more than once; Danielle Willkens, whose talent and generosity knows no bounds; Bernadette Devilat and Felipe Lanuza, for so much help; Anna Ulrikke Anderson for consistently championing my work; Craig Nunes, for introducing me to the absurd many years ago. Thank you to my family, for their consistent support. Mum, although I don’t want to admit it, you were right. Maybe I will be an artist after all.

And finally, thank you to Amy, for inspiring me – and making it all worthwhile.

One final thanks that wasn’t in the thesis itself – thank you to Dr Kevin Walker and Professor Penelope Haralambidou for such a rigorous examination, with one of the most fertile, enjoyable, and memorable conversations I’ve had.

Hybrid Futures talk

A generic image for the Hybrid Futures lecture series, which doesn't really contain anything except some abstract patterns in pastel colours, a bit like a QR code, but less functional.

I’ll be presenting some of my work at UAL on 9 December as part of the Hybrid Futures lecture series at Central St Martins, curated by Betti Marenko. It’s online (of course!) and open to all. It will be streamed on YouTube, and afterwards I’ll post it to this site.

Scripted Performances: Or, the Absurd in the Man and the Machine

‘Scripts’ in design and architecture are usually associated with computer-based design programming. However, this narrow usage belies a rich vein of concepts intrinsic to design and authorship.

This presentation poses the script as a useful critical and methodological tool within design, absorbing and reinterpreting ideas from behavioural psychology, computation, dance, immersive theatre, the Absurd, and the Oulipo. The talk is illustrated through a series of projects completed during Palmer’s residency at the Palais de Tokyo, PhD by Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and independent work, spanning dance, film, installation and data manipulation.

You can sign up to attend here.

2020.10.12 Quick video: Road worthy

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:

Link to video

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.

Parallel Worlds podcast

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.

Parallel Worlds podcast artwork

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

You can subscribe now using: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / PocketCasts / Google Podcasts / RadioPublic / CastBox / Breaker / RSS or just listen online.

One of the nicest things about the podcast is that listeners can (and do!) leave voice messages. Occasionally I take these messages and turn them into a bonus episode like this one:

My inspiration to make a podcast as a free course is drawn massively from Tim Clare’s excellent Death of 1000 Cuts podcast, which I can’t recommend enough. His Couch to 80k Writing Bootcamp course really helped get me out of a creative slump a couple of years ago, and directly led to my making this film. Thanks Tim!

All the Worlds

I’m excited to announce that I am working on a new project called All the Worlds, along with writer Ross Sutherland, and creative technologists Adriaan Wormgoor and Mark Selby. The project builds on work I completed during my residency at V2_, and is a highly filmic immersive reality experience, creating cinematic worlds on real city streets.

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.

Watch this space!

“Hawaiian Wisdom”

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!

You can get a copy of No, Robot, No! at Sidekick Books’ website.

Movie Lines bot / 48 lines

Building on the bot-structure I built for the @life_by_desree bot, I built a quick bot that tweets alphabetised movie lines from the Cornell Movie Dialog Corpus, called @al_film_betical.

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.
Oh dear.
Oh dear.
Oh dear.
Oh dear.
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. Passion. Obsession, all those things you told me to wait for. Well, they've arrived.

Anyway, Movielinesbot is quite simple – it takes the 304446 lines of alphabetised movie lines and tweets them one at a time. At the time of writing, it’s currently up to the “His name is…” section.

All of the code is on Github – see the Movielinesbot and the original 48 lines repositories if you want to play with this code. The bot is @al_film_betical. Credits to the Cornell Movie Dialogs Corpus, which is a great resource. 🙂

Teaching: open access

In April last year I started working as core tutor of the Situated Design MA at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures, AKV St Joost.

It’s been an intense year – under the directorship of Úna Henry, there is a new module structure for students, in which students from Situtated Design, Visual Arts and Post-Conteporary Practice, and Ecological Futures can all participate in the same elective modules, spreading different modes of practice and perspectives with one another as they go.

I’ve been running two modules:

Scripted Design

Scripted Design (September-December), which focuses on using Oulipian constraints to creative processes and make films. Much of the methodology is based on my PhD, Scripted performances: designing performative architectures through digital and absurd machines.

Parallel Worlds

Parallel Worlds (February-May), which takes tools and techniques from theatre, counterfactualspsychological operations, fiction, television and film production, propaganda, and situationism to enable artists and designers to create compelling worlds around their existing practice.

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.

Scripted Design >> / GitHub
Parallel Worlds >> / GitHub

Take a look, participate, copy, adapt, suggest improvements!