Logic by Machine

We don’t talk about computers like we used to. Whilst writing up my PhD thesis, I came across this teaser video for my Nybble project. It was designed to elicit the interest of potential dancers and the public who may come to view the work. The dialogue is taken from a 1962 film called Logic By Machine, commissioned by IBM and put out on the equivalent of KQED-TV / National Educational Television (which I believe became PBS?).

There is a poetic, dreamy discussion of the potential that computers have to change the way we see ourselves in the world:

The computer is then given the problem in the form of numbers or instructions pertinent to arithmetic. It is the arithmetic logical task that the computer is organised to do. Once instructed, it can do as much arithmetic in a minute as a man in a lifetime.

A man in a lifetime…the lifetime of all mankind is but a brief moment in the long history of this earth of ours. And only yesterday in the history of mankind has man made any significant advance in his control over his earthly environment.

Dialogue written by Richard Moore. The rest of the film is also worth watching for the speech by the incredible Richard Hamming‘s explanation of exponentiality within computing.

Rock music

Whilst in Korea last year, I came across this incredible rock playing an instrumental version of Celine Dion’s Oscar-winning My Heart Will Go On.

Hold me, Jack.

A cybernetic argument against post-truth

As far as I see it, the Trump team’s rejection of facts, and the idea that we live in a post-truth world is nothing more than a refusal to engage in conversation with any other entity. It is a lazy and dangerous argument, and a threat to democracy. I will explain why.

In the 1970s Gordon Pask proposed a cybernetic theory of communication. It is called Conversation Theory, and it relates to the way in which we communicate with other individuals. 

It begins from the basic premise that our minds are machines which have the purpose of learning. Each mind forms concepts — that is, understandings of topics — which are in some way malleable. If you could only define the term tree within your own mind once, for example, you would not be able to see any new types of tree as trees. Instead, your definition of tree changes each time you experience, discuss, or think about a tree. The redefinition of concepts, the reaching of new understandings, is an essential part of learning.

One way we reach new understandings is via conversation. A conversation is an interaction between two individuals, in which both state and re-state their understanding of a concept, until they can both agree upon a mutually satisfying definition. A conversation requires the individuals involved to define and redefine their understandings.

Political opinions vary wildly, and largely depend on different definitions of terms like freedom and rights. In a democracy, every individual can form and hold their own definition of such terms. My freedom probably looks different to your freedom. We may not agree on the exact definition of the word, we may disagree wildly on where freedom starts and stops, but we will both agree that there is such a thing as freedom. Indeed, by talking to each other, we will probably learn something about the others’ opinions, we may modify our own ideas, and at the very least we may learn something.

Conversation in politics requires a basic premise: that there are definitions of certain concepts that both parties can agree upon. These are known as facts / truth. A fact may be that WWII was from 1939–45. An opinion might state that it could have ended sooner, had x been done by y. We can all agree on the fact — but we are able to disagree about the opinion.

If we cannot agree on facts, or the fact that there are facts, then our entire conversation will be spent simply restating these premises, rather than discussing potential problems and solutions. It is dangerous to believe that we live in a post-fact world, because it denies the possibility of ever engaging in meaningful conversation. Stating that there is no truth is the same as stating that we will never understand each other. Without meaningful conversation, you have no voice, and there is no democracy.

This is not a new idea. It has been tried and tested in Russia by the Putin regime, whom Trump has repeatedly stated he admires

Reject the idea that we live in a post-truth world. It is toxic, poisonous, and threatens democracy. It is an idea that exists merely to silence all of our voices, and shut us all out of conversation. Whether you are on the left or the right, this affects us all.

Notes and articles


Conversation theory

Posted: 2016-12-02

Categories: Blog

Scriptych collaboration

The French Audiovisual Archives (INA) made a lovely short film about the collaborative process Simon Valastro and myself used to make Scriptych, a performance at the Opéra National de Paris earlier this year, as part of my residency at the Palais de Tokyo.

Pavillon Neuflize OBC / INA #9 Scriptych / Ollie Palmer – Simon Valastro – VA from Institut national audiovisuel on Vimeo.

Thank you Franck Podguszer and the INA team!

Lundi du Pavillon

Parisian friends! I will be presenting 24fps Psycho and the wider project that it is part of at the Palais de Tokyo’s Lundi du Pavillon on 18 April 2016.

24fps Psycho is a project that replaces every single frame of the film Psycho with a “similar” frame from historical archival footage. The frames are chosen by an algorithm which studies pixel colour values. The audience then construct their own narrative atop the film’s soundtrack.

This is part of a wider project looking at the technology of cinema. I will present some footage from the next stage of the project, whereby a film-wanderer makes its way through an archive, analysing films and continually making new connections between them.

Also at Lundi du Pavillon will be cellist Gaspar Claus and a screening of Olivier Dollinger‘s film Climate Control and the Summer of Love.

The Facebook-inclined can find more information and RSVP here.

Do Disturb

I will be showing my film 86400 and performing 24fps Psycho at the Do Disturb Festival at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris in a couple of weeks. This is very exciting, as both works have never been shown before.


86400 is a real-time film made from Google Image searches for the time right now. It will be running throughout the festival.

24fps Psycho

24fps Psycho is an experimental performance remixing the film Psycho (1960) with footage from the French National Audiovisual Institute. It will be chaotic and confusing, but also highly enjoyable. I will be performing twice, once on the Saturday and once on the Sunday (9 + 10 April).

There are over 50 artists and performers participating this year, so it looks like a great way to spend a weekend – if I wasn’t performing, I would be in the crowd!

Tickets are avaialble through the Digitick website or at the Palais de Tokyo ticket office.

Call for actors

I am producing a short film which requires two actors. It will be filmed in Paris in the first two weeks of March, and each role will require 2-4 days of filming (to be confirmed).

Female / male actor
Approximately 18-35, of Korean descent.
Dance experience preferred, but not necessary.
Spoken English essential.

Female / male actor
Approximately 40-65, of Korean descent.
To play a successful businessperson.
Spoken English essential.

Both roles will be paid a modest fee, and given a copy of the final film, and of course full credits. The film will initially be shown at Seoul Museum of Art in April 2016 but may also be shown at other galleries, festivals, etc worldwide.

Please email with head-shots, details of your acting experience, and a showreel (if you have one) to intersect@olliepalmer.com by 24 February. This is a gender-blind casting.

Posted: 2016-02-20

Categories: Blog

Bioart book

Ant Ballet has been featured in William Myers‘ book BioArt: Altered Realities, recently published by Thames and Hudson. The book is a compendium of projects from sixty artists, collectives, and organizations from around the world working within the emerging and ever-changing field of ‘bioart’, and features people such as Philip Beesley, Vincent Fournier, Neri Oxman and Carole Collet.

Spread on the Ant Ballet project. There’s also an email interview with me in the back.

The book has been reviewed in Science and We Make Money Not Art, among others. I’ve seen it on sale in the Palais de Tokyo and the Centre Pompidou bookshops in Paris, which leads me to suspect that it’s available somewhere near you, too. Or failing that, Amazon.

Residency at Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo

I am very happy to announce that I have been selected as artist-in-residence at the Palais de Tokyo. From November 2015 to June 2016, I will be living and working in Paris, producing work in collaboration with the Institut national de l’audiovisuel, Paris Opera, and the Seoul Museum of Art.

Every time I have visited the Palais de Tokyo in the past, I have been impressed by its daring, innovative approach to exhibitions and artisitc production. It is an honour and a privilige to be able to work in my favourite gallery! The work I produce will be a continuation of the past few years’ research into the absurd, machines and philosophy of technology.

The Pavillion studio

The Pavillon Nueflize OBC is a remarkable artist residency programme. Established by Ange Leccia in 2001, it is the research lab of the Palais de Tokyo. This year, six artists from around the world – Jean-Alain Corre, Hoël Duret, Lou Lim, Ayoung Kim, Alexis Gullier and myself – will be producing work from a studio within the heart of the Palais’ 1937 building.

For more information about the Pavillon Nueflize OBC, please visit the website.

Posted: 2015-11-03

Categories: Blog

Nybble video

I just realised I never posted about the making of the video for my Nybble project! It took a long time for me to get round to re-editing, since myriad other projects came up in the time after the event. The first cut was not great, and didn’t do justice to the excellent dancers who were involved, so I took a few days to re-cut the whole thing last year. This blog post is a quick breakdown of the elements of the final video.