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.