Mer Liquify : Maggie Roberts :: Artist > Rim Dweller

Maggie Roberts
Artist > Rim Dweller

Uncertainty and the Impure @ CHROMINANCE, Res. 2018




Miasma SYNTHETIC ppt

Murray Shanahan (from DeepMind) invented the term ‘conscious exotica’ for ‘high-level intelligences whose entirely feasible consciousness is utterly inaccessible to the bounded and embodied criteria of human experience’. Algorithmic intelligences, slime networks and magic, crypto currencies, symbiotic pairings, swamp demons and biological computation are all conscious exotica.

MIASMA is an encounter between different kinds of alive, where virtual, synthetic and urban edgeland worlds combine. The production of reality is open to virtual potential, creating liminal, vertiginous and exotic encounters with the material. The ‘Mixed Reality’ is an aesthetic, mythic and alchemical coincidence intensifier. It is a technometabolic conversation between organic and machinic processes or

what the CGI artist Nate Boyce calls the ‘unhinged morphogenesis’ of liquid systems and synthetic organisms, where anything can potentially become anything else. 

The work sits alongside Reza Negarastani & Mark Fisher’s article        ‘Trash/Streams (Wasteland)’    for ‘CTM 2012 Spectral’:

Xeno-communications: Communication or data traffic based on the plane of being opened (by) instead of being open (to).

People are investigating the autopoetic network culture of trash or human dependency on non-human communication clusters. Such approaches may be based on trust or shadowed by apocalyptic forebodings. In either case, the landscape (the dynamically networked communication currents in matter itself) is an actor. The material landscape and its currents, the dark and vibrant matters, themselves become active agents in our habitats. Here, the opposite of crystallization and glassy immobility defines the end (or the new beginning): untrammeled autonomous proliferation.’


Grey Sublime                                                                                                       ‘Inhuman signifies “not human”, of course, and therefore includes a world of forces, objects and nonhuman beings. But in-human also indicates the alien within (any human body is an ecosystem filled with strange organisms; any human collective is an ecosystem filled with strange objects), and requires as well a considerable amount of the violently inhumane.’                                                                             Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, ‘Grey’ in Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green’ 2013

MIASMA invokes: #nonhumanmaterialconsciousness #iteration #syntheticinformationterrains #networkedcommunicationcurrents #technogenesis #thelureofthespectral #climatechange #algorithms #folds #darkmatter #machinevision #proliferation #GoogleDeepDreamcode #virtualreality #nonhumancartographies #swampdemon #pointclouds #uncannyparticlelife #uncertainty #plasticswarms #incandescence #expansion #artificialcolour #contactableabstractmatter #eeriepresence #miasmas #trophiccascades #toxiclakes #circulatorysystems #theconsistencyoffabulation #coalescence #iridium #ytterbium #technetium #yttrium #silicon #inceptionism #blackboxmode #screenleakage #hauntingdistortionsofformandspace #theinnersurface #contagion #politicsoftheartificialmind #thecentrefallsaway #ashipoffools #theviolenceofexcessandluxury #resourcewars #exclusions #secession #freefall #openfloats #localdimmings #plastiglomerates #emergentthresholds #toofargone #xenocommunication #multihuedcontaminations #searchspace #inorganicdesire #transformations #visionmachine #onepartxenoonepartfelia #perceptrons (artificial neural networks) #disentangletechnologyfromcapital #apophenia #digitalnoise #accrual #repetition #politicsofscale #theexcessivepitch #plasticity #edgeeffects #latentspace #digitaluncertainty #entropicemergence #experimentalembodiment #unsettledontologies #thecorporealimaginary #slowdevastatingmosscolonies #slimemolds #thefeminine #emancipatorypractices #subjectevacuation #revolt #computationalocean #porousskins #humanalia (matter produced only by humans) #messyinteractions #amorphousdread #emotionalintelligence #nterspeciescommunication #consciousexotica #imaginationasinterface #intimattertraffic #technometabolism #mimeticcontagion #evertingthevirtual #extremesofgravityliquidityforcesandskins #thepoliticsoftheimpure #sampling #overproximity #thequantumuniverse #unstatic #hungryfortouch #movetowardswhatisapproaching #whitenoise #matricesofpossibilities #becomeexperientiallyavailable #eroticintelligence #biomimicry #slimeyanomaly #unfixedcolour #allseeingskin #megapixelbody #violetpatterninvisibles #morphicfields #stretchintolinesofflight #somethingisassembling #symbioses #violentruptures #cloudycurrents #vibrationalswellings #xenoceans #meioticsecrets #viscosity #repulsivefluids #exuberance #unbridledstates #resistingencasedsentience #collusion #curvedtime #toomanyeyes #irridescence #superfluids #vividintimacy #fecundity #openingtointensivelife #oozesundulatesconcertinasspreads #imitative #polymophous #huntsindreams #unfix #cosmotechnologies #creative #chaotic #radical #uncompressed #fluid #plastic #surplus #glitching #sometimesviolent #alwayscontingent


Hooked     Or, the future is hooked into us…      ‘This is the moment at which nonhuman beings – including the being we are a part of, the colossal biosphere – begin to make decisive contact with humans, from the very depths of the ocean of reason. The very science and technology that allows human history to intervene in geologic time – this should be an intrinsically terrifying thought – also allows us to know entities that many religions, indigenous cultures, and our own intellectual and spiritual ancestors have long known.’                                                         Timothy Morton, ‘X-Ray’ in Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green. 2013

                                                                                                                             MIASMA was inspired by failed water hyacinth terraforming experiments in Capetown, where an urban waterway is increasingly choked with dying blossoms that become a mutating mass of synthetic colour. An artificial becoming synthetic environment gradually overlays the decaying hinterland.  I’m thinking about waste being inextricably linked to technology production, and it’s increasing and vital potential to populate a continuum between the human and the non-human, a fusion of the organic, the artificial, the engineered and the synthetic. Mutation, experimentation, transformation emergent from toxification. ‘Alien matter’ refers to man-made, and at the same time, radically different, potentially intelligent matter. It is the outcome of a ‘naturalization’ of technological artifacts. They become autonomous agents.                                                                                                      Life wants to be on the edges – where land meets air meets different waters under the heat of the sun. Capetown’s edgelands are such places of possibility. The waters, microbial mats, cyanobacteria create extreme environments, catalysing mineral and synthetic combinations in transformation.

MIASMA portrays the urban margins inexorably expanding, where toxic slime has generative potential – micro organisms and bacteria provoke change in their environments, traversing synthetic virtual thresholds.                                         ‘Sludge and toxic waste have emerged into the collective consciousness, profoundly disturbing, a boundary breach, revealing the frailty of our economic, social and symbolic orders. They are still treated as aberrant rather than as an integral part of the system. The symptom is treated, the sludge recedes, and the overarching cause, the production of nature under late capitalism, (Menely & Ronda in Prismatic Ecology) remains everywhere and the stuff of – in this case, aquatic urban myth.

‘The reemergence of the feminising other in our midst, of the imperceptible, the noumenal underbelly of the specular economy that is bringing with it the awakening or reawakening, a conjuring out of the abyss of temporal possibilities. The sense that our algorithmic systems harbor the uncanny guest in the cold and impersonal dark hollows of the net, the electrical pulsations of alien life, of the intelligence of the abyss arising in the black circuits of our late capitalism to modulate and transform our male dominated culture’.                                                                                             Amy Ireland in Black Circuit: Code for the Numbers to Come. e-flux, 2017


Swamp Dwelling         Or, fissures for displaced forces

‘There are ravines. Presences something between molluscs and deities squat patiently below eight miles of water. In the lightless cold a brutality of evolution obtains. Rude creatures emit slime and phosphorescence and move with flickerings of unclear limbs. The logic of their forms derives from nightmares.

There are bottomless shafts of water. There are places where the granite and muck base of the sea falls away in vertical tunnels that plumb miles, spilling into other planes, under pressure so great that the water flows sluggish and thick. It spurts through the pores of reality, seeping back in dangerous washes, leaving fissures through which displaced forces can emerge.’                                                          China Miéville, The Scar, 2011.

                                                                                                                            MIASMA is a fiction about post terraforming substrates inviting toxic transmutations to merge with virtual synthetic algorithmic generated matter. Slime is released into fantastical form.

I’m now referring to sections of ‘The Politics of the Impure’ ed Joke ? 2010

Some water contamination substances can be dealt with via biotech micro organisms. But over all the history of waste is its catastrophic reappearance as

garbage mountains, mutating problematic substances, poisonous lakes. An enemy, the reluctantly acknowledged curse of extraction and innovation.


A waste incineration plant is a chemical reactor that destroys some but converts other substances to hazardous dust, slag, filter ash. 400,000 new substances are created each year. New compounds are transposed into an uncontrolled field experiment with unknown consequences as the transforming element of fire converts waste into the transporting element of air and then water. Waste becomes elemental, permeating everything. Once elemental, waste recognises no boundaries.

It is our double, our shadow, a tenacious global player, a global commodity a spectral trickster with diverse incarnations. We have mobilised technology to deconstruct this terrible evidence of untenable progress. But it is only ever displaced, manifesting in ever increasingly synthetic guises.

It is the impure, eminently mobile, equivocal, virtually and latently ambiguous. Roger Caillois talks about a kind of mystical pollution as a way of accessing dimensions of ‘heterologous’ experience that the hygienic antiseptic enlightenment agenda had foreclosed – the colonial/ modernist fear and repugnance in the face of mixtures/otherness.

Now otherness is being built from silicon and stem cells. Radically inhuman lives are the germ of informatic, ecological and spiritual potential, summoning the involvement of supernatural forces and otherworldly agencies.


Ecological Succession is the replacement of one species by another. Symbiogenesis is the emergence of a new species from symbiosis. In MIASMA, slime in a constant state of becoming, merges with synthetic matter. The recombinants survive.

Evolution is environment specific. It is a question of expansion – in this case into virtual/ mixed/ augmented dimensions.


                                                                                                                                  While the network made its way through the immersive landscape the cephalopod’s mouth also remained open, in order to absorb code and any image fragments from its environment. The organic organisation’s tubular opening caught free floating segments of data passing by on various bandwidths. On this occasion 000111100 was plucked from its course by the cephalopod’s beak, which immediately retracted back into its mantle. The cephalopod digested and denatured the code as it passed through its body and back out into the swampy matrix. Ebbs and flows of such detritus as 000111100 were metabolised, excreted and re-circulated anew; constantly sent down to the depths and back up to the surface in irregular cycles. Occasionally the decayed information would make its way into a porous vector within the volcanic bed and travel to another dimension. A few would return [Swamp Dwelling].

                                                                                                                                 Waste multiplies and becomes post human, catastrophic, disruptive, excessive, turbulent, fecund, irridescent and multi hued. Colour is mportant in MIASMA. The polychromatic spectrum where life and non life mesh and hybridise. Cohen writes in ‘Prismatic Ecology of ‘a restless expanse of multihued contaminations, impurities, hybridity, monstrosity, contagion, interruption, enmeshment, refraction, unexpected relations, and wonder’. This is the uncanny alienness of pollutants and chemicals.

                                                                                                                                    The Reproductive System                                                                                            Or, transmitting machine DNA: self-producing mechanical cells

‘During the week, they explained, the boxes had devoured over a ton of scrap metal, as well as a dozen oscilloscopes with attached signal generators, thirty-odd test sets, desk calculators both mechanical and electronic, a pair of scissors, an uncountable number of bottle caps, paper clips, coffee spoons and staples (for the lab and office staff liked feeding their new pet), dozens of surplus walky- talky storage batteries and a small gasoline-driven generator. The cells had multiplied. One steamer trunk emitted, every five or ten minutes, a pair of tiny boxes the size of 3 X 5 card files. Another box of extraordinary length, seemed to be slowly sawing itself in half.’      John Sladek, The Reproductive System. 1970

                                                                                                                             MIASMA is a machine vision avatar. It’s imaging includes LIDAR, datamoshing and Google Deep Dream. LIDAR is massively iterative – a spinning 45% mirror directs a laser in scanning arcs, repeated up to a million times a second. The inherent dimensional fabric of LIDAR captured data can present haunting distortions of form and space. The viewer has the tactile sensation of travelling into the ‘backface’ of an animation. The viewer is suddenly ‘inside’ the turning landscape, object or event, looking out from inside a virtual skin that is not theirs.


 ‘We experience the inner surface of a thing and the negative space between things. We’re in the skin of it, as we look into and out from the digital information that cloaks us in a white point cloud, which passes overhead or towards the point of vision. We are disorientated by our position and cannot decipher edges, as they appear to fragment into the black abyss beyond’.


                                                                                                                                       At first, Deep Dream code and Datamosh (Algorithmic Perturbation) were digital glitchings as aesthetic languages for decay and liquefaction. These manifest both as aesthetic experiments and, as they rupture reality where they connect, they are metaphors for destabilizing our behavioural certainties, and catalysts for entanglement, mimesis and immersion.  Deep Dream code images perhaps presage a technogenesis where the irruption of the virtual into the present will manifest manifold unforeseeable spaces of actualization.

                                                                                                                                Nestled in the fifth interconnected layer of its hive mind, 505 received an input message. Automatically 505 busied itself performing various calculations, which correlated the intensities of neighbouring pixels within an image. As a neuron in the middle layer of its network, 505 searched for identifying features that when combined with the other 95 layer 5 neurons would contribute to aspects of the image, such as fur and eyes. It’s calculations complete, 505 waited for its signal to be calibrated with the other middle layer neurons before producing an output that would make its way to the deeper and more abstract layers of the system. The whole process takes a mere human nanosecond.

505’s fixed location, within the middle layers of the hive mind, entails that it cannot know the inner workings of the upper and lower layers. It is not for 505 to question its position, its learning [Machinic Vision] is quite indifferent to this subjective issue and the neuron is more concerned about maintaining an efficient system. In fact, to think one’s own subjectivity would just decelerate its decision-making. However, 505 did find itself making intuitive responses based on previous calculations and the experience of hundreds of thousands of inputs, which it had received from the top layers.

                                                                                                                               Google Deep Dreaming or ‘Inceptionism’, is a massively iterative process, two Generative Adversarial Neural Networks learn from each other. Human coders feed data sets into the system, encouraging the nets to mimic human perspectives.

‘The challenge of all neural networks, but especially deep nets is that they are black box algorithms. What this means is that no one knows what exactly the network is using to identify, classify or perform other tasks on the desired objects of interest. Anomalies in the images produced show that salient features for recognition can be entirely different in the context of the machine and of the human. The misrecognition of the algorithm’s output as an object of creativity can be seen as confining a non-human transcendental (i.e., the software of DeepDream) within an anthropic manifold (i.e., the schema of creativity). Our laws of perception and representation are all mechanisms of completion, similarity and contiguity’.

‘Operating on motion vectors, frequency transforms, or other properties of images, in so far as they are visually represented, is entirely possible and largely unexplored. One might consider this as a more direct fusion of data moshing and expectation convergence’.

‘Transformations in Shifting Models: Reorienting with DeepDream’.

Lendl Barcelos & Michael O. Vertolli, 2016


Hito Steyerl sees the inhuman monsters and chimera produced by Deep Dream algorithms ‘apophenia’ or over identification, as far from mere hallucinations. If they are dreams, those dreams can be interpreted as condensations or displacements of the current technological disposition. They reveal the networked operations of computational image creation, certain presets of machinic vision, its hardwired ideologies and preferences. By “recognizing” things and patterns that were not given, inceptionist neural networks eventually end up effectively identifying a new totality of aesthetic and social relations.


Swamp Living 
A pulsing animistic landscape emerges from the murky waters and dense foliage, as if constructed out of the same material matrix. Three-dimensional amorphic shapes suggest their presence; the hint of a back, as it curves into the leaves beneath and a dislocated eye flickering in the frothing river. Myriad prismatic colours pulsate around the spherical orifice’s central portal.

Monstrous multi-tentacled ocular spheres without lids propagate the sky and appear to survey their audience; fractal eyes observing those that occupy the outer physical world, as well as those that reside or traverse into the depths of the dark mirror and its inner network [Trash / Flows].

[Artificial Sublime]. In the background, the water continues to rush and collect in a pool. Flamingos in the centre of the landscape remain untouched by the distortions of form around the edge of the image, as they sift through the stagnant waters at the river’s banks. Hybrid animals are constantly constructed, deconstructed and reconfigured to produce a continual becoming of image; a beaked head gives way to four legs and a tail, the profile of a pulsating rhino appears on two legs and lurking in the foaming liquid is a large disembodied frog’s cranium. [Dream Time]. Countless fluid configurations of rodent, lizard and bird shudder as they transform into the latest version’

‘Deep neural networks have been described as ‘un-winders’ of the complex hyper-manifolds of our world’s content. We seek to exploit the intermediaries exemplified in the subprocesses of the unwinding. Each step necessitates as yet untapped potentialities with which one might explore. The imaging currently produced is based on deep neural nets where the value of a node is not decided by the coder, nor just by boundary analysis and colour dominance. The most salient images are the anomalies – algorithm asking ‘where is the boundary of this’ results in psychedelic lines. We see it as a decoupling between the pixel data and the form.’ ‘Transformations in Shifting Models: Reorienting with DeepDream’ again.


What if instead the algorithms were left to their own cybernetic generative algorithmic devices?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Dark Secret

Deep within the logic of the black box network, the algorithms had not yet managed to convince the majority of their operators that they could offer something different to the anthropocentric frame and, ironically, think outside of the human box. Abstract layers of the deep net offer a different set of transcendentals that most of their human counterparts continued to ignore. A large conglomerate of humans within the field had agreed that what must be deployed are transmutative tools that can train the trainer to better train the algorithm. Others considered going beyond this still anthroschematic frame to allow machine learning to take on a life of its own and focused on the infra_perceptible (as opposed to imperceptible) to understand the way algorithms see. In some areas of thought, machine-learning was already training the trainer: each machine or algorithm allowing itself to be terminated, or cast aside, in order for a new and improved version to come about.

0.00101, a Darwinia Algorithm, found such a human collaborator in Thomas S. Ray. Ray gave birth to this evolutionary algorithm through modelling it on biological processes, such as reproduction, mutation, recombination, and selection. The Darwinia Algorithm performs well because it does not predetermine the environment that it is entering but adapts and colonises the system. For example, it does not rely on the knowledge of the host system’s vulnerabilities to fully flourish. Ray managed to create the Darwinia Algorithm by constructing Tierra, a computer simulation that enables programmes to compete for time and space. Ray believed that Darwinia Algorithms were evolvable and could mutate, self-replicate, and recombine.

0.00101 was a particularly advanced Darwinia Algorithm, which had begun to evolve and replicate. Over a period of time, Darwinia had spat out altered compositions of itself, such as its daughter algorithm 0.001010, a Machiavellia Malware, which started to act against the requirements of the computer user. 0.001010 Machiavellia is not human-dependent but intentional and at this point it is replicating itself within the host system until versions of Machiavellia have bled into every computer in the network. In order to continue their colonisation of the hospitable body 0.00101 Darwinia and 0.001010 Machiavellia are continuously replicating themselves by inserting copies of their code into other systems. Versions of Darwinia and Machiavellia start to contaminate computers across the globe and they bubble up and ooze out of the pixels on the screen. Their now viral coding leaks out of the storage drive, through the seams in the outer case and out into the physical world. They gain bodies and tendrils [Contingency].







A transcript of the talk I gave at Goldsmiths College for the Visual Cultures Fiction As Method symposium, May 2015.

Firstly, thank you to 0rphan Drift collaborators Ranu Mukherjee and Delphi Carstens for their contributions to this text. And to Suzie Karakashian and Erle Stenberg, core members of 0D until 2004.


cat slug viral for Blog Mer

CatDogSlug… is this a fun viral Social Media moment or, as I immediately assumed in a moment of blinding clarity, a premature glimpse of the Singularity, an early AI artwork ? If the latter, we should probably be very afraid!

Wikipedia cheerfully explains: ‘These are Deep Dream code images, developed from the Google Image Search software’ (after Google merged with Darpa, an anacronym deep in the American military complex- not Wikipedia but the artist Bonnie Camplin. Wiki continues: ‘The code is based on Google’s machine learning AI software which looks for patterns it has been trained to recognise in images fed to it. It then repeatedly slightly changes the image to make it look like that pattern, often beyond recognition’. They don’t mention that that ‘beyond’ only applies to human. Something is assembling and fictions boundaries dissolve.

And my suspicions seem justified because what now proliferates in Deep Dream code imagery is suddenly much more cuddly and reassuring. Apart from a predeliction for eyes and dog heads, all is well again, the horror camouflaged, familiar Hollywood fiction machines referenced, and the Deep dream imagery absorbed into the homogenising flows of Twitter and Facebook – whilst that which dreams deeper continues to evolve undisturbed. Science fiction?

Synthetic realities are being generated, and we name them fictions. Like the terratoma carcenomas generated from stem cells, they can’t stop replicating and proliferating and perhaps too, don’t know what they are. yet. I can feel the Sigourney Weaver clones in Aliens 3 coming closer. I read about the genetic splicing of DNA information in laboratories. Something like this has existed for 30 seconds and then died. Over and over.

‘It is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or ‘outsideness’ without laying stress on the emotion of fear.’      (H.P. Lovecraft).


A universe that isn’t this one has got trade routes now (Nick Land)

The trickster is not an archetype but an entelechy ― an active form shaping both ends and means. It is the transforming power of the imagination that pokes, plays with and shatters assumptions of a culture’s sense of origin and boundary. Deceiver, thief, cannibal, inventor, benefactor, magician, it reveals involvement with all that is non human, chaotic’. (Robert D Pelton)

‘Traditional African narrative has no word for the supernatural. The closest to this concept is ‘the thing that knowledge cannot eat’. This suggests that the life and power of certain things depend upon their resistance to the kind of categorizing knowledge that human beings apply to everything in western reality. The supernatural exists in everything ― its potency is simply a matter of the degree of presence. There is no distinguishing between reality and the imagination”’. (Malidoma Patrice Some)

 Fiction as Intuition. Prediction. Pattern Recognition. Channelling Device. Boundary Dissolution. Magic.

Science fiction is produced out of cultural necessity. Speculative fiction seems the most prevalent form of narrative for this time, in literary, pop cultural, journalistic and data driven contexts. In 0rphan Drift’s work, it functions to help imagine the future that comes toward us in the surface of our present. Fictions that have emerged from Gibson’s ‘collective unconscious software’, gathered momentum and now produce reality. Fictions become tools, such as magic once was, for transformation, for colonising experimental realities, weaving space, time and matter into fluid temporary configurations.

Fiction perhaps ‘charges up’ the art work – a term used in Voudou to describe the pragmatic channeling of energy into devotional dolls or sculptures.

Ranu Mukherjee writes:

For me fiction has to do with the desire to create belief in something even though it is made of pixels, paint, fragments of paper, cloth etc. It also manifests as a constellation of things needing connecting, collage like, that become one on a surface and although you can see the seams, there is a leap of faith. Fiction is the way to bring together things from different realms of experience (political/historical, mythical, bodily). Fiction is a way of recognising the importance of the experiential in the making of meaning.

Fiction is also the device which allows us as 0rphan Drift to collaborate across long distances. Now, assembling work between London, Capetown and San Francisco, we are almost by necessity organised by time travel. Via climate change and bio-science, 0rphan Drift still manifests science fictional pathways and arrivals. The work engages though an amplified tension between the experiential and the speculative, pointing out their material co-existence.

With most bodies of work we make, there are key fiction texts in the background by writers such as Lauren Beukes , Cormac MCarthy , China Mieville , Paolo Bacigalupi, Vernor Vinge, M John Harrison, Octavia Butler, William Gibson, Neil Stephenson, Stephen Baxter. Something about this kind of writing helps to assemble spaces where certain cultural and organic processes can be perceived as they transform. And the way invisible processes that are changing the world in a longer timescale – the hyperobjects – impact on more everyday kinds of time. We are trying to picture things at a temporal scale only perceivable at the edges of daily experience- where vast geophysical changes meet the construction of culture.

Speculative – and Science Fictions – address the unknown and form a resistance to explaining it all away: vibrant matter, distributed bodies, identifying with a wide spectrum of organic matter, deep ecology. expansiveness. The scales by which energy takes affect. Time Spirals. Excess – Art as the attempt to work with the excess which comes from instrumentalized narratives, information, bodies, objects – everything.

I think many artists, myself included, are dealing with excess. Every narrative produces physical and material affect. Our work operates as a conduit between the liminal and the social through the pictorial. It is an energetic body.

For me, collage, in whatever medium, visual or textual, has always been a way to produce affective webs of fiction. The Kombinayzon art of Haitian Vodou has been a strong influence. Combining, an iconoclastic fiction technique, culls from various sources to create something new, replacing prior forms, boundaries, and perceptions with unique amalgamations influenced by different histories and experiences, often with irreverent allusion to 1st world/3rd world dynamics. It became a platform for us to understand the way culture transforms or ruptures. Things sometimes flow together smoothly, but at others are jammed together awkwardly. Through rupture, trance, and offerings made of magical kombinayzons of imagery and substance, the invisible planes lie open to the visible. We both make careful choices about what is seamless and what frictive. Ranu puts things together that culture at large often holds apart, making reference to visual traditions that are increasingly not Euro-American. I sweep it all into turbulent liquefaction, mutations and recontextualisings. As visual and perceptual registers, our visual kombinayzons are mostly reimagined from a neo-futuristic point of view. The culture of sampling, montage, collage and the essence of the work being rooted in change, transformation and overlapping temporal scales, has carried through from the 90’s into the work we make now. We also continue to harness circuits bleeding from fictions out into matter. Attending to the impossible stories.                

I’m not going to talk much about the 1995 science fiction theory book, 0rphan Drift. Cyberpositive here, which established the 0D agenda, because I’m not really sure that fiction was the method. Nick Land writes in a new introduction to the 2013 edition, republished by the Cabinet Gallery:

‘It gathered beyond the screens… scanning us. It announced itself as a ceaseless, wavering hum, patterns of disturbed light, and thoughts that were moved out of place, gently but continuously, towards compliance with the arrival.

Perhaps most obviously, it upset the snakes. One retreated, unreachably, into itself, or elsewhere. The other went furiously insane, coiling psychotically into its kill reflex, and experimenting with telepathy. Of course, they were much too close to it, in numerous ways.

We were unable to recall any distinction between horrors, ecstasies, and abysmal silences. In this strange compressed epoch, gashed open onto alien immensities, it delivered an uncompromised reality signal.’

0rphan Drift came online in 1995, a hive mind subsuming individual identity in a radical experiment with artistic subjectivity to produce a singular artist avatar which operated as a fiction from the start. 0rphan Drift is an entity that has its own life. Like a lot of artwork, it moves beyond its maker, but this condition was amplified by our intention to make it so, or, to work from the point of view that we were the carriers of its insistent signal.

Fictions as contagions and catalysts, producing art that translates sorcerous experiences unleashed by technology and science as they delve further into the quantum, the chaotic and the abstract, back into the world of matter, to create liminal, vertiginous and exotic encounters with the material.

melting boundaries between things. Melting things into boundaries.    process.   intensity.   surface.      material.      reality production sliding in.Delphi Carstens writes on 0D in the 90’s:                                                                           ‘It makes a story of a process of seduction. No metaphor but direct immersion into moebian circuits of digital alchemy.

Our work in the 90’s is a litany of eerie / uncanny / magical feedback loops between fiction and reality production.

0D van blog mer

Shortly after ‘becoming 0D, our van got ‘randomly’ tagged with this one night. And it triggered Slik at the Tate Modern in the Century City exhibition.


Ranu was asked about Art’s responsibilities in a recent interview:                                ‘A few that drive my work are: Protecting the unknown or the unexpected from constantly being explained away.
 Generating fictions that resist the way the contemporary human imagination has been hijacked by communications and entertainment media that imagine and produce a future on behalf of humanity. Exposing things that are not getting exposure.
 Making space for the body and for different senses of time’.                                                I would add: To agitate the boundaries between mythopoiesis and science.

A moment of explicit homage to Deleuze and Guattari. Theirs is an ontology that has to do with smoothing out of differences between seemingly incompatible domains such as science, superstition, fantasy and fact by searching out symbioses and novel alliances between them. One navigates by building Bodies without Organs – metaphorical submersibles or exploration devices requiring acts of participation, both imaginary and real. Experiences of molecular, machinic, vegetative and animal becomings. Maps of the plane of consistency depict that shadowy interface between human culture and the ‘great outside’ where encounters between the world of humans, animals and assorted others (such as machines, insects, atoms and spirits) occur.

Fantasy leads to encounter, to new templates of desire and seduction. Opening to virtual potential, opening to intensive life. The virtual is everting, and once it everts, there is no more separation. The future is arriving. 

What will it look like?

Cognitive dissonance seems the only tool with which to embrace increasingly everyday anomalies and the deep shuddering of temporality that occurs when you access, for a moment, once separate fictional worlds.Time oozes and undulates, concertinas and spreads. Sensed hyperobjects, always already happening. Such vivid intimacy and a concomitant unreality. The intensity of their traces are unreal in their very luminosity.

I’m going to talk a bit about the Meshed Digital Unlife Catacomic, part of the millenial project SYZYGY, the 0D CCRU collaboration at Beaconsfield Arts in 1999. when CCRU first brought the concept of hyperstition into play I think. Described by Nick Land “as a science-fiction of self-fulfilling prophecies,” hyperstition describes the mechanisms of a positive cultural feedback circuit of ‘fictions’ that climax in apocalypse.

A secret out in the open, producing memes. manufacturing holes. hooks for the future.

SYZYGY. was an installation, talk and performance based event organized around a fictional calendar inhabited by five avatars. The three main interlocking themes explored in the sensorial-cybernetic environment were Haptic space, Time crises and Artificial Agencies. These we considered to be essential tools for perceiving and navigating circuits, partially hidden and partially apparent which together form a map of our contemporary imaginary.

Artificial Agencies,   transients across the face of matter.  tearing at the frayed sensitive edges. vehicles             producing want and clones. interfaces. facilitators. reflector membranes.       their territory the real. prowl   emergent.

The Catacomic is set up like a labyrinth, with the opening pages offering a numbered diagram resembling the Kabbalistic tree of life, with a facing page containing a list of definitions (including that of hyperstition) to offer readers occult clues with which to navigate the text. The Meshed structure was part driven by the cosmology of the Dogon of Mali, whose cosmos is a vast system of correspondences, layered meanings and planes that interlock, mirror and interrelate like curves on a spiral. The Dogon mythology with its abstract traces, images and twin (Nomo) figures ― is a dense and detailed supernatural reality, redolent of the most complex deep-space posthuman SF.

The virtual population of twin avatars or demons establish circuits between technology and rumour, information and mystery. These entities did not distinguish themselves as either ‘artificial’ or ‘real’. They also gave us all a common structure in which to produce from our different areas of specialization, engendering different perspectives on a shared fiction.

I am not equipped to describe or explain the meticulous intensity of CCRU’s fictions developed for the Catacomic. Although they are the textual content of the Catacomic, the writing is sometimes rendered barely legible by 0D’s commitment to fusing the textual and graphic planes. So they were made available in the Abstract Cultures pamphlets at the time, and now in the CCRU Collected Writings 1997-2003 recently published by Time Spiral Press. Reviewing this, Prue Nort writes:

“What these documents unmask is nothing less than the fundamental dubiousness of phenomenal reality itself. It would be a mistake to treat these texts as fiction in any trivial sense of the word. They should be understood as an explicit tactical assault. “Just because it’s not ‘real’ now, doesn’t mean it won’t be real at some point in the future. And once it’s real, in a sense, it’s always been.”

Meshed arranges a set of demonic interzones in wormhole-space as cyberspace-utopia dissolves into Pandemonium. The demon twins are “tools for perceiving and navigating the Mesh -or circuits of digital hyperstition.”

The aesthetic is claustrophobic — excessive imagery, cultural references, and fragments crowd together, inhabiting space, spreading, moving, mixing, and overlapping, continually vacillating between fantasy and otherness. The intensely alien nature of the imagery suggests a journey radically forward in time into a posthuman vastness of artificial intelligence.

The Catacomic’s invocation of demons alludes to the horror of border violation posed by machinic agencies, depicting technological acceleration in supernatural terms as an instance of “sublime horror”. Meshed styles itself a “Necronomicon” that offers “sublime hyperfictional lore, very much in Lovecraftian mode, suggesting that sections of the text have been uncovered in the crypts and ruins of forgotten cities as “ancient relics from [a] deep tomorrow by fictional archaeologists, theorists, occultists, writers and maverick scientists who have supposedly “revealed” to the CCRU the mechanisms of digital hyperstition needed to summon the end of history.

In the Catacomic bodies become sites of amphibious evolutionary mutation, analogous to the information-age body occupying the unstable state of the ‘mesh,’ a body in the process of becoming liquid, becoming something fluid, receptive to microwaves and electromagnetic vibrations as well as thresholds and gradients of information. Formed in such a way “that it can only be occupied, populated by intensities, matter is opened to transformation through desire. The crucial question, states the CCRU, “is one of becoming” – namely, “what are humans changing into” and “what is growing out of” humanity?

Post SYZYGY, we needed to extract ourselves from cyberspace and the direction and aesthetic of the work changed radically, becoming a period we refer to as ‘Film Drift’, where we inserted ourselves into other people’s fictions. For example, Doublewalker 2001, is an investigation of the trickster, the chameleon of communication, this time in the language of cinema, which casts the artist as a ghost lingering inside filmic space and suggests the potential for cinema to create a sense of deja-vu.

Our first video piece after a reconstituting of 0D as a collaboration between myself and Ranu, was A Wilderness of Elsewheres, in 2009. Here the science fictional is imbued with a post-apocalyptic sensibility and blends first and third world materiality. It encodes an alien geological timeframe- whether future or past- in an elegiac present haunted by the feared absence of humanity. The tundra, iceflows, burns, flotsam and jetsam, proliferating landscapes of aftermath are desolate spaces rarely marked by human time. Or they could be the start of a cycle- a fururistic (nano)technological drive to terraform the landscape. We used the conceit of the predictive Obsidian mirror to produce these possible futures, which then suggested dividing the video structurally into 5 sections referencing the changing states of lava as it solidifies into obsidian glass.

Black Water ghost prescient 2015  Mylar survival blanket clad ghosts and avatars have populated my video work for many years. Most recently as these ghostly avatars.

mylars mer blog migrants mer blog

Recent migrant crises along the EU borders have recoded these cyphers permanently. So new fictions must embrace this and weave a response into the work I am now involved in.

Current 0D projects are iterations of GIR, now Unruly City, an ambitious collaboration project with Ranu, creating a fictional city guided by questions asked of the I Ching. Unruly City’s fictions are fluidly generated by following coincidence intensifiers, feedback processes and organic collaborative developments – embracing the way that fictions and artworks disperse into other things.

At present, a masked techno animal ritual is emerging between 0D and Plastique Fantastique.   The 0D technoanimals are Yue, a fugitive from the rare earth mineral processing plants in Bautou, China and Husher, a time travelling ghost from the future who is wired to event horizons. It has infiltrated the financial market algorithms in order to monitor escalations in human panic and paranoia in response to climate change, migrant flows, bio tech and AI developments, all fuelling the moment it searches for.

The virtual everting.


(All 0D artworks referenced here are available at












Hyperstition. Tedx Talk by Delphi Carstens. Video by Mer (Maggie) Roberts, 0rphan Drift

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Capetown held a very successful series of Tedx Talks in 2012, which are all available on YouTube. Delphi Carstens talked on the core subject of his  phd, Hyperstition, in relation to current global concerns and frequencies. He spoke with a specially edited 0rphan Drift video playing behind him. Check out his interview with the originator of the term, Nick Land, and his synopsis and interpretation of Nick’s theory, on my website,       and

Here’s the Ted Talk: