Mer Maggie Roberts


  • British Artist
  • lives/ works in London
  • studio in Capetown since 2006
  • career consisted of solo and then collaborative artist (London, Europe, USA, Canada)
  • taught various Fine Art BA courses ( in and around London- Goldsmiths & Central St Martins)
  • currently teaches seminar ‘Virtual Worlds’ (CSM)
  • teaches lectures at art schools around England
  • Visiting Research Fellow in Visual Cultures department (Goldsmiths University)
  • research fellow (BCU) Fine Art Research
  • Co-founded 0rphan Drift (1994)
  • pursuing solo career
  • artistic output- collage/ painting/ photography/ audio & digital media/ photoshop/ video/ animation (consistent interplay of fusion and remix)
  • technical specialisation areas- camera work/ editing/ effects generation/ prosthetics/ costume design/ text performance/ voice work
  • researched a myth/ archetype/ trance possession in Haiti, South Africa & Mexico
  • current production- gallery exhibition/ cinema screening/ symposia/ workshop performance/ screen projection/ collage/ painting/ installation/ text
  • theoretical focus- hyperstitions/ science/ speculative fiction/ organic/ non- organic sympoetic evolution/ hyper objects/ shadow time/ Machine Vision/ virtual textures/ space temporalities/ frequencies/ octopus/ digital uncertainty

Maggie Roberts. ‘Chrominance’ Res Gallery, London, 2018

  • ‘conscious exotica’ for ‘high level intelligences whose entirely feasible consciousness is utterly inaccessible to the bounded and embodied criteria of human experience’
  • conscious exotica- algorithmic intelligences/ slime networks and magic/ crypto currencies/ symbiotic pairings/ swamp demons/ biological computation
  • MIASMA- encounter between different kinds of alive/ virtual, synthetic and urban edgeland worlds combine
  • production of reality- open to virtual potential, creating liminal, vertiginous and exotic encounters with the material
  • ‘Mixed Reality’- aesthetic, mythic, alchemical coincidence intensifier/ technometabolical conversation between organic and mechanic processes- ‘unhinged morphogenesis’ of liquid systems and synthetic organisms (anything can potentially become anything else)
  • investigation auto-poetic network culture of trash or human dependency on non-human communication clusters
  • dynamically networked communication currents in matter itself is an actor
  • the material landscape and its currents, the dark and vibrant matters become active agents in out habitats
  • opposite of crystallization and glassy immobility defines the end (or the new beginning) untrammelled autonomous proliferation
  • ‘Inhuman signifies “not human”. therefore includes a world of forces, objects and non-human beings’
  • ‘also indicates the alien within (any human body is an ecosystem filled with strange organisms/ strange objects) requires considerable amount of violently inhumane’
  • MIASMA- inspired by failed water hyacinth terraforming experiments in Capetown- urban waterway choked with dying blossoms that become a mutating mass of synthetic colour
  • artificial becoming synthetic environment gradually overlays the decaying hinterland
  • thinking about waste being linked to technology production (increasingly vital potential to populate a continuum between human and non-human/ fusion of organic and artificial/ engineered and synthetic)
  • MIASMA- portrays urban margins expanding/ toxic slime has generative potential (micro-organisms, 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’- ‘still treated as aberrant rather than as an integral part of the system’
  • MIASMA- fiction about terraforming substrates inviting toxic transmutations to merge with virtual synthetic algorithmic generated matter.
  • history of waste- catastrophic reappearance as garbage mountains/ mutating problematic substances/ poisonous lakes
  • waste becomes elemental, permeating everything (recognises no boundaries)

Mer/Maggie Roberts, ‘Chrominance’ Res Gallery, London, 2018

Mer/Maggie Roberts website

Orphan drift archive

Interview between Mer/Maggie Roberts and Tony Marcus.
London. April 2011

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

  • CatDogSlug- fun social media moment (we should probably be afraid)
  • ‘dream code images created by google image search software’
  • trained to recognise patterns in images (codes?)
  • science fiction?
  • synthetic realities are being generated (we name them fictions)
  • ‘It is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or ‘outsideness’ without layering stress on the emotion of fear’
  • transforming power of the imagination that pokes, plays with and shatters assumptions of a culture’s sense of origin and boundary
  • non-human- deceiver/ cannibal/ inventor/ benefactor/ magician
  • “There is no distinguishing between reality and the imagination”
  • Fiction is: intuition/ prediction/ pattern recognition/ channelling device/ boundary dissolution/ magic
  • science fiction- produced out of cultural necessity- functions to help imagine the future
  • For me fiction has to do with the desire to create belief in something(political/historical, mythical, bodily)
  • many artists are dealing with excess- work operates as a conduit between liminal and social through the pictorial ( its an energetic body)
  • 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.
  • “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.”
  • 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

Artist Talk

  • orphan drift manifesto, 1994, science fiction project
  • all female
  • site specific temporary installations
  • anonymous copyright
  • things aren’t visionary like before
  • the futures hooked into us as it is with many conceptual artists
  • videos of bears and space etc collaged in a film (burned images)
  •  hexagram reading- inserts unknown into another player (what we make)
  • video production
  • quirky and intimate studio space
  • collages
  • plastique fantastique
  • green screen skin- painting fur green and used it as a green screen in film
  • hybridity and mutation- intensive manipulative layers
  • film documentation
  • Liddell scanning as a material for art
  • capturing more fluid things
  • CGI
  • exploring the difference between shamanic and the artificial
  • interested in working with coders
  • social and symbolic orders
  • mutation/ experimentation
  • sounds of dying/ screaming/ element of invasion of privacy and horror
  • shows a lot of nature but disturbs it with technology and animation and human presence
  • associated with hashtags
  • when a human becomes an animal, the animal becomes something else (something human perhaps)
  • obsession with octopuses


My Thoughts

  • interesting
  • makes me feel disequilibrium
  • weird
  • likes including animals in her work
  • clever
  • weird sounds (like dying and screaming)
  • cool use of materials  and technology
  • like use of music and popular songs
  • funny to see film documentation
  • disturbing/ dysfunctional images

Seminar Talk

  • interesting choice of language- could’ve spoke in simpler terms (was overly complicated)
    seemed as though she was talking about non-human intelligence- aka aliens etc
  • hybrid species
  • she was quite dense and intense to follow
  • the work itself was pretty interesting and almost forces an academic word vomit on it which almost spoils the work
  • interesting when she said that algorithms create the future- when an algorithm is created people believe it which makes it become real
  • orphan drift- anonymous collaboration across space but talks about it as her own practice
  • she should have let us look at the work without her talking through it so we could take a moment to figure out what her work was about (a picture paints a thousand words)
  • algorithms and AI create disturbing digital art work
  • green screen piece of hybrid animal was quite interesting, as a moving image and bringing it into the real world
  • aspects of nature mixed with digital technology (digital images on lake landscapes etc)
  • realising there are material qualities to support technology (misconception of digital space however there are material components to support/ create the space)
  • instability and insecurity (we need to change before we reach the point of no return)
  • how do you challenge or change structures of power?



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