Palindrone video

We created a short video about Palindrone. It’s somewhere between an ‘about this project’ video and an artists video.

I was put together so that it could be shown, as part of a video loop of projects not present at the DEAF 2014 Drones: Presentations and Demonstrations event, part of a day long symposium on Drones to be held at the Biennale on Friday 23rd May.

The piece was installed at the offices of Bethanl Green Ventures for a morning where I shot video and stills in one of the meeting rooms. For the video I used the stills from the installation and used a the audio direct from the piece.

The piece is still a work in development. We are still trying to get in touch with the people who posted the original recordings of the drones in Gaza that we have used as the basis of the piece as we would like to talk to them, and others who have experienced being in such environments more as we develop the piece.

This video is a first opportunity for many to hear what kind of environment we are trying to create / convey in the piece.

palindrone (v1.0) from Mark Simpkins on Vimeo.

messages to martians

Prof. Colin Pilger has died aged 70.

I never met him, though greatly enjoyed hearing him talk about Mars and space exploration.

I was lucky once to get into the press launch of an exhibition of the Beagle 2 lander at the White Cube, then in Hoxton. The colour calibration chart on the probe was a dot painting by Damien Hirst.

The Beagle 2 was a ‘cheap’ mars mission. It was piggy backing on a nasa mission to mars and support from the project was generated by Colin’s ability to get the likes of Hirst involved, as well as Blur composing the call sign.

I was working at the BBC and a colleague passed on the invitation, though I went totally in my own capacity, armed with a then state of the art Nokia camera phone.

Science and space exploration will miss him.

Walking Psychogeographic Sites of Scientific Interest (Project Proposal)

Being interested in landscapes, industry and technology and photography the idea of doing some walks to/from/around sites of scientific interest seemed like a good idea.

I have a vague list of sites and areas that I would like to visit on these walks, some more realisable than others.

I want to walk around CERN, but above ground, crossing the borders that below the ground the particle accelerator loop crosses. To examine the landscape above this great machine would be really interesting.

Closer to home, the plan is to visit Jodrell Bank and return to Dungeness.

Then there are the sites that attach to the idea of the military in the landscape, around Menwith Hill and RAF Waddington, the homes of ECHALON and the UK Drone programme respectively but also sites like Offord Ness.

Recording the landscape, the culture as well as the sounds (both audile and the electromagnetic soundscape).

Academic Online Publishing – Arts & Humanities

I am doing a small project looking at getting online spaces set up for art/design/cultural/humanities academic publishing. Basically using weblogs but making citation easier and making it easier for the authors to cite other documents.

Most material on this kind of space is focused on Scientific publishing, especially Bioinformatics. So I was wondering if people know of existing examples, tools that can be used or projects and calls for this type of tool?

If you know of anything can you either tweet me (@marksimpkins) or email me


Numbers Stations (Project Proposal)

Numbers Stations are the embodiment of spy culture in electromagnetic space. Unlike the secrecy, encryption, and other elements of espionage the numbers stations broadcast in the open, on shortwave frequencies. What the messages mean, why they broadcast what they do and what is encoded within those broadcast is a mystery and one almost impossible to crack.

No one owns up to running the broadcasts and of course where they are meant for impossible to know, they are just thrown out into the electromagnetic spectrum to be plucked out of the air by whoever has a shortwave receiver.

Project Description
The project will develop a shortwave broadcast ‘station’ as an object, that is sculptural and opaque as to its definite origins. The station will ‘broadcast’ works from selected contributors in the same / similar wavelengths as many of the more famous numbers stations.

The station will be installed in various parts of the UK and photographed in-situ.


* Numbers Stations
* The Conet Project
* The Conet Project – Internet Archive

A theoretical brief for ‘how not to die’ (Project Proposal)

Note: This is a theoretical brief for students, it has not been commissioned or asked to be developed but is just a way for me to get down some questions that I would like design students to examine.

Brief: How Not To Die

The Hexayurt, designed by Vinay Gupta, is a simple shelter that can be built using available materials quickly and easily. It was designed in response to the Sustainable Settlements Charette in 2002.

Project Proposals:
Communications: How to communicate how to build a hexayurt. How to quickly build a shelter and how to maintain and evolve it as it is lived in.

Industrial Design: Evolve the hexayurt.

Systems Design: Camp processes, design a system to help manage refugee camps and support those people who have to live there.

Background Reading:

Much of the work by Vinay Gupta is about this, the hexayurt, the primary axis for the brief was invented by Gupta and released into the commons.

electromagnetic noise

Working on Palindrone has opened up a whole new area of research and experimentation in playing with and listening to sound. I have been reading ‘The The Field – The Art of Field Recording‘ by Cathy Lane & Angus Carlyle as it is working with these found, recorded sounds (from the field) that currently interests me.

To work alongside Palindrone I am thinking about sound and landscape, especially the English Pastoral landscape and the sounds of light aircraft, the thrum of the distant yet always near motorways in the UK. When developing Palindrone I was thinking about the sound of light aircraft flying over head whilst on a pleasant walk in the English countryside, as well as harking back to the now Military-Pastoral sound of the Spitfire or Hurricane flying overhead in the south of England. Almost romantic notions of sound, technology and landscape.

There is another sound that pervades these landscapes though, we won’t hear it as we walk through the grass, but the sounds in the electromagnetic spectrum are saturated with noise of the modern and this is also the space for much of the modern Military Industrial Complex, with its Signal Intelligence.

Electrical currents generate magnetic fields, which have sonic properties. You can pick these up with a ‘telephone pickup coil‘. This will pick up all sorts of sounds.

This is the sound of my laptop:

As an experiment I am going to make some recordings of urban, suburban and rural landscapes using this basic set up, just to hear what is there.

Palindrone – The sound of drones

Palindrone is about sound.

We spent a bit of time looking for existing recordings of drones to use as a basis for the work, originally I found this recording:

Posted by user Rosa Schiano, who, according to their YouTube profile is an Italian activist and photoreporter. The video was taken during the Israeli military operation “Pillar of Cloud”, which took place 14th through 21st November 2012. (This in the YouTube description for the video, is how Rosa refers to the operation, searching wikipedia returns this entry for “Operation Pillar of Defense” [] for which the Hebrew literally translates to “Pillar of Cloud”).

This operation is the first where there was no significant IDF presence on the ground in Gaza, the operation conducted through the use of air power, ostensibly through the use of drones.

When describing the project idea to Cathal, this was the sound that I used to illustrate what I was initially thinking of.

Further research led Cathal to find these samples that have been put online by Rana Baker and Rowaid El-Madhoun. It was these samples that formed the basis of the ‘drone’ that we installed at Lighthouse for v1.0 of Palindrone.

Rana Baker

Rowaid El-Madhoun

Again, these samples are from Gaza. The reports on drone use that helped to inspire the creation of the piece were reporting on their use in Yeman and Pakistan. In my searches online I have not found any significant online recordings of drone use in these regions though I am sure there are good reasons for this.

Of course, the affect these machines have is the same, the sound creating an omnious terrorizing atmosphere and whilst the report that I initially read was based on the situation in Yeman, further online research has uncovered similar reports from Gaza.

We have tried to contact both people but are yet to hear back from them, hence one reason for writing this post was to creat something to point at explaining what we are trying to do and how we are currently using their samples.

We have started to experiment with creating our own sound, artificially, as well as trying to create some field recordings of light aircraft. We do not want to use the samples we have found in further public installation without having spoken with the originators of the recordings.

How we continue to shape the sound of the piece depends on a lot of things, but if either Rana or Rowaid want to get in touch then they can email me at and I will be happy to talk to them further about what we are trying to do with Palindrone.

UnParty Update

The Unparty

We held another UnParty meet up, this time hosted by Hub Westminster.

One of the outcomes of this evenings meeting was a better structure on what the UnParty is, and where it sits in relation to a number of other projects that are currently underway.

Firstly, we have the crowd sourced manifesto. This project is being led by James Smith (@floppy). Using GitHub as a place to collect, discuss and present an openly sourced set of manifesto policies.

Next we have Democracy Club. At the last election Democracy Club was started and built some tools to try and help people better engage with the whole election process. It started too close to the election, so now, the project is being re-invigorated by Sym Roe (@symroe) and is starting again now with more time ahead of the election. Democracy is about tools, things that can be built to help people to engage better with the existing system. Non-partisan.

Finally we have UnParty, UnParty is a way of framing discussion about politics, participation outside of the traditional party model.

Now for the sketch part, an idea on what the UnParty can be to help take things forward.

What the UnParty can also be, is a way for independants standing in elections to have the support of a cohort.

If you stand in an election at any level, you agree to take part in the discussion openly with everyone else. Sharing of ideas and openess to listen to others who take part. We dont expect you to sign up to the manifesto, policy for policy, though you should contribute to the discussion and if your stance on an issue or policy idea is different, then you should be willing and able to back it up with why you feel you need to take a different tack.

The UnParty cannot punish you for this, for the UnParty has no whips, no structure for discipline within an organisation since it is not that.

What it is, is an agreement and a conversation. Politics and policy will change, the issues change, the facts on the ground often change. New information comes to light, old tenants are disproved by new evidence.

There is nothing to stop anyone just using the OpenPolitics manifesto, nor in fact taking part in all but name of the UnParty, but it is there if you want it.

It feels somewhat odd to deliberately try to create something which isn’t anything beyond and ackowledgment but that is what I feel is the best way forward. The rigid party structures are not what is needed now. The ability to reach into a problem, past ideology and look at the evidence, discuss and shape, making sure its clear on ability (its not good promising to fix something that you can’t at the level of office you hold, that is just disengenuous).

So, we will announce the next UnParty meetup shortly and hopefully we will also be able to tell you about a meetup for people interested in building tools with the Democracy Club.

design for everyday life