ISCRI: Learning from Octopuses

Maggie Roberts, ISCRI’s lead artist from the 0rphan Drift team, has been learning from octopuses and their fluid environments in the rich kelp forests off Cape Town’s coast. Using a GoPro, she has been able to get into small secret places among the rocks, to learn from a number of Common Octopuses. Expert BBC underwater cameraman James Loudon has recently joined her, eager to “unlearn all he has been taught about filming marine life,” and to experiment with dismantling the human point of view, guided by Maggie and the rest of the ISCRI team’s research into octopus behaviour and cognition.

8-armed portal headset, by 0rphan Drift

Maggie and 0rphan Drift’s work both incorporates ISCRI’s research into octopus cognition – in particular their visual cognition – and is integral to furthering it. Maggie’s experience of meeting and filming octopuses has helped us develop practical solutions for working with and learning from them in the wild. It has helped us to develop visual and tactile artworks for octopuses that invite them into a conversation with an AI, which will learn from their responses.

modelling distributed visual cognition: colour-pattern-touch(taste) by 0rphan Drift

Maggie’s aesthetic response to her meetings with octopuses, drawing on her training in telepathic interspecies communication with South African interspecies communicator, animal activist and conservationist Anna Breytenbach, is conveyed in a series of meditations commissioned by iMT Gallery for their 2020 online programme.

You can watch Maggie’s Becoming Octopus Meditations here.

And watch Etic Lab’s Kevin Hogan and Stephanie Moran discussing our research in conversation with Guy Baker of the UK Marine Biological Association, here.

To discuss the ideas presented in this article please click here.