Category Archives: Constant

A non-profit association, an interdisciplinary arts-lab working from Brussels since 1997. The artistic and activist practice of Constant is inspired by the way that technological infrastructures, data-exchange and software determine our daily life.

www.constantvzw.org

The Clouds are Not an Option

January 4, 2017 Constant

Data-driven systems do not arrive from nowhere, into the world like magic. Like all technologies their development and deployment follows particular historical trajectories and continuities which are influenced by larger forces. In contrast, most of the research on ‘social impact’ has drawn attention to the micro-effects of Big Data: the invasion of personal privacy, their non-transparency, and how they can lead to unfair discrimination between citizens or consumers.

These framings do not recognize the way in which these larger infrastructures are put into place, but rather assume that the clouds, with all the accompanying labor, material and financial practices, are vast, illegible and inevitable. As a result, possibilities for intervention seem to be limited to tweaking algorithms or putting constraints on data collection and processing, leaving the clouds untouched. In this meeting, we hope to sharpen our research agendas in a way that allows us to identify potential collective inquiries informed by political economic, geopolitical, or techno-infrastructural perspectives to engage the cloud.

Continue reading

Disobedient action-research

January 4, 2017 Constant

As a contribution to a symposium on design research organised by the department of design at the Hamburg University, Femke introduces the Technogalactic Software Observatory (TSO), a temporary study center, poetic training camp and walk-in clinic that Constant will open in the World Trade Center this June.

The TSO invites artists, activists, engineers and designers to dive deeper into the social, economic and political aspects of the various softwares they practice. How can we understand the ideological orientations of software? Are there ways to talk about technology beyond programming languages, innovation-speak and solutionism? What if we study digital networks, software and services based on their artistic quality, poetic potential, solidarity or intersectionality?

The TSO employs performative and collaborative action-research methods for intervention in technological processes. It invokes disobedient practices of remediation, from academic paper to bugreport, from interface experiment to critical fork. In an action-based approach, the passive imaginaries of the probable mutate into active imaginations for the possible.

DiVersions – an afternoon in the museum about collaboration, divergence and the digital archive

October 6, 2016 Constant

Constant starts its worksession DiVersions with an afternoon in the Royal Museum for Art and History. Inspired by the way versions are embedded in the daily practice of software-development, we will explore tools and infrastructures that invite different and divergent histories.

The program includes two lectures and a performance. Laurence Rassel will join us to reflect on how digital archives can transform institutions. How to do things when we consider the institution as a space for encounters, creativity, possibility and risk? Organizing information is never innocent. This is the motto for Geraldine Juárez’ preemptive history of The Google Cultural Institute, an effort to “make the world’s culture accessible online”. Viewing Google Art, Google Cultural Institute and Google Art & Culture through the lense of digital capitalism, she critically tracks the evolution of services that appears at a moment in time when public institutions are increasingly de-funded.
Christine De Smedt performs a first sketch of a series of movements based on her work Untitled 4. 4 choreographic portraits. Her radical appropriations have now become historical material that could be archived in a museal context. These transformative gestures allow for new readings that are not only determined by the logic of the archive, but also by the context in which they are read.

Continue reading

Baia mArea Network?

September 1, 2016 Constant

img_4301

Let’s make our own internets! This workshop explores the differences and similarities between the Internet and a bunch of computers connected by cables. The aim is to start a conversation about how to imagine networking beyond conventional global communication infrastructures and the relations of power they evoke. By connecting our laptops to each other, we will see how any computer can be turned into a server, a node in a network. Through this basic exercise we start to develop a situated knowledge of the networks we use. It performs a direct approach to the communication technology we use everyday without much reflection.

Continue reading

Call for participation: Diversies

July 1, 2016 Constant

Screenshot from 2016-06-22 23:22:03
DiVersions is inspired by the way versions are inscribed in daily software-practice, and explores how parallel to their conventional narrative of collaboration and consensus they can produce divergent histories through supporting difference. This one week session is organised by Constant and hosted by the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels.
Continue reading

Machine Research

July 1, 2016 Constant

The research/Phd workshop Machine Research contributes to the transmediale festival programme for 2017. Participants participate in closed seminars and talks in Brussels, the generation of online and offline publications, and public presentations at the festival in Berlin. The 2017 transmediale festival focuses on the elusive character of media and technological change and how it is articulated in the contemporary moment of messy ecologies of the human and non human. It explores perspectives of the nonhuman that suggests a situation where the primacy of human civilization is put into a critical perspective by machine driven ecologies, ontologies and epistemologies of thinking and acting.
Continue reading

pattern.en.paternalism

June 23, 2015 Constant

Report delivered at the fourth gathering of the Posthuman Glossary series:

pattern.en.paternalism is a contribution proposed to Pattern, a web mining module initiated by the Computational Linguistics & Psycholinguistics research center at the University of Antwerp. The pattern.en.paternalism feature should allow one to detect if and to what extent a text could be considered ‘paternalist’.

We launched the experimental development of this feature in an attempt to understand the actual conditions, context and work of annotation involved in the practice of datamining. As we slowly got to grips with the way human actors are collaborating with algorithms in establishing patterns for future recognition, we realised how much the common-sensical nature of data-mining is geared towards producing predictable, conventional and plausible results. In other words data-mining avoids surprises while promising to let the data ‘speak for itself’. We started to wonder where to locate difference, ambiguity and dissent.

pattern.en.paternalism is one of the many ways that Constant, an association for art and media active in Brussels since 1997, has been paying attention to algorithmicity and its consequences. This report opens up some of Constant’s methods and tactics, and shows how the vectors of Free software, copyright alternatives and (cyber)feminism continue to orient our collective work.

Algorithmic Cultures and Security: fourth gathering in the Posthuman Glossary series
@ BAK, Utrecht (NL)

With: Matthew Fuller, Maria Hlavajova, Rosi Braidotti, Luciana Parisi, Matteo Pasquinelli

Notes/slides: slides.pdf

The Annotator

May 10, 2015 Constant
The Annotators at work (Photo: Nicolas Malevé)

The Annotators at work (Photo: Nicolas Malevé)

Machine-learning algorithms that partially automate data processing still need to be trained for every new form, or every new kind of topic the algorithm might deal with. (…) Such work of alignment is not a bug — it is the condition of possibility for keeping humans and automation working in the same world.1

During Cqrrelations (“poetry to the statistician, science to the dissident and detox to the data-addict”), we developed the pattern.en.paternalism feature.

From the start we were interested in how a Gold Standard is established, a paradoxical situation where human input performs truth, but is simultaneously made invisible. Annotation here means the manual work of ‘scoring’ large amounts of data that can than be used for ‘training’ algorithms. This scored data becomes a reference against which data-mining algorithms are trained and tested.

Read the full report: http://www.cqrrelations.constantvzw.org/1×0/the-annotator/

Mixed experience

October 29, 2014 Body and software, Constant

This workshop asks how digital tools can refuse strict separations between ‘users’ and ‘developers’, both in the way they are built and how they are put to use.

Mixed experience starts from experiments by artists, designers and programmers affiliated with Constant and design caravan OSP. Our tools are sometimes built from scratch, and often combine existing packages in ways that allow actual experiences of and with software.

Rooting our work in the culture of Free, Libre and Open Source software allows us to critically interrogate how tools condition our practice but above all is an invitation to use, study, distribute and improve software. It inspires us to mix the expertise of ‘users’ and ‘developers’ and to work simultaneously on the level of code, structure and design. In order to shift our digital practices away from the pressures of meritocracy and the limits of technocentrism, we need to make tools together.

Workshop in the context of PIPES (Participatory Investgation of Public Engaging Spaces), and in collaboration with OSP (Open Source Publishing).

‘I think that conversations are the best, biggest thing that free software has to offer its users’

October 15, 2014 Constant, Free software, Lecture

In this presentation Femke introduces a book-in-the-making, an extensive collection of conversations between developers and designers involved in the wider ecosystem of Libre Graphics. Speaking to each other about tools for typography, lay-out and image processing they render a portrait of a community gradually understanding the interdependencies between software and design.

Edited in collaboration with Christoph Haag http://lafkon.net

We don’t live in this kind of world

For the seminar Public Library. Über Infrastrukturen der Wissensbildung (Public Library. About infrastructures of knowledge formation), Femke prepares a new episode of Fathers of the Internet, charting the overtures between an Internet giant, local governments and a historical archive.

“In 1944, Belgium universalist and documentalist Paul Otlet died a disillusioned man. In his lifetime he only partially realised The Mundaneum, an encyclopedic survey of human knowledge which would ‘progressively constitute a permanent and complete representation of the entire world‘. While Otlet is being rediscovered as “a founding father of the Internet”, Google adopted the remains of his archive in Mons. Located in a former mining area in the south of Belgium, Mons is not only home town to prime minister Elio Di Rupo, but also conveniently located next to one of Google’s largest datacenters in Europe. This lecture explores the messy entanglements of faltering local governments, dreams of accessible knowledge, and the hopeful desire for corporate patronage.”

Worksession GenderBlending

Gender Blending gathers body hackers, 3D theorists, game activists, queer designers and software feminists around the table to challenge typical digital representations of the body, bending the rules of both gender and software. Using 3D animation software Blender, medical bodyscanners and 3D-printers, we’ll experiment at the contact zones of gender and technology.

In 6 days, 3 interdisciplinary groups will develop three interconnected proposals for modelling digital bodies differently. Each thread is prepared by two or three invited guests.
Throughout the week we’ll organise discussions, small workshops and presentations for all participants. This will allow us to work through theoretical and material specifics of imagining gender (social readings and constructed imaginations) in a digital context.

We’ll use Free, Libre and Open Source software such as MakeHuman, Blender, Openscad, Freecad and PyMol. Participants bring their own laptop with Linux installed or can borrow a computer for the duration of the session (limited availability).

Participation is free; maximum 25 places available. Please write femke@constantvzw.org if you are interested in participating.

Organised by Constant, Brussels in collaboration with De Beursschouwburg, Anne Smolar and Željko Blaće; contributions by Pink Screens, Maria Ptqk, Tom Weller, ginger coons

Fathers of the internet

January 1, 2014 Constant, Mondotheque

Belgium universalist, pacifist and documentalist Paul Otlet was recently recognized as ‘a founding father of the Internet’ by Google evangelist Vincent Cerf. While socialist Prime Minister Elio di Rupo lured the multinational to build a gigantesque datacenter in the region with the help of subsidies and tax-cuts, Google adopted the remains of Otlet’s archive in Mons. An ongoing investigation.

Files: https://gitorious.org/fathers-of-the-internet
Notes: http://pad.constantvzw.org/p/fathers

The Death of the Authors: 1941

March 24, 2013 Constant

The Death of the Authors is a generative novel made with Python and nltk, based on texts by Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Rabindranath Tagore, Elizabeth Von Arnim, Sherwood Anderson and Henri Bergson, some of the authors we welcomed on 1-1-12. The print publication was presented on the Public Domain Day event in Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels, Belgium (With An Mertens).

http://publicdomainday.constantvzw.org/