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.

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Baia mArea Network?

September 1, 2016 Constant


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.

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Mondotheque::a radiated booklaunch

September 1, 2016 Presentation, Publication, Walk
Mondotheque in front of the former entrance of Palais Mondial — Brussels, 24 September 2016

Mondotheque in front of the former entrance of Palais Mondial — Brussels, 24 September 2016

In 1919 the Mundaneum occupied half of the majestic Cinquantenaire building in Brussels. The ambitious project was imagined by Paul Otlet and Henri Lafontaine as a mix between documentation center, conference venue and educational display. “The Mundaneum is an Idea, an Institution, a Method, a Body of workmaterials and collections, a Building, a Network.” (Paul Otlet, Monde)

In 2013 a band of artists, archivists and activists set out to unravel the many implications of a statement that routinely compared the Mundaneum to “Google on paper”. Under the moniker Mondotheque they organised discussions, reflections and workshops in various locations. A Semantic MediaWiki functioned as a platform for writing, editing and bookdesign. The publication of Mondotheque::a radiating book creates a moment, an incision into this collaborative process. It is an invitation into the entanglements of knowledge infrastructures, geo-politics and local histories.


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Call for participation: Diversies

July 1, 2016 Constant / Leave a reply

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.
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Machine Research

July 1, 2016 Constant / Leave a reply

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.
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Opt Subject: Issues with modifier mechanism, UTS #52

Feedback submitted on Monday 2 May 2016, 09:00 CET to http://www.unicode.org/review/pri321/


Opt Subject: Issues with modifier mechanism, UTS #52

We are submitting these comments to the Proposed Draft UTS #52, Unicode Emoji Mechanisms because we think there are serious issues with the general implications of the modifier mechanism that was already introduced in Unicode 8 with Skin Tone Modifiers. We believe UTS #52 possibly contravenes both the mission and bylaws of the Unicode Consortium. We wish to identify issues that we hope will have an impact on decisions and future policies. We suggest a reconsideration of the underlying logic of the modifier mechanism as applied to emoji.

These comments were formulated by an international, multilingual group of researchers working in the field of software and media. We investigate and produce a wide-range of projects around the role of standards and the politics embedded in infrastructures of communication, and are using emoji intensively in our communication. We are thus deeply concerned about the directions that emoji related standards have taken so far, and are being proposed to take in the future.

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Libre Graphics Meeting 2016: Other Dimensions


The eleventh annual international Libre Graphics Meeting 2016 will take place Friday 15th until Monday 18th April 2016 in London, UK. This yearly event is an occasion for teams and individual contributors/artists involved in Libre Graphics to work together, to share experiences and to hear about new ideas. By Libre Graphics we mean Free, Libre and Open Source tools for design, illustration, photography, typography, art, graphics, page layout, publishing, 3D modelling, digital making and manufacture, cartography, animation, video, interactive media, generative graphics and visual live-coding. The Libre Graphics Meeting is not just about software, but extends to standards, file formats and actual use of these in creative work. LGM has become the place in which they can discuss their projects, coordinate their efforts and, crucially, to meet in person. Participants in the LGM include developers, designers, academics and activists from around the world, who are all passionate about Free/Libre graphics software and technology.

Special focus: Other Dimensions

In Toronto we celebrated the first decade of LGM, reflecting on the past and considering the future. For the 2016 edition of LGM we continue speculating and will expand Libre Graphics into Other Dimensions. We are looking for presentations and workshops that explore the dimensions of space and material: 3D modelling and animation, Libre architecture, Open Source product design and other fields of digital making and manufacture. We are also seeking contributions that offer reflections on the ‘other dimensions’ of open source communities and that engage with FLOSS tools in various contexts including but not limited to teaching, learning, practice and co-production. This represents a desire to address the future sustainability of the Libre Graphics movement, through a growth of the core projects and topics that will, we hope, allow us to welcome more and more FLOSS projects and participants to our community.

Read the call for participation: http://libregraphicsmeeting.org/2016/call-for-participation/
Submission deadline: 10 January 2016, content selection notification by end of January 2016.

In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub

Contact: little.prince@custodians.online

In Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s tale the Little Prince meets a businessman who accumulates stars with the sole purpose of being able to buy more stars. The Little Prince is perplexed. He owns only a flower, which he waters every day. Three volcanoes, which he cleans every week. “It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them,” he says, “but you are of no use to the stars that you own”.

There are many businessmen who own knowledge today. Consider Elsevier, the largest scholarly publisher, whose 37% profit margin1 stands in sharp contrast to the rising fees, expanding student loan debt and poverty-level wages for adjunct faculty. Elsevier owns some of the largest databases of academic material, which are licensed at prices so scandalously high that even Harvard, the richest university of the global north, has complained that it cannot afford them any longer. Robert Darnton, the past director of Harvard Library, says “We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices.”2 For all the work supported by public money benefiting scholarly publishers, particularly the peer review that grounds their legitimacy, journal articles are priced such that they prohibit access to science to many academics – and all non-academics – across the world, and render it a token of privilege.3
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Her, Him, It

November 10, 2015 Possible bodies / Leave a reply

Her, Spike Jonze (2013)

Her, Spike Jonze (2013)

What if instead of a throaty Scarlett Johannson, Spike Jonze had dared to make Theodore fall in love with a synthetic voice?

It.txt (save file as It.sh)


June 23, 2015 Constant / Leave a reply

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 MakeHuman Bugreport

blend_crouch MakeHuman is a popular open source 3D computer graphics middle-ware for the modeling of 3-Dimensional humanoid characters. The software is developed by a community of programmers, modelers and academics.

Our interest in MakeHuman was triggered during GenderBlending, an event where a participants from various backgrounds experimented at the contact zones of gender and technology.

A signature feature of the MakeHuman interface is a set of horizontal sliders, suggesting that by interpolating settings for gender, race, weight and age, any ‘human’ representation can be ‘made’. While the neat arrangements of parameters for operating on incomparable and interconnected properties is already troubling in itself, further inspection reveals an extremely limited topology, rendering the promise of infinite possibilities a mere illusion.

Despite the suggestion that the digital dis-burdens bodies from normative parameters, software like MakeHuman actually operates on problematic categorical divisions that are all-too familiar.

Aiming to address concerns and insights regarding the way the body and the human being are being co-constructed through technology, we have started to formulate a bugreport. In the context of Daemons & Shellscripts we would like to test out and discuss a performative lecture in the making, a ‘report on the report’.

Coming from different backgrounds (Femke from media-design, Xavier from animation-art and Adva from dance and choreography), our respective inquiries about the relationship between body and technology meet at times through our practices and perspectives. For The MakeHuman bugreport we will combine those to not only convey words, but actions and images as well.

With Adva Zakai and Xavier Gorgol, 28 June 2015 at Daemons and Shellscripts, MuHKA Antwerp.

Relearn 2015, call for participation!

June 14, 2015 Uncategorized / Leave a reply


Relearn is a summerschool which welcomes persons, artists, students, teachers from all backgrounds and disciplines. Participants will gather to learn from and teach to each other, beyond the traditional paradigms of education.
Free, Libre and Open Source Software plays a fundamental role at Relearn, as it facilitates a different approach to the tools we commonly use in our practices and lives. For instance, it can allow us to understand the influence that tools themselves exert on the way they are used, or the different social relations and economies that are formed between who creates and uses them. Such a questioning approach to technology feels urgent, in a time in which more and more social, political and personal issues are addressed by solely technological means.
In continuation with the previous editions, Relearn will research convivial, experimental and deviant methods and means in the fields of design, computing and education, challenging the normal roles and separations in them (teacher/student, developer/user, art/life…).

On the website you can find additional information on some of the topics and sessions that will be part of the summerschool.

You are welcome to join Relearn from the 20th of August till the 25th. It will take place in Bruxelles, at Zinneke (http://zinneke.org).

To participate, please send an e-mail to registration@relearn.be before July 1st, including a few lines about your interest in the summer school, what you want to bring, what you hope to find.

Mondotheque: Manual for a Diffraction Machine

June 6, 2015 Mondotheque / Leave a reply

Humanity is at a turning point in its history. The mass of available information is formidable. New instruments are necessary for simplifying and condensing it, or the intellect will never know how to overcome the difficulties which overwhelm it, nor realise the progress that it glimpses and to which it aspires”. (Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation, 1934)

mondotheque_detail_nb In 1993, the remains of Otlet’s extensive collection of documents were moved from Brussels to The Mundaneum Archive Center in Mons. Located in a former mining region in the south of Belgium, Mons is also right next to Google’s largest datacenter in Europe. Due to the re-branding of Otlet as a ‘founding father of the Internet’, and ‘visionary inventor of Google on paper’, his oeuvre received international attention. Simultaneously, local politicians are ceasing the moment, making The Mundaneum a central node in their rhetorical promise of turning the industrial heartland into a home for The Internet Age. Google — grateful for discovering their posthumous francophone roots — signed a collaboration contract with The Mundaneum in 2013. The archive center outsourced its digital archives to the search giant, allowing them to publish hundreds of documents on the website of The Google Cultural Institute.

Bringing the ever expanding entanglements gradually to light, a band of artists, archivists and activists formed. Wanting to make a difference from how geographically situated histories are meshed into generic slogans, concerned by faltering local governments pushing cultural infrastructures into the hands of global corporations and perplexed by the apparently still undigested dreams of universal knowledge, we decided to appropriate Mondothèque as a frame of reference. Imagined by Paul Otlet in 1934, La Mondothèque was to be a ’thinking machine’: archive, link generator, desk, catalog and broadcast station at the same time. The dreamed capacity of Mondothèque to combine scales, perspectives and media started to function as a diffraction device, as a platform to envision our modest but persistent interventions together.

Presentation in the context of the Public Library, Multimedia Institute – mi2, Zagreb (Croatia).

With: Dušan Barok (Monoskop); Anthony Davies & Rosemary Grennan (MayDay Rooms); Kenneth Goldsmith; Sebastian Lütgert & Jan Gerber (Open Media Library); Alberto Manguel; Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak (Multimedia Institute); María G. Perulero & Celia Gradín (Platoniq); Noa Treister (The Ignorant Schoolmaster and His Committees); Dubravka Sekulić; Što, kako i za koga / WHW.

The Annotator

May 10, 2015 Constant / Leave a reply
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/

Exquisite Corpse


The first piece in this series was written and then sent to the next contributor, and each subsequent person was only allowed to read what the person prior to them had written.

Looking outwards, what are the boundaries of gendered inclusion and exclusion in digital spaces? Looking inwards, who are the ‘we’ of cyberfeminism? Who participates? How should they participate?

Histories of the Feminist Server(s) is a contribution to Lady Justice (“Reconsidering gender and technology in the age of the distributed network”), a feature for New Criticals (“New criticism of all that exists”), produced by Tamsyn Gilbert. With: Steph Alarcon, Christina Dunbar-Hester, Seda Gurses, Jara Rocha, Femke Snelting, Sophie Toupin.

Beyond the first decade

Back from the tenth edition of the Libre Graphics Meeting in Toronto:

Pictures: Peter Westenberg. More at: http://gallery3.constantvzw.org/index.php/LGM-Toronto

Cultures Numériques

April 21, 2015 Ustensile / Leave a reply


Surviving many flavours of chaos (thanks to a possibly over-ambitious plan to offer 90+ students a random selection of 3 out of 9 modules plus 3 lectures, taught by 10 different tutors, interfered with by numerous administrative constraints, on-going national strikes and a healthy resistance to anything involving discipline), we managed to celebrate the finale of Cultures Numériques. This experimental course at erg (école de recherche graphique, Brussels) was initiated by a group of tutors that wanted to develop a common vocabulary of the digital between students and tutors, criss-crossing through various ways one can engage with it’s cultures. The course was obligatory for all first years and gravitated around contributions to a common wiki.


The graph was collaboratively written in Graphviz .dot markup. It plots connections that participants saw between the 9 modules: Stick to standards, Digital bodies, Sound, Camouflages, Archives, Object-Oriented, Alphabet, Weaving/textiles and Editorial platforms.

With: Madeleine Aktypi, Yves Bernard, Harrisson, Ludivine Loiseau, Stéphane Noël, Camille Pageard, Stéphanie Vilayphiou, Laurent Baudoux and Alexia de Visscher.

Download graph: cn.png