Worksession: Promiscuous pipelines

Universalism is not rejected but particularized; what is needed is a new kind of articulation between the universal and the particular’ (Chantal Mouffe in: The Return of the political, 1993)

In computation, a ’pipe’ is a method to enable various software modules to connect to each other, where the output of one program is treated as the input for the next program. ’Pipes’ form the basis of The Unix philosophy, a perspective on software production where multiple task-oriented tools can be chained together to make seemingly endless software combinations possible. While interchangeable and flexible, the assumption that each element should be optimised to ’Do One Thing and Do It Well’ leads to a rather predictable and ultimately normative set. If each tool is designed to be used in any context by anyone at any time, what about situated knowledge? How can we imagine modularity, knowing that software processes are inherently leaky and contextual?

To think modular systems beyond received ideas about efficiency and optimisation, we propose to first of all pay attention to the plumbing itself, to what exactly happens between ’standard out’ and ’standard in’. Beautiful accidents, unpredictable U-turns, lopsided loops, porous borders between inside and outside and the pleasure of spaghetti code ... imperfect software systems stretching out their tentacles to make connections between what does not yet belong together.

At Promiscuous Pipelines we’ll experiment with the principle of ’pipes’ to inspire uncommon junctions and perhaps achieve the opposite of a productivity-oriented system. It is an occasion to discuss, re-work and develop tool-sets, methods or systems that generate hybrid practices, contaminate standardized working methods, and are ready to incorporate unintended results.

In parallel, we write and edit the Promiscuous Pipelines A-Manual, an impossible e-publication that will be the missing anti-manual for how the systems and proposals present in the worksession can (not) be linked up.

Promiscuous Pipelines continues and deepens various software experiments that artists and developers around FoAM and Constant and have undertaken in recent years and links them to new initiatives.

With amongst others:

Øyvind Kolås – Microraptor/GEGL – Marthe Van Dessel – bolwerK – Zeljko Blace – QueerOS – Simon Yuill – Martino Morandi – Unitary Networking – Michael Murtaugh – Active Archives – An Mertens – Gijs de Heij – Anne Laforet – The Botopera – Christoph Haag – Etherpash – Pierre Marchand – Wænd


Participants in Promiscuous Pipelines can be artists and/or thinkers and/or developers interested in rethinking tool-sets, methods or systems. You are invited to bring existing or imagined projects that care about connections between social, technical and/or physical worlds.

The worksession starts on Monday 31 August in the afternoon and ends on Saturday evening 5 September. We will work collaboratively with 20 participants from different backgrounds. The session is organised by Constant in collaboration with FoAM and hosted in their Brussels studio.

Participation is free. Constant and FoAM will provide lodging and vegetarian lunch. A basic hardware workshop, plus a library of related materials will be made available. If you need anything particular, let us know and we’ll try to facilitate it.

We’ll primarily use Free, Libre and Open Source software because we would like to focus on tools that invite us to speak back to their social and technological construction.

For more information, please contact


Promiscuous Pipelines is prepared and hosted by:

Constant (Femke Snelting, Wendy Van Wynsberghe). a non-profit association, an interdisciplinary arts-lab based and active in Brussels since 1997. Constant works in-between media and art and is interested in the culture and ethics of the World Wide Web. The artistic practice of Constant is inspired by the way that technological infrastructures, data-exchange and software determine our daily life. Free software, copyright alternatives and (cyber)feminism are important threads running through the activities of Constant. Constant organizes workshops, print-parties, walks and ’Verbindingen/Jonctions’-meetings on a regular basis for a public that’s into experiments, discussions and all kinds of exchanges.

FoAM (Nik Gaffney, Maja Kuzmanovic). a network of transdisciplinary labs for speculative culture. It is inhabited by people with diverse skills and interests – from arts, science, technology, entrepreneurship, cooking, design and gardening. It is a generalists’ community of practice working at the interstices of contrasting disciplines and worldviews. Guided by our motto "grow your own worlds," we study and prototype possible futures, while remaining firmly rooted in cultural traditions. We speculate about the future by modelling it in artistic experiments that allow alternative perspectives to emerge. By conducting these experiments in the public sphere, we invite conversations and participation of people from diverse walks of life.

Draft program

Monday 31 August

  • 16:00 Arrivals and set-up
  • 17:00 Discussion, talks

Tuesday 1 September

  • 10:00 - 12:00 Promiscuous Pipelines conversations
  • 13:30 - 18:00 Development

Wednesday 2 September

  • 10:00 - 12:00 Promiscuous Pipelines conversations
  • 13:30 - 18:00 Development

Thursday 3 September

  • 10:00 - 12:00 Promiscuous Pipelines conversations
  • 13:30 - 18:00 Development

Friday 4 September

  • 10:00 Excursion to the sewer museum
  • 17:00 foAM Apéro / presentations / discussion

Saturday 5 September

  • 11:00 - 13:00 Talks
  • 14:00 – 18:00 Development