Diversies vond plaats van 4 tot 11 december 2016 en vertrok vanuit de manier waarop versies deel uitmaken van de dagelijkse software-praktijk. Met 35 deelnemers onderzochten we hoe we naast het gebruikelijke verhaal over samenwerking en consensus, ook divergerende vormen van geschiedschrijving mogelijk kunnen maken door plaats te bieden aan verschil. Deze sessie van een week werd georganiseerd door Constant samen met het Koninklijk Museum voor Kunst en Geschiedenis in Brussel.


Manieren om variatie en verscheidenheid te omarmen

In het archief met Emile Van Binnebeke

Eind 2016 was het Museum net als alle andere federale musea in België in de laatste fase van de digitalisering van haar zeer diverse collectie: ongeveer 330.000 voorwerpen, waaronder kleitabletten, wandtapijten, mummies, antieke juwelen, vazen en munten werden geïnventariseerd. De concrete praktijken van kunstgeschiedenis en digitalisering brachten we in verband met de reflecties, prototypes en andere experimenten die tijdens de werksessie ontstonden. Version-control systemen, Wiki’s, Etherpads en andere digitale productie-gereedschappen slaan routineus logbestanden en ’diffs’ op. Ze creëren een technologische context waarbinnen het lineaire verband tussen origineel en kopie verandert, en waar vragen over auteurschap en het archief opnieuw gedefinieerd kunnen worden. De zorgvuldig bewaarde workflows beloven het proces van gedeelde redactie transparant te maken, doordat je elke actie op elk moment kan terugdraaien of herhalen, en fouten of ongewenste bijdragen kan corrigeren. Maar welke vormen van alternatieve collectiviteit maken ze daadwerkelijk mogelijk? Hoe kunnen we gebruikmaken van al die de tijdlijnen, geschiedenissen en sporen, niet alleen om productiviteit te garanderen, maar ook om een manier te vinden om variatie en verscheidenheid te omarmen?


De werksessie bracht reflecties en experimenten samen rond collaboratieve praktijken, actieve archieven en vrije software; onderwerpen die al lang op de agenda van Constant staan. Door in te gaan op situaties waarin digitale data op temporele en sociale dimensies inwerken, onderzocht Diversies de mogelijkheden voor divergentie binnen een technologische infrastructuur. We experimenteerden met de condities voor meervoudig auteurschap (inclusief machines als auteur) en maakten expliciet plaats voor ambiguïteit. We speculeerden over digitale praktijken waarin we conflict en verandering niet hoeven te vermijden, en die kunnen omgaan met misverstanden tussen mensen en machines, machines en machines en tussen mensen onderling.
Werksessies zijn intensieve transdisciplinaire momenten die Constant twee keer per jaar organiseert. We creëren een tijdelijke werkomgeving, waar deelnemers hun verschillende soorten expertise aan elkaar kunnen koppelen om samen ideeën, prototypes en onderzoeksprojecten te ontwikkelen. We maken bij voorkeur gebruik van Free, Libre en Open Source software en van data die beschikbaar is onder een open licentie.

References + resources


Gallery + Files

Research visits and interviews

An afternoon in the museum about collaboration, divergence and the digital archive

Diversions started with an afternoon in the Royal Museum for Art and History. The program included two lectures and a performance exploring tools, processes and infrastructures that invite different and divergent histories.

Laurence Rassel

Laurence Rassel joined 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? Laurence Rassel (Brussels) is a cultural worker who can act as a curator, teacher or organizer. She was recently appointed director of the école de recherche graphique (Brussels). As director of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona, Laurence initiated Arts combinatòries, a place for education, exhibition and research situated within the archive of the institution.

Geraldine Juárez

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. Geraldine Juárez (México, Sweden) works with and across different media-technologies and its histories, stories, materials and contexts to understand how how information, knowledge and property is organized, regulated and exchanged under technological culture and within the market economy.

Christine De Smedt

Christine De Smedt performed 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 museum 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. Christine De Smedt (Brussels) is a choreographer. As a way to come to a self-portrait she created choreographic portraits of four artists who have influenced present-day contemporary dance and still do: Jonathan Burrows, Alain Platel, Xavier Le Roy and Eszter Salamon. She assumed their words and stories based on interviews about their relationships between life and work.


Four cases were brought to the table in the beginning of the worksession. They each provided food for thought, startingpoints for discussion and ideas to work with and from.

The Architecture of collective writing (Just For The Record)

Wikipedia is an interesting playground for future collective uses of the more ‘pragmatic’ archives that are developed today. If we look at Wikipedia as an enormous architecture and consider every page as an office space, with a history, discussions and a permanent stream of changes up to the most radical gesture of deleting content, we can easily get a sense of the working atmosphere of each room. Some are enjoyable spaces where respect, dialogue and negociation rule; others can be war spaces where the ‘truth’ is hold by bots correcting each other every fragment of a second; or the winning word is held by humans, amongst which the admin seems to have the most power, although it is never clear who exactly is sitting around the table, nor how the people around the table are perceived. Most women are still ‘wifes of’, or categorized as ‘men’ instead of ‘humans’. ‘Separatism’ and ‘tea house’ are words used for ‘feminist’ parallel spaces on Wikipedia. JFTR is looking for new tools that allow for interference in the atmosphere of a space, by looking f.ex. for patterns in the use of language in the talking pages, visualisation of the bots operating and what they’re made of, a thermometer to indicate atmospheres, …

One commit doesn’t make a story (Alex Leray)

Open Source Publishing is a collective of designers and programmers working with Free, Libre and Open Source tools. A few years ago, as part of their daily workflow, they started to use the versioning software tool ‘git’, and many other collaborative tools (etherpad, owncloud, …). Each of these tools has its own way of keeping archives, logs and timestamps. The result is a treasure trove of very rich and at the same time fragmented traces that could potentially tell the story of their collective design practise, but always almost, or not yet. So far OSP made several attempts to knit together these fragments into stories, bridging gaps in temporality and materiality. There is a tension between capture and narration, between automatic logs and storytelling. What should be integrated in the story? How to account for the heterogeneity of processes and data? How can the context be made (in)visible? Maybe some visualisation might help? Or other generative tools? Alex presents us some of OSP experiments on rendering their practice legible and invites us to think together about how to tell stories between a collective of people, projects and tools.

Histories of conflicts and confusions (Zeljko Blace)

Established museums and archives are currently considering to re-approach or re-label their sedimented and consolidated collections through incremental interventions (changing labels and interpretations of post-colonial artworks for example) or even they invite artists and activists for special projects (queering the van abbemuseum). Newly established initiatives are struggling with incoherence and gaps (Gay Museum in Berlin). How do we come to terms with all this? Zeljko is not only interested in how we could produce divergent histories (of minorities) through supporting different interpretations, but also in how to produce histories of conflicts and confusions and make spaces for future antagonisms and divergences. This is especially interesting when oral histories meet material ones and when artefacts (as ‘evidence’) meet artworks (as ‘subjectivities’). Their juxtaposition asks us to take unexpected confusions into consideration or even confluences of methodologies and perspectives. We could think of developing discourses that could be extrapolated from ontologies and vocabularies. He is particularly interested in participatory systems that could foster not collaboration, but contestation and multiple contextualizations in coordinated and parallel ways.

Different orders coexist (Michael Murtaugh + Nicolas Maleve)

“Computational vandalism means working with this and other qualities of computing; the capacity for repetition, speed, interpretation by combination, the layering of operations and so on. In this sense, computational vandalism works with the aesthetic, social, material and imaginal forces that are gathered as compositional terms within computing.” (Matthew Fuller in an interview with SICV, Vandalist Iconophilia). As the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism, Nicolas Malevé and Michael Murtaugh have developed a series of experiments in connection with the archives of the artists Erkki Kurenniemi, Asger Jorn and Guttom Guttorsgaard. Probing into large collections of digital and digitised collections, they employed Computer Vision algorithms as interlocutors, to explore alternative interpretations, different orderings and seeing through other eyes. The images started to masquerade as text, and texts start to behave as images. For DiVersions, Michael and Nicolas turned the SICV toolkit onto the actual files and databases of the Cinquantenaire museum itself. Working on the archive as a whole, SICV redrew relations and genealogies in the order(s) of art history.

Terms of use: opening and closing the archive

For Constant worksessions, we developed etherbox, a custom local server infrastructure for collaborative situations. During DiVersions we tested a first iteration of a ritual for the opening and closing of this temporary collective space.


Ideas, concepts and prototypes developed during the worksession.

Woman, visibility and an essay on representing women on Wikipedia – a call for action and images (Catherine Lenoble)

A reflection on possible new types of contributions on Wikipedia, filling the gap in the production of a visual culture specific to representing female personalities, and more generally, women on Wikipedia.

A Wikipedia template for conflicts and confusions (Zeljko Blace, Myriam Arsenault-Goulet)

A strategic proposal for a set of ‘progressive’ banner templates to be added to Wikipedia. One would for example allow logged-in users to call for additional voices and dynamic balancing, another to flag normativity.

DiyVersions (Lionel Broye)

A proposal to bring the collection outside the museum walls and to link the objects to different and external contexts in order to create new narratives with and around them.

Hexatic (workingtitle) (Alexandre Leray, Magnus Lawrie, Adva Zakai)

Exploring tools and processes related to software versioning such as ‘git add note’, a series of experiments with narration and editorial processes through conversation, disagreement and conflict.

Other orderings exist (Michael Murtaugh, Nicolas Maleve)

Background and forground, scraping and structured data. Computer Vision algorithms employed as interlocutors, to explore alternative interpretations, different orderings and seeing through other eyes of digital and digitised collections.

Stacks & volumes (Mia Melvaer, Phil Langley, Julie Boschat-Thorez, Michael Murtaugh, An Mertens)

Using ‘volume’ as an ordering device, Stacks & Volumes prototypes a different kind of inventory, ‘cutting across’ current categorisations and groupings.

Tracking dates / Plotting timescales (Phil Langley)

Plotting the multiple dates (acquisition, production, addition to the database) of objects in the Carmentis data base

Notation as a parasite (Cristina Cochior)

Following the description of a plugin for the image manipulation programme The Gimp as parasitic activity.

Objects made to speak / voorwerpen spreken / objets parlants I (Mia Melvaer, An Mertens)

Based on existing descriptions, this algoritm proposes new objects, to be added to the museum catalogue.

Objects made to speak / voorwerpen spreken / objets parlants II (An Mertens)

What do objects have to say, when we listen to them through the catalogue? An algorithmicly generated catalogue of “women” present in the museum catalogue.

Objects and stories in the Mesoamerican room

Could we imagine an audio-guide that whispers multiple voices into our ears? Could they tell a different story in each ear? Would they enter in conversation with each other?

Not just Pretty Ladies (Loraine Furter)

A new Wikipedia page for Pretty Ladies, detailing their problematic naming.

On goddesses, ladies and other maids (Donatella Portoghese)

A possible guided tour of some of the objects exhibited in the Mesoamerican room. It investigates in a playful way how the information we get influences our perception of the artworks. What do we communicate and what do we omit? How do we talk about women and beauty outside Western colonial parameters? What does the World Wibe Web have to tell us about these concepts?The absent context (Arianna Marcolini)Speaking from the Pretty Ladies in familiar and unfamiliar tongues to evoke absent contextsUnderneath the Goddess (Wendy Van Wynsberghe)A sound recording from under the Mesoamerican room


From the past into the future and back again. Prototyping a decolonization of the museum collection through critical observations of its digital infrastructure, and how it changed in time.

1996 vision (Gottfried Haider)

Speculative software proposal. A research into the history of the museums’ digital infrastructures and collection management systems lead to a re-imagination of the current digital collection through the tools and styles that would have been state of the art in 1996.

Printing/exporting the catalog, a geneology (Martino Monti)

A closer look at the Museum catalogues over time, their publication processes and politics, on paper and on line.

Stanley in the database (Sam Muirhead)

Re-narrating the story of Carmentis, a caring goddess in the database.

A new fire ceremony (Seda Guerses, Zoumana Meite)

A poetic proposal for a new start of the collection and its institution, moulded to not forget its own history. Inspired by an Aztec ceremony that was performed once every 52 years.

Background, foreground: differences that matter (Cristina Cochior, Nicolas Maleve, Peter Westenberg)


Experiments with the distinction between foreground and background in the digital images scraped from the museum collection’s website

A collection of incertitudes (peut-etre, maybe, sometimes, possibly, …) (Marie Lecrivain, Martin Campilo)

A query into the online catalogue following the parameter of uncertainty. How do you find doubts in the database if the “question mark” (?) is not taken in account by the search engine of Carmentis?


DiVersions worksession, 4-10 December 2016, organised by Constant in collaboration with The Museum for Art and History, Brussels. With: Adva Zakai, Alexandre Leray, André Castro, An Mertens, Arianne Marcolini, Catherine Lenoble, Cristina Cochior, Donatella Portoghese, Laurence Rassel, Femke Snelting, Christine De Smedt, Gottfried Haider, Geraldine Juárez, Julie Boschat-Thorez, Kristien Van denbrande, Lionel Broye, Loraine Furter, Magnus Lawrie, Marie Lecrivain, Martin Campilo, Martino Monti, Mia Melvaer, Michael Murtaugh, Serge Lemaitre, Sophie Balace, Emile Van Binnebeke, Saskia Willaert, Chris Vastenhoudt, Myriam Arsenault-Goulet, Nicolas Maleve, Peter Westenberg, Phil Langley, Sam Muirhead, Sarah Magnan, Seda Guerses, Wendy Van Wynsberghe, Zeljko Blace, Zoumana Meite. Video- and soundrecordings: Stefan Piat, Peter Westenberg, Wendy Van Wynsberghe. Food: Joris Vermeir, Guillaume Bernier.

License (unless otherwise noticed): FAL


In 2019, concepts, ideas and prototypes from the worksession are being further developed in the context of a collaboration with PACKED, Werkplaats Immaterieel Erfgoed, UGent and RoSa. Follow the developments here: http://diversions.constantvzw.org/wiki