Constant, Participatory methods in Object Score Notation by mapit
Used kit: Media Arts Practice
Project: Object Score Notation
Organisation: Constant, Brussels – B
Moderator: Thomas Laureyssens, Priscilla Machils, Kim de Bisschop
Constant is a non-profit association, based and active in Brussels since 1997 in the fields of feminism, copyright alternatives and working through networks. Constant develops radio, electronic music and database projects, by means of migrating from cultural work to work places and back again. Constant has an interdisciplinary approach to explore the media and art fields. The artistic practice of Constant is inspired by how technological infrastructures, data-exchange software determine our daily lives. For more information, see: http://www.constantvzw.org/site/.
On 15th of December 2008, the research group Social Spaces organized a mapping session with Constant. During the mapping, they took a look at Constant’s project “Object Score Notation” (OSN), a series of workshops concerning notation systems, writing and rewriting. OSN is programmed and designed by artist Simon Yuill in collaboration with artist Kirsty Stansfield. Later, it was further developed for the performance-project Kaleidoscope. The production was done by Mangrove-Tentactile, Constant vzw, La Communauté Française/Arts Numériques, De Pianofabriek KWP, La Raffinerie and Maison de La Bellone. The goal of the workshops was to explore the relation between software and spectacle, the borders of physical space as a meaningful frame and collective authorship. The aim was to create a system of drawing, based on everyday objects and gestures that would be available for adaptations online after a period of testing. The code and the different applications of the software were published online with an accessible explanation and a DIY-guide. OSN succeeds in offering a tool to create alternative ‘experiences’ not only in but also beyond performance environments. The examples of possible applications of the tool, like in Kaleidoscope, can inspire online publics, policy and technology organisations to create their own open and imaginative hybrid objects with the tool, triggering participation by others.
Download a high resolution map here.
The introduction to this mapping resembled the introduction to the mapping at FoAM, a few days earlier. For this mapping too, a predecessor of the ‘multitouch table’, chalk paper and the mapping icons were used. After an explanation of the mapping and after setting up the materials, the actual mapping started. This mapping was one in a series of mapping of media art and design organisations in 2008-2009 (being Constant vzw, FoAM, Frederik De Wilde and Thomas Lomée). These were mainly done by Priscilla Machils, Kim De Bisschop, Jon Stam, Thomas Laureyssens and Liesbeth Huybrechts. Kim was a student, writing her thesis at the University of Brussel (VUB) in collaboration with the Media & Design Academy (association K.U.Leuven). Participants in the mapping were An Mertens, Femke Snelting (present live), Simon Yuill en Kirsty Stansfield (present online) (Constant vzw).
Usually a project is divided in four phases: concept development (1), preparation of the project (2), the day itself (3) and the output of the project (4). It became clear that the project “Object Score Notation” was realized in the following four steps.
- The first phase (or conceptual phase) involved the development of the concept;
- The second phase was the preparative phase and entailed activities such as planning and communicating with the partners and the participants;
- The third phase was the actual workshop (including matters such as scheduling)
- Finally, the last phase concerned the output of the workshop (the results).
For each phase, the participants used one sheet of chalk paper. They put the four sheets on top of each other, what allowed them to map and analyze the evolution of the project over time.
The first phase lasted for about five months. However, the participants did not consider the phase as having a fixed time span. The realization of the project entailed conceptual elements during all the four phases. The key people involved in this first phase were Bettina Knaup, Laurence and Femke of Constant, artists Simon Yull and Kirsty Stansfield, Elke Van Campenhout, Leen, Helga & Peter Stamer (all involved with “Advanced Performance Training (APT)”: an experimental education for people interested in performance at the Posthogeschool voor Podiumkunsten (Popok) in Antwerp) and others. The mapping of this phase consisted mainly of describing the contact and communication that took place between the parties involved. It described which phonecalls, meetings and e-mails were needed for getting the key people involved in the project. An example of this is how Elke (involved with APT, which not yet existed by then) contacted Constant and planned a meeting to talk about (the future of) APT.
The second (preparative) phase lasted about three months and the participants of the mapping called it an “okay, let’s continue with this!”-phase. The key people of this phase were the same as those of the previous one. During this phase, a meeting at De Singel was organized to announce the start-up of APT and to let every one get to know each other. The selection of participants for the up-coming workshop was done by Elke. The participants mainly consisted of students of APT and some external people. An important issue in this part of the process was the discussion on openess and open processes. This part of the mapping was characterized by a lot of communication: for example, Helga tried to take care of the materials and the technical support via De Singel. For almost two months, this required a lot of communication by phone and via face-to-face communication. The collaboration with De Singel eventually failed; the participants symbolised this by using an icon of a broken, torn line.
The phase of the actual workshop lasted for 15 days. The key people involved Bettina, Wendy, Femke, Elke, Peter, the participants (such as Kim, Sara and Klaas), Simon, Kirsty and others. In this phase, Didier (who let Simon and Kirsty make use of his house) is added to the key people. The participants indicated this by using a thin, dotted line. Laurent Thurin is also an addition to the list of key people: he worked for Constant and took pictures during the workshop event. The participants pointed out that there were five distinctive tasks or moments during this phase:
- The first moment (which the participants called “moment 0” was the workshop by Simon and Kirsty at APT. This workshop (which included the presentation of a video and a mapping) functioned more or less as a theoretical preparation for the actual workshop;
- The second moment or task was the preparation of the actual workshop on location (at Les Bains). This entailed building up and thinking about the technical matters. Here, Simon, Kirsty, Wendy, Femke, Luea and a technician of Les Bains were involved;
- The actual workshop in Les Bains was the next moment which the participants pointed out. This lasted for four days and involved key people such as the participants, the public and the people of APT. Communication that took place here was in the form of face-to-face communication, physical experimentation by dance, the presentation of a video and chats during lunch and coffee-breaks;
- The fourth moment was a public moment where Simon did a presentation on his activities. This moment entailed the public as key people which was contacted by e-mail (via a mailinglist);
- The final moment concerned the experimentation with OSN by the public. After the experimentation, there was a network moment where people could have a drink at the bar.
Key people involved in the final phase, which entailed the results of the workshop, were Laurence and Femke. This phase lead to a website, on which texts, video- and audio, photo’s, descriptions, links and interviews were posted. It also featured a weblog. APT was not involved but was briefed on the progress of the site. The website was also presented to Leen, Elke, Helga, Peter and the participants. In short, the output of the workshops consisted of two parts: first, the disclosure of the results online plays a role here. The website is more an inventory than it is an actual website. This is one of the reasons why this final phase took for over a year. Second, the debriefing plays an important part in this phase as well. APT was informed on the development of the website concerning technical, financial and content-related matters. During this part of the mapping, the participants also had an elaborate discussion on software and tools.The mapping session showed interesting results not only on how Constant’s project “Object Score Notation” came into being but on how it evolved over time as well. The crucial process of debriefing and reflecting on past projects is often skipped, mainly because of time and money issues in organizations. However, the mapping at Constant is a nice example how MAP-it can be a perfect debriefing and reflecting instrument for (past) projects. The results of the mapping were not only useful for Constant (they were able to get a better understanding of this past project, which might benefit them in future projects); they were also an important input for Kim de Bisschop’s thesis on instruments and tools for e-culture creations (called: Inventarisatie en casestudies van instrumenten en tools inzake e-cultuurcreaties).