ABS – In God we trust

I am in Paramaribo to look at how different languages are used. I am particularly interested in the relation between Dutch, being the national language, and Sranan which is the language most people speak. The goal is to look at comparative cases that will help to develop new methodologies for working in between language groups in Brussels, as in for example the previous language projects Parlez-vous Saint-Gillois? and De Schaarbeekse taal. As part of my five week stay, I roam the city to note and photograph language in public space. How is language choice, variation and diversity at play in official announcements, in commercial and individual notes, in how people speak to each other?

The Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek, or ABS (General Office for Statistics) has its headquarters on the Klipstenenstraat 5 in Paramaribo. A window display visualises the workflow logics of the ABS, see the image above.
In the middle we find the logo of the ABS surrounded by the national colours of Suriname. In the left green column we have the ‘data providers’ (government, enterprises and households). The ABS inquires (enquete), their ‘responses’ are outputted to the square Suriname.
The fallen ‘distribution’ arrow, was presumably meant to indicate that information is distributed to the parties mentioned in the right hand green column, the ‘data users’ (students, government, unions, enterprises, individuals, organisations) Their wishes are uttered to the Suriname square, critique is funneled back to ABS, which completes the circle.
Then the data and wishes that were put into the square are collected, analysed, processed and published. Prove of this is a selection of the publications of the ABS that are displayed underneath the graphics.

A slogan pasted on the window itself reads:

Better Data for Better Lives.

The Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek in Suriname is a ‘continuously learning organisation that effectively functions as coordinator and important producer of adequate statistics inside the National Statistic Sytem of the Republic of Suriname.
Its mission is to supply the Surinamese and international community with sound statistics that give insight in the demographical, economical and socio-cultural situation and developments in Suriname.
Its core values are: Servitude, impartiality, expertise, integrity, quality, team-spirit. All this under the beautiful motto:

Statistical Thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write.

(after H.G. Wells)

Translated from the ‘vision and mission’ page of the ABS

The name of the bureau as can be read on the facade of the building is headed with the words “In God we trust“. The combination between religious faith and a statistics institute might not seem the most obvious. But much is explained when one reads the news feed on the ABS website. A small report records the ‘sober commemoration’ of its 70 years existence. Here’s a translation:

On Januari 1 2017, the Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek (ABS) existed for 70 years. Because of the precarious situation, the 70th birthday of the ABS has passed almost unnoticed. The planned commemorative activities have in any case been started in suitable manner by a ceremony with the ABS personnel in the meeting room of the ABS on January 5 2017. The ceremony has been made possible by the spontaneous donations pf the employees of the ABS and their families.

During these commemorative ceremonies three religious leaders have begged the Almighty to bless our beloved statistics office. In their pleas all three spiritual leaders have emphasised the importance of a Statistics Office and of good, reliable statistics for among others policy ends.
They pointed out that the ABS has to provide the Surinamese and international community with sound statistics about Suriname, but that this service is threatened by the financial economic situation in our land.

This task of the Office is indeed continuously made difficult by the late transfers of the delimited subsidies.
Despite this situation, the majority at the ABS is continuing to do their best.
It stays important to stimulate the awareness for qualitative good (among others: relevant, reliable, up to date and punctual) statistics. In his speech, the director made clear that the ABS, thanks to the Almighty, despite all the problems, has for the larger part remained able to continue and he expressed his admiration for the employees.

We hope that the begged blessing of the clergymen will be a beginning of better times for the ABS concerning the granting of subsidies and more specific concerning the factual payment of subsidies.


Director Iwan Sno of the ABS together with the three spiritual leaders: (left to right) Imam Sastra, Pandita Baldew-Malhoe and Bishop Karel Choennie.

Demon on off

This light-piece is adding drama to the implicit and restrained art deco style of the Sainctelette bridge between Molenbeek and the center of Brussels. The general lighting of the whole bridge is quite sober. The four demon faces on the inner side of the bridges pillars are lit from below which creates an eery atmosphere, but rather of the cliché kind. One of the faces is now lit in a fast paste tempo that puts some nervous spice in the bridge’s nightly existence.

The work is on view since 2014. I still need to work on installing a sign with motivation, background info and credits.

Demon relief in context of the bridge pillar and surroundings.

Metal box containing light fittings

In 2009, when the general LED lighting was provided, Phillips together with Brussels minister for mobility and public works Pascal Smets were proud to announce on the Phillips Newscenter website that the electricity consumption of the new LEDs was “less then the consumption of three vacuum cleaners”.
(In case the site is down or no longer available, I pasted that news in a PDF file which you can read here.)

The information panel next to the bridge reads:

Sainctelette square takes its name from Charles Xavier Sainctelette (1825 – 1898), a liberal politician, an industrialist who was linked to coal merchants in Hainaut and a staunch defender of the Port of Brussels. It dominates the junction between the Willebroek Canal (16th century) and the Chareleroi Canal (1832), two waterways that are complementary but that have distinct histories.

The bridge was built in 1934 by the architect Victor Rogister, and is framed by four large idealised human figures made from blue stone by the sculptor Ernest Wijnants. They are in the Art Deco style, thereby demonstrating one of the styles showcased during the Brussels International exhibition of 1935.

(port.brussels / visit.brussels)

The central theme of the world exhibition was colonisation and the 50th birthday of Congo-Freestate. (the Belgian colony) The style of the bridge is very much in keeping with that of the Exhibition Palace on the Heysel, or even the Basilic of Koekelberg which is further up the road. Typical projects built with money from the colonies.

Creative Politics

Between 6 and 15 october, I participated in a residency organised by LCD lab in Guimarães Portugal focussing on the theme Creative Politics. The participating hackers, artists, theoreticians, developers, designers tackled many ideas in small groups, and some more ideas were being discussed over diners and after hours.

A few axis that dominated our work during the residency:
– Much work was done on the development of digital works and platform. A scenario and demo of an online game was developed in which the player is attributed points helping him or her to succeed as a ‘political manager’
– Thought was dedicated to how to set up strategies to ‘market’ political engagement; how to involve people in the somewhat unsexy work of politics? What about songifying your messages ? (or Rapify if that is your preferred Android app)
– Some people investigated citizen journalism and alternative ways to use information resources. Comparitive News looked at how trustworthy journalistic sources are by comparing news on the same subjects from different resources. Some paperware systematics were drawn for a method to harvest and publish spoken gossip from public places where citizens gather.
– The work on available resources extended to urban space: what basic needs can be provided for when using the city creatively ? Where to find free food and housing ? How can people appropriate hack and shortcut political decision making processes that determine hat can and can not be done in public space? This page served as a collection of interventions and test.
– Yet another related angle was to investigate open data in Portugal. A blog was set up to gather links and report on developments concerning open data.

A much more elaborate version of the above can be found on this etherpad page: http://meetingwords.com/pOAGlGlpEU

Motion: Left Middle Right

videofile: http://video.constantvzw.org/R+R_divers/webfilm.ogv

A follow up test with the motion software: Three connected camera’s (picture will follow) pointing the same direction, recording simultaneously.
offcourse: bad quality (added another cheap webcam to my collection)

Issues to be looked into: the camera’s are not recording same amount of frames which causes sync problems.

Motion front = back

videofile: http://video.constantvzw.org/R+R_divers/testout2.ogv

Two camera’s record in opposite directions: If one looks up, the other looks down. I am playing around with Motion, a software made for surveillance. It seems an easy way to connect multiple usb camera’s and control their behaviour through a simple interface. Motion works with config files. As is explained in this manual; motion needs one general configuration file (motion.conf) from which you point to one configuration file per camera. (through so called ‘threads’) Here are mine (camera left, camera right, general)
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Compass recordings

Three audio files, recorded and mixed using the Compass recorder software and a game controller.
The set up allows to navigate a file structure and play back files while adding new recordings to the mix. This means: no post-mixing in a studio, but looping while walking the streets.

It also means that the audio below is quite rough: mono, recorded on a usb webcam hanging from my backpack in which my laptop is overheating to power the process.

The first on is recorded during a walk through the Brabantstraat, a busy shopping street in Schaarbeek.
The mix is in paste with my walking tempo. Trying to move on and not be obstructed by cars, pedestrians and lots of derivations. 1, 2, 3, 4 …

The following one is recorded in another corner of Schaarbeek, between square Pavillion and Place Verboeckhoven. Although the method is the same, the sounds are very different. Post-industrial, less people, edge off the city sounds.

On Place du Jeu de Balle you can’t really walk, you strawl, stand still linger, hang, turn in circles.
I tried to make that part of the way the mix is made. Less forwarding, more coming back to the same point over and over.

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People make the city

Seen in Crooswijk, Rotterdam:
A panel with instructions how to behave in the neighbourhood.

People make the city
Header: “Inhabitants of the Rechter Rottekade” (street)
* We greet each other
* We welcome new residents
* We maintain our gardens
* We resolve differences of opinion
* We take part in activities for young and old
* Our street is quiet after 22:00
… and we keep each other to these rules