Legal Performance

Published on 01/06/2009 - Games and methodologies

Co-Learning, Games, Legal, Analogies of digital, Collective learning, Communication tools

Contributors: Constant

Aim of the exercises

These three short exercises investigate permitted behaviour in public space as specified in local laws.

Every time we act according to the law, we are contributing to its confirmation, we become 'legal bodies'; trained and instructed by a law we might or might not support. Through these exercises and the issues they touch upon, we propose to reinterpret definitions of public space, to test and stretch moral and public social boundaries.

Starting from a Free Software point of view, we feel that exchange should be built on the belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute resources. Could these 'resources' also include rules and regulations for public life?

The relationship between citizens and law is mutual. We sometimes have the impression that the law is forced upon us, but social evolution implies that the current regulations have to be adapted to changing expectations of civilians concerning peace, safety and public health. Therefore, participation of civil organisations and citizens in the continuous reshaping of their (legal) environment is vital.
If we perceive the city as a network of social relations, it provides us with an excellent interconnected shared and public platform on which communication tests could be executed. Sharing of knowledge is a political process. The process of 'sharing' differs from a hierarchical knowledge distribution. It doesn't just mean copying (duplicating) knowledge, it also encloses another connotation: Sharing as in:

'Sharing a cake': Splitting, dividing, breaking up in pieces and distributing over multiple persons.

Following this, the distributed nature of shared knowledge could prevent it from being 'owned' or 'controlled' by one party. Instead: the knowledge is embodied in the network of relationships between people.

Local Specificity

Before starting the exercises contact the city council, or a police headquarters, and ask for a document in which the rights and limitations of civil behaviour are described for the location in which you are executing the exercises.

These exercises are based on local law texts in which behaviour of public space is described, so every time you choose another location you should obtain a copy of the local legislation. In EU countries, these laws are more or less comparable, but to experience the local relevance of the exercises it is important to try and be as locally specific as possible. Depending on the differences in regulations, you might have to adjust the exercises.

Case Study

The recipes as written below are fed by experiences from Routes and Routines, an ongoing performative research of the Brussels based arts and media collective Constant. Images, examples and law articles mentioned originate from a two walks in the Ixelles quarter carried out by a group of Constant affiliates. As a reference document these walks have used the police regulations on public behaviour in that neighbourhood: the Reglement General de Police D'Ixelles.

If it is not possible for you to get legal documents from your local authorities, you could use these paragraphs as example material, although this is not recommended. The whole document can be found as a pdf online, in French and Dutch.



The aim of this exercise is to experience that public norms derive from what we find to be normal or acceptable. Norms of public behaviour are not fixed, they are flexible and can be influenced. Discuss this issue after the exercise.


What is a socially acceptable level of noise an individual is allowed to produce? In police regulations concerning street noise, it is likely that you will find that the sound volume a person may produce is measured by comparing it to a 'normal' level of street noise. The question ofcourse is: what is normal.

This tends to depend on type of location and time of day: A highway produces different volumes than a residential area, normal volumes at daytime might be too perceived as too loud at night. In this exercise we control both streetnoise and individual sound. By adjusting both levels, we will experience that streetnoise is not an abstract / neutral entity, it is the culmination of (our) individual sounds.


- A Group of people is standing in the streets, carrying objects that produce noise: pots, pans, claxons, ghettoblasters, voices...
- One Person is inside, behind a closed window, a stereoinstallation within reach capable of producing loud volumes which can be heard in the street: the INDIVIDUAL.
- In clear sight of both the group and the person inside, a person is positioned: the NORMALIZER.

Normalizer controlls the volume produced by Group and Individual:
• By moving Left arm upwards, Group starts producing louder volumes.
• By moving Left arm downwards, Group starts producing less volume.
• By moving Right arm upwards, Individual starts producing louder volumes.
• By moving Right arm downwards, Individual starts producing less volume.
Practice this method a few times until it is working properly and clear to everybody.

Start exercise:
• Normalizer instructs Group to produce low level sound and hold it steady.
• Normalizer instructs Individual to produce a sound level that is just audible above the level produced by Group.
• Normalizer instructs Group to produce more sound than Individual.
• Normalizer instructs Individual to produce more sound than Group.
• Normalizer instructs Individual to produce less sound than Group.
• Normalizer instructs Group to produce less sound than Individual.
Repeat, improvise and play

Image from left to right

Individual behind window with 2 loudspeakers, Normalizer instructing Group and Individual to lower or raise their volumes, Group.

Extra material

Paragraph from the Reglement General de Police D'Ixelles summarizing the principle of relative noise:

"If they are audible in the public streets, the intensity of soundwaves produced in private properties or vehicles placed in the public streets may not exceed the level of streetnoise."
(Art. 87. Sans préjudice de la réglementation relative à la lutte contre le bruit, l'intensité des ondes sonores produites dans les propriétés privées ou dans les véhicules se trouvant sur la voie publique ne pourra, si elles sont audibles sur la voie publique, dépasser le niveau de bruit ambiant à la rue. Les infractions à la présente disposition commises à bord des véhicules seront présumées commises par leur conducteur).



This exercise deals with the issue of distributed memory. What is it that makes working and thinking in groups powerful? How is a distributed system different from a centrally organised learning system?


We draw an analogy with the system of a 'renderfarm': A network of linked computers that together contribute to execute exhaustive calculations.

The group possesses a knowledge which is larger than the knowledge posessed by each group member separately. No individual member knows what the totality consists of. The collective brain capacity present in the group is used complementarily: the knowledge stored in one memory is useless unless complemented by the memories of the other group members.

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