Van Eyck, through a scanner darkly (Part I)

Art and intermediation (after COVID): rethinking the digital and the virtual

24 November 2021, De Studio Antwerpen

Seminar in context of DARIAH project, organized by ARIA and Graindelavoix

Screenshot 2021-10-24 at 18.02.40.png

Covid forced artists to radically change art and medium strategies if they didn’t want to perish. It also radicalized issues of distance and nearness in art and experience.

Parallel to this, investing in digitization as a process of scanning and mapping, backed up by public disclosure and immersive experiences, becomes increasingly important in the humanities, art and museal studies. But to what extent is this so-called scientific and cognitive approach contributing to, or rather replacing art critique and reflection?

Graindelavoix’s film VAN EYCK DIAGRAMS offers a number of themes on which we reflect in this seminar, including the difference between the digital and the virtual in art and music, the role and impact of digital humanities, and the nature of intermediation in art. Can digitization bring us nearer to artworks? How are social interactions affected by the digital screen? What is the impact of digital mediation on art and music? Can immersive experiences replace interpretive strategies to relate to artworks?

“What does a scanner see? he asked himself. I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner like they used to use or a cube-type holo-scanner like they use these days, the latest thing, see into me - into us - clearly or darkly? I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can't any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners do better. Because, he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we'll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too…”

(From A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick)

Interventions by:

  • Annet Dekker (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
  • Björn Schmelzer (Graindelavoix)
  • Anthony Longo (UAntwerpen)
  • Moderated by Marlies De Munck (UAntwerpen)


De Studio, Maarschalk Gerardstraat 4, 2000 Antwerpen, 16:00 - 18:00

Participation is free, but registration is required. Sandwiches and drinks will be provided between 18:00 and 19:00 for registered participants of the seminar.

Please note
 that this will be a  covid-safe event.

Film: Van Eyck Diagrams

The legacy of Gerard Van Den Acker, art historian (Björn Schmelzer & Graindelavoix)

24 November 2021, De Studio Antwerpen

Live film screening (hosted by De Cinema Antwerp)

  • 19:15 Introduction by Björn Schmelzer (Graindelavoix)
  • 20:00 Film screening

On the occasion of the Van Eyck year, Björn Schmelzer and GRAINDELAVOIX created a music theatre performance as a salute to the life and work of their faithful friend Gerard Van den Acker, whose untimely death brought an abrupt end to a promising and startling Van Eyck research. The corona crisis changed VAN EYCK DIAGRAMS in a feature film, not only as a critical tribute to Van Eyck's universe and to his visionary interpreter, but also as an evocation of the struggle artists have to fight to be heard, seen and understood. Polyphony portrait, art historical documentary, philosophical film noir or Flemish Covid comedy? VAN EYCK DIAGRAMS is probably a bit of all that.


De Studio, Maarschalk Gerardstraat 4, 2000 Antwerpen, 19:15


€7 (standard) / €5 (reduction -26/+60/ vrienden van het Muhka)

Please note that this will be a covid-safe event.

Watch the trailers

Trailer 1

Trailer 2

Van Eyck, through a scanner darkly (Part II)

Responses to the film ‘Van Eyck diagrams’ (Graindelavoix)

25 November 2021, online event

Lecture-talks and Q&A, moderated by Marlies De Munck (UAntwerpen)

The film VAN EYCK DIAGRAMS by Björn Schmelzer and Graindelavoix was made in a short period of time and with almost no budget or preparation, after the cancellation, due to Covid, of the music theatre production with the same name. The primary goal was to save some of the coproduction money and reduce the increasing financial losses. Originally planned to première in Spring 2021 in Hanover, Amsterdam and Ghent, the original play was quickly transformed into a filmscript with a hybrid character, between documentary and comedy, engaging mostly non-professional actors, be it almost all artists, who appear in an often improvisatory acting style.

However, the change of medium gave the opportunity to add more layers and frames to the original content: a critique on the exploitation of patrimony and art of the past, such as the work of Van Eyck, for neoliberal and nationalist purposes. New layers deconstruct the popular and ubiquitous notion of immersive experience, and lament the downfall of serious interpretative engagement in art and art theory, embodied in the forgotten figure of Gerard Van den Acker.

Van Eyck’s artistry and art production has been reduced to a sort of elitist hyper-realism that functioned as status symbol for his contemporary patrons and buyers, and nowadays to visual virtuoso technicality, equivalent to actual high tech reality simulation. Despite all failure and farce, VAN EYCK DIAGRAMS points at a completely different, subversive and bewildering modernity of Van Eyck’s works, articulating not so much scientific positive knowledge and mastery of reality, but the experience of the crack in and incompleteness of reality itself.

The two speakers in this symposium will shed their own light on the issues and contradictions evoked by the film: art and the problem of distance and nearness, immersivity and interpassivity, Covid and comedy, Van Eyck research between digitization, blow-up and punctum, the neoliberal exploitation of history, art and patrimony, art historical interpretation versus immersive experience, art and historicism, artistic productivity and negation.


  • Introduction by Björn Schmelzer
  • Lectures by Robert Pfaller (Universität für künstlerische und industrielle Gestaltung Linz), and Pascal Gielen (UAntwerpen)
  • Online Q&A, moderated by Marlies De Munck

Livestream - 20:00 - 22:00​

No registration needed

Annet Dekker

Annet Dekker is a curator and researcher. She is Assistant Professor Media Studies: Archival and Information Studies at the University of Amsterdam and Visiting Professor and co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image at London South Bank University. She has previously been Researcher Digital Preservation at Tate, London, core tutor at Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam and Fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam. She has published in numerous collections and journals and is the editor of several volumes, including Lost and Living [in] Archives. Collectively Shaping New Memories (Valiz 2017), and Curating Digital ArtFrom Presenting and Collecting Digital Art to Networked Co-curation (Valiz 2021).

Anthony Longo

Anthony Longo is a doctoral researcher in philosophy at the University of Antwerp and funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), where he is currently examining the digital transformation of the public sphere. He is also co-founder of non-profit organisation “De Virtuele Mens vzw” (“The Virtual Human”), a philosophical platform that stimulates critical reflection of digitization and develops practical tools to deal with digital media in a critical, safe and meaningful way.

Björn Schmelzer

Björn Schmelzer studied anthropology and works as a musician, artist and writer. He is director of Antwerp based international ensemble Graindelavoix, producing almost 20 internationally awarded CDs and several books, films, exhibitions and installations.

Robert Pfaller

Robert Pfaller is an Austrian philosopher and one of the most notable German theoreticians today. He is professor at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz and is a founding member of the Viennese psychoanalytic research group “stuzzicadenti”. He is the author of numerous influential and well-read books on the philosophy of culture and everyday life. On a global level, he is most famous for his concept of interpassivity.

Pascal Gielen

Pascal Gielen is full professor of sociology of culture and politics at the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (Antwerp University), where he leads the Culture Commons Quest Office (CCQO). Gielen is editor of the international book series Antennae - Arts in Society (Valiz). In 2016 he became laureate of the Odysseus grant for excellent international scientific research of the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders in Belgium.

Marlies De Munck

Marlies De Munck is a philosopher of culture. She teaches aesthetics and philosophy of music at the Antwerp University (Belgium). At the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (ARIA) she conducts research into the production and reception of artistic meaning. She is author of several essays on art and music.

This work has been supported by the DARIAH ERIC