Going into this workshops and the readings I have one question for myself: how can I use visual diagrammatic thinking at the mid and later stages of my research project, when the practice which leads my research is itself visual -image making? Is making or can I avoid making visual diagrams that are redundant or do not blur information and intent, detract from the visual images of the research, or make the research less comprehensible?
In the early stages of my research I made a few visual diagrams of the ideas and concepts of others as a means of communicating to myself what those ideas ‘look like’. I developed a visual analogy of my research to that of an Everlasting Gobstopper and made a diagram and a watercolor - the image on the homepage of my research website. Over the past 18 months I have occasionally returned to all of these diagrams as a means to refocus, re-orient, and address anew my research.
Occasionally, more during my reading and writing than in periods of image making, I return to a practice of writing/drawing out ideas and concepts as syllogisms. This practice stems from the period I studied philosophy at the University of Karlsruhe [KIT] in my mid-20s. I became fascinated with syllogistics, believing if I could step back and reduce something using this very basic form of analysis I could then move the idea I was working on in my studio forward in a clearer way. I tried applying this to my painting process at the time and still use it now and again as a means to work my way out of a corner I might find myself in. It is extremely rare that I use this as a means, a source, a starting point to create a diagram of my research/work for others.
Another form of diagramming I have used for a very long time - since about the age of 9 when attending experimental, alternative schools in the 1970s the mode of teaching was curriculum-less, having the students develop their own ‘curriculum’ by choosing a topic to research and then creating a mind map (we called them ‘webs) of the research questions and project. I still sketch out webs or mind maps on anything from a small scrap to a huge sheet of paper, sometimes I even refine the sketch on my computer. But like the syllogisms I use this means of diagramming as a tool for myself rather than to create a tool for others to use to engage with my research.
What I am looking for in this workshop, through the readings, discussion, and exercises, is a means for applying diagrammatic processes to mid and later stages of research projects as a means of aiding others, not just myself, in accessing the work.
Manuel De Landa, Deleuze, Diagrams, and the Genesis of Form
I was not really aware of how Deleuze arrived at his (and Guattari’s) approach to diagrammatic thinking other than realizing of the two he was coming from a more scientific/mathematical place than Guattari. This is possibly what has kept me from taking a closer look at Deleuze and diagrams, a belief that he was primarily addressing scientists and engineers and I was unable to find the door that opened this way of thinking to the arts and humanities -even though Deleuze came to this via Bergson who was addressing the scientists to take a cue from the arts.
What I do find interesting in the opening part of this essay is the idea that the form is generated from within the problem/idea/concept; similar to the understanding of the present as containing both the past and the future, in turn containing infinite possibilities. The sentence, “The virtual possess the reality of a task to be performed or a problem to be solved.” resonated with me as it directly relates to how I generate work out work via my painting process. Each work contains the forms from which the next work will emerge; it is a process of repetition but not copying as each subsequent work is unique and yet a fragment of a infinite whole.
I found it interesting that De Landa removes Deleuze from the arena of postmodernism, or at least ‘postmodern linguistic relativism’. I am not quite sure I accept his reasoning; I don’t think being a ‘realist philosopher’ excludes Deleuze from this realm as I don’t believe the realm has such boundaries to exclude.
Important for me to remember:
“...in his definition of diagram Deleuze distinguishes between matter and substance and between function and form. … While substance is a formed material, the matter that enters into a diagram is “matter-content having only degrees of intensity, resistance, conductivity, heating, stretching, speed, or tardiness.” In other words, it is any material far-from-equilibrium, and with access to the same reservoir of immanent, morphogenetic resources. On the other hand, the vector or tensor field that constitutes a phase space diagram - …- is a useful image for a diagrammatic function without a definite form,”
Self-consistent aggregates (rhizomes) [meshworks]
In previous readings of this I always found it difficult to place my research in either one or the other. There is definitely something rhizomatic about my process but the layers that are built and revealed are also very much strata. It was reassuring to me to read De Landa’s words that neither occur in pure form and are generally mixtures or hybrids; and “Hence, it is better to picture this dichotomy as a continuum, characterized at one end by the most hierarchical, stratified structures and at the other end by pure, intense matter at its limits of destratification, that is, the plane of consistency.”
“We cannot, however, content ourselves with a dualism between the plane of consistency and its diagrams and abstract machines on the one hand, and the strata and their programs and concrete assemblages on the other. Abstract machines do not exist only on the plane of consistency, upon which they develop diagrams; they are already present, enveloped or “encased” in the strata in general … Thus these are two complementary movements, one by which abstract machines work the strata and are constantly setting things loose, another by which they are effectively stratified, effectively captured by the strata.”
“... the actualization of the virtual ...”
Not about problem-solving but problem-posing … it seems fitting that the snippet of the next text begins with Duchamp and hanging in front of my computer where I read and write this is a postcard, in German, with Duchamp’s famous quote:
“Es gibt keine Lösung, weil es kein Problem gibt.”
In other words, how could one solve problems if there are no problems to solve? One must pose the problems …
Simon O’Sullivan, On the Diagram (and a Practice of Diagrammatics)
I found I was able to relate to this text on the diagram in a way I have not been able to otherwise. Perhaps because it is more in line with how I have used diagrammatics for myself in understanding what it is I am doing/saying or trying to do/say. On the other hand, although the author is addressing diagrammatics “as a form of expanded aesthetic practice” I was still unable to take diagramming for myself this far. To me it is still too close to simply drawing, which is itself an important part of my practice, in order to differentiate the two. This brings me to questioning why might I need to see diagramming and drawing as separate? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to my research practice to put the elements that might be vital to the diagramming into the drawing/images themselves? Is it because the process of my image making is a process of abstraction that this makes it more difficult for me to separate drawing and diagramming?
The Lacanian idea of understanding the diagram as having the ability to communicate without meaning does not help me resolve this relationship between drawing and diagramming, nor does it enable me to see other parts of my practice - for instance the writing, the postings on my website, etc - as diagrams, although I suppose if diagrams “short-circuit the discursive” all these parts could be taken as such. But then the diagrams I would need to make would be further abstractions of abstractions, which through my process are always abstractions of abstractions. Does this mean that my process is in itself a diagrammatic process? Would this mean that it is correct to describe my methodology as diagrammatic?
The following paragraph leads me to think this could be an apt means of describing the methodology of my painting practice.
“The diagram here is a strategy of experimentation that scrambles narrative, figuration -the givens- and allows something else, at last, to step forward. This is the production of the unknown from within the known, the unseen from within the seen. The diagram, we might say, is a strategy of sidestepping intention from within intention; it involves the production of something that then “speaks back” to its progenitor.”
The notion that diagrams “can offer a kind of ‘view from elsewhere’ “also resonates with my research in the sense that through my process and the application of personas-as-tools in my painting practice I am always searching for a ‘view from elsewhere’ of the painter, of the painting, of the spectator… Further, the sentence “A diagram, especially as drawing, often leads ahead of conceptual thought.” serves as a good argument for the practice-led research of a visual art making practice to be grounded, at least partly, in a diagrammatic methodology.
“One strategy to allow for this change in vision is to draw concepts (as diagrams) and then, perhaps, to allow the drawing itself to suggest further avenues of exploration.” This is what I am doing however, I have not considered the concepts I am starting with in the process of ‘drawing out’ as diagrams. I am not convinced that calling them diagrams would make them or the concept explored more accessible to the spectators.
Finally, “Might this diagrammatics also involve a different take on relations among the past, present, and future?” Certainly. If all are contained within each image - drawing or diagram - then it becomes clear that from the point of view we are looking from even the other points of view remain open and accessible to us.
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (quotes)
Maybe the difference between drawing and diagram is “A diagram has neither substance nor form, neither content nor expression.”? Okay … the first quote has done nothing to help me find what I am looking for here…
In the second quote the idea expressed that an abstract machine produces continuums sort of directs me back to the idea expressed at the end of the previous text of diagrammatics presenting a different take on the relationship between past, present and future. “The diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality.” If it is an Absolute operating within a continuum does this make the diagram a finite construct within an infinite possible?
Dean Kenning, Thinking through Art: the Social Body Mind Maps
This was the only one of the recommended readings I have looked at prior to the workshop. As an exercise I can see where it would be good to use with people in a stage of their practice where they have begun making ‘things’ but have not yet figured out the whats and whys contained within the things they are making - i.e. post-foundation level undergraduates, first year MFAs. In many ways I can see how I take this approach in a less formalized way in my own practice, but I do not currently see the need or desire (or feel I am at a point where taking the time to add this step to my practice) would be useful. I will keep it in mind for future use either in my teaching or if I ever feel myself ‘stuck’ and looking for another way of looking at what it is I am doing.