The Diagram and Haute Couture – Removing the Givens

February 22, 2012

“It is precisely theses givens that will be removed by the act of painting, either by being wiped, brushed, or rubbed, or else covered over. For example, a mouth: it will be elongated, stretched from one side of the head to the other. For example, the head: part of it will be cleared away with a brush, broom, sponge or rag. This is what Bacon calls a ‘graph’ or a diagram…” (1)

The application and act of removing the givens and the ‘graph’ or diagram can also be traced to other fields. In haute couture the removal, erasing, changing, bending and stretching of borders and outlines, both material and abstract, are the foundation of what defines the work. The rules and givens for what clothes should be, look like and perform are altered to create a world of sensation and fantasy.

Once there to protect us from being naked in front of the world, to shelter us from weather and wind, to optimize our functionality in everyday life now transforms into a diagrammatic form of the clothing wear we all know. The fashion diagram generates clothing made up of complex geometric shapes, sometimes impossible to move unrestricted in. It uses materials which range from folded paper to meat to chicken wire or a thousand layers of tulle and textiles so fragile they might fall apart if you try to wash them.

Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the repulsion and seduction the author tries to instil in the audience over his work is another parallel existing between the worlds of the different diagrams. The never ending pursuit for attention and reactions in haute couture, often through provocation and repulsion, and yet, at the same time the seduction through the image of utopia. So, it seems, the essence of haute couture is the removing of the givens.

“Bacon’s art is full of paradox – he both repulses and seduces his audience simultaneously. He repulses them with his shocking subject matter and his dispassionate gaze which has the detached curiosity of a scientist watching a lab rat. However, he also seduces them by the rich sensual qualities of his beautiful paint surface with its electrifying brushwork and bold expressive colour.” (2)

– Sofie Andersson



1 – Gilles Deleuze, ‘The Diagram’, in The Logic of Sensation, London: Continuum, 2003, p.100.

2 –




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