What we have learnt about diagrams…

February 25, 2012

The concept of the diagram that Gilles Deleuze introduces in his book, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, is not the kind of diagram we are necessarily familiar with in the discipline of architecture, though it is related. The diagram described by Deleuze in relation to Bacon’s work is like a strategy or action. It may instead be called ‘diagrammatic’ to offer it a verbal rather than substantive sense, which is to say, the diagram is less a thing than an action. The dynamic, sometimes violent act of diagramming allows for a kind of thinking in action that the architectural designer would recognize, sketching out an idea that takes shape somewhere between their intentions and what erupts on the page (or upon the interface of the computer screen). Deleuze goes further and suggests that the diagram first needs to erase clichés, or all the preconceived ideas we bring along with us, so that we can instead offer up visions of new kinds of worlds. On the other hand, both Deleuze and Guattari assert in What is Philosophy? that novel concepts never arrive out of nothing or from nowhere, but are instead produced through the recombinations of past concepts…Deleuze and Guattari are wary of asserting that the emergence of new worlds or ideas arrive suddenly from nowhere.

Diagrams, according to Deleuze, are also supposed to be non-representative. They do not refer to something beyond themselves, they are not like the relation between an architectural plan and a constructed apartment block, where the plan ‘represents’ the organization of the building.

Diagrams are also not illustrations, which are like another form of representation that can help in the visual or conceptual explanation of something, but which do not generate new knowledge or modes of engaging in a world. ‘Not to render the visible but to render visible.’

Diagrams are also not about narration, or about telling a story that has been told many times before.

As was asked by Jenny in our seminar, why does Deleuze seem to privilege the new or the novel? It seems that through the diagram or act of diagramming what is desired is the ’emergence of another world’, a ‘future yet to come’, a ‘new people’ which is to suggest that this world is not good enough. Here is perhaps where we must turn to what Sara has called Deleuze’s ‘metaphysics’. What underlies Deleuze’s system of thought, as the philosopher himself reveals in his essays on Francis Bacon, is some vital force, some underlying rhythm that animates sensation, that drives the emergence of affects, percepts, concepts. A potentiality of perpetual becoming, the logic of which is ongoing differentiation; a continuous variation of a life force that is folded, unfolded, refolded through all manner of animate and inanimate matter, including human, animal, and mineral beings of sensation. Though I’m not sure that this gets us any closer to an explanation!

Hélène Frichot


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