DIAGRAMS AND ART HISTORY lit 690: diagrammatology - Emilio taiveaho

Buchloh, Benjamin. "Hesse's Endgame: Facing the Diagram" (2006).

Marcel Duchamp, Réseaux des stoppages (Network of Stoppages) (1914).

Duchamp's Network of Stoppages signals the appearance of a "new typology of drawing" ("the order of the diagrammatic"), an epistemic break emerging from the post-Cubist dialectical opposition between the "authentic corporeal trace" (the body/interiority) and the "externally established matrix" (power/the outside).

P. 117: "The avant-garde of abstraction wanted to celebrate its “victory over the sun” (to borrow the title of the Suprematist opera)—its defeat of traditional theories of representation, which had implicitly assumed meaning’s dependence on an originary source or epiphany, which is to say, on light—and its vision of a hierarchical order of transcendental power that considered representation by itself to be merely a secondary reflection or shadow of that originary ideal. By contrast, Duchamp’s Network of Stoppages proclaimed from the start that the diagrammatic would not register cosmic or somatic plenitude or spiritual expansion, nor would it promise acts of psychic liberation to trace desire. Above all, the diagram would not propose a universal language transcending all boundaries of nation, state, class, and gender. Quite the opposite, it would primarily serve the purposes of spatio-temporal quantification, surveillance, and registration, Thus, the diagram added a dissenting voice to the heroic chorus of abstraction, one announcing—eventually aesthetically—the disenchantment of the world and the total subjection of the body and its representations to legal and administrative control.”

P. 120: "The Duchampian anti-drawing would then be seen as the result of the shift from a concept of drawing as the representation of the natural world to a concept of drawing as the definition of technical and functional structures."

Late-nineteenth century chronophotography supplied "an uncannily precise prognosis of what would become of the visual representation the body."
Sol Lewitt (Left); Dan Graham (Right)

P. 122 "The traditional exertion of the body in its desire for and pleasure in movement and painting, the somatic dimension of the body in its desire for and pleasure in movement in painting, the somatic dimension of the subject's physical sense of autonomy, all temporal and spatial activities in drawing until Cubism, would be subjected in the drawing of the diagram to measurement and control. If these artists [Duchamp, Lewitt, Graham] were searching for a representational paradigm in which the actual conditions of somatic experience and subjecthood under advanced forms of capitalist production and control could be adequately recorded, Muybridge and Marey had provided it."

What's at stake in positing chronophotography as an epistemic break? How does this framing inform Buchloh's understanding of political economy and biopolitics?

A plan of the British slave ship "Brookes," showing how 454 slaves were accommodated on board. This same ship had reportedly carried as many as 609 people; published by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
Jean-Michel Basquiat "The Nile" (1973)

"...total subjection of the body and its representations to legal and administrative control":

"Casta" Paintings: Created as sets of consecutive images in colonial Mexico, these works portray racial mixing among the main groups that inhabited the colony: Indians, Spaniards, and Africans
"Casta paintings were presented most commonly in a series of sixteen individual canvases or a single canvas divided into sixteen compartments. The series usually depict a man, woman, and child, arranged according to a hierarchies of race and status, the latter increasingly represented by occupation as well as dress by the mid-eighteenth century. The paintings are usually numbered and the racial mixtures identified in inscriptions." - Susan Deans Smith, "Creating the Colonial Subject."

P. 122: "But Duchamp knew well, as did LeWitt fifty years later, that the discovery of chronophotography in itself was not of particular artistic interest—and the relative banality of its literal adaptation in Futurism obviously proved that point. Where the contact between chronophotography and drawing/painting would spark epistemic insights of heretofore unknown consequences, however, would be in Duchamp’s proto-diagrammatic works, such as Nude Descending a Staircase (1912). Here the newly established parameters of somatic surveillance were mapped onto the most traditional and supposedly most sensuous of artistic genres, which had always promised and at times even granted the now increasingly inaccessible bodily plenitude of the (female) nude, a plenitude that had claimed unblocked access to the bodily self as much as it held out the promise of access to the other.”

P. 122: “The painting’s scheme posed questions that only the diagram could answer: If the conditions of sensory, sensual, libidinal corporeality had become the subject of pure measurement and controlling instrumentalization, what would happen to those artistic conventions and competences that had traditionally facilitated the sublimating desire of depicting the body? Or, to ask the question that all artists re-defining drawing in the postwar period—from Jasper Johns to Piero Manzoni, from Joseph Beuys to Cy Twombly and Eva Hesse—would come to ask: What type of bodily projection or libidinal extension would still be available for the articulation of sublimating desire in drawing if the very sphere and ground of the subject’s bodily experience and perception had been decisively reconditioned within those horizons of surveillance, production, and control?”

Joseph Albers "Homage to the Square: Soft Spoken" (1969); Anni Albers "Line Involvements" (1964); Willem de Kooning "A Tree in Naples" (1960); Jackson Pollock "Convergence" (1952).
Eva Hesse, Tom Doyle, and Friends (1965)
Eva Hessa "No title" (1960)
Jean Tinguely "Sketch for Homage to New York" (1960)
Eva Hesse "No title" (1962)
Eva Hesse "No title" (1965)

P. 130: "We would argue that it is only with the so-called "mechanical drawings," produced in Germany and casually exhibited in 1965 as a cluster of unframed sketches on the wall in the Kettwig greenhouse of her host and patron, Arnhart Scheidt, that Hesse moved closer to this project by reducing the multitude of incompatible graphic, compositional, and chromatic elements of her previous drawings and integrating them for the first time within a fully resolved idiom."

Hesse states,

P. 135-136: "Duchamp, Picabia, and Man Ray had synthesized technical plan, biological chart, and neo-classical sinuosity in their drawings, suspending the dialectical forces of the biomorphic and mechanomorphic in almost ethereal transparency--models of diagrammatic drawing for such immediate Hesse predecessors as Johns, Kelly, and Warhol. Yet Hesse gave the paradigm dramatically different readings when she adopted it fully in 1966. [...] But unlike Picabia's drawings ... Hesse's present a more ambiguous constellation, as if alternating between the meticulous botanist and the mad engineer [...]. For Hesse, the biomorphic hybrid was not the only available site and structure where the desire for a non-alienated and non-fetishized bodily experience could be located. Quite the contrary: When Hesse drew those pistils and protuberanes of vegetal and zoomorphic growths, she imbued them with an uncanny affinity for the inner, if not the private, parts of machines. Their linear elegance and sinuous pulse become all the more discomfroting because the mechanomorph's animation instills a deep sense of the withering body."

Eva Hesse "Ringaround Arosie" (1965)
Eva Hesse "Untitled (Bochner compart)" (1966)
Jasper Johns "Target" 1961.
Jasper Johns "[title not known]" (1967–1969)

P. 144: "...Johns most serious challenges to his peers was his uncanny capacity to mortify the body by seeming to deplete drawings of any index of bodily presence: It appeared as though Johns no longer situated drawing within any registers of psychosomatic wholeness and depth, inscribing it instead literally skin-deep, within surface alone. This extreme withdrawal of the carnal and the corporeal repositioned drawing in the registers of the derma, not the soma. That this was one of John’s most subversive and complex enunciations was of course heard by Hesse more clearly than by almost anybody who listened to the chora from the closet. The art-historian Anna Chave, citing the feminist critic Susan Bordo, has identified Hesse’s motivation in situating her work on the surface of the body in similar (if more general) terms: “…[Hesse’s] concentration on the body renders her work not apolitical, but political in another way; for the body [according to Bordo] is ‘…a surface on which the central rules, hierarchies, and even metaphysical commitments of a culture and inscribedThe body is not only a text of culture, it is also… a practical, direct locus of social control'”.

P. 144: "...Hesse also distinctly rephrased Johns’ question, asking, in effect, whether drawing would have to be situated within the surface of the body to actually trace the insidiousness of repression in post-Holocaust society, a repression most manifestly enacted in that society’s propulsion into consumption. Accordingly, Hesse’s drawing from 1966 onwards positioned itself mimetically within a model of mere surface inscription from which all depth had been taken, all substance had been voided. Thus, only in rigorously controlling the surface and by blocking access to any form of compensatory bodily plenitude for subject and sociality alike could drawing act as a manifest instantiation of resistance and remembrance. This congruence between restraint and resistance would become the genius of Hesse’s drawings in 1966, her capacity to transform disappearance into the ruling parameter of what drawing could credibly claim to represent: loss and restraint rather than relief and representation—least of all release."

Eva Hesse "Untitled" (1967)

P. 146:

Eva Hesse, "Untitled" (1966)
Eva Hesse "Untitled" (1966-1967)

P. 148-149: "The prefabricated graph paper now actually assumes the perplexing status of a a printed diagrammatic order, simultaneously readable as ground and as figure, relegating if not dominating whatever "figural" insertion it might receive. Any inscription within this given graph structure appears contingent, subordinate, if not submerged to the constraints that the pattern imposes. In several of these drawings Hesse simply inserts what appears to be the simulation of a planar rectangular figure--merely tautological doubles of the support surface (or asymmetrically placed bars as fractions of it), a mere sheath of inscriptions for the paper's diagrammatic ground and grid. These minuscule repetitive graphemes are neither tracing spectacularized libidinal energy in the automatist tradition nor are they composed according to the Constructivist conceit. They are merely accumulated, and appear to be forced by a compulsive hand in the micrological containers of the printed squares. While these graphemes might be reminiscent of a proliferating biological culture, they might just as much remind us of a statistical graph of a mass culture that remains impassively framed and contained. Paradoxically, it is precisely from these seemingly infinite repetitions of "O"s and "X"s that an unexpectedly subversive force of utter contingency emerges. Like a Beckett text, it is as subversive in its compulsiveness to continue as it is in its dogged insistence on opposing the regulatory patterns of the paper."

P. 150:

Anni Albers "Drawing from a notebook" n.d. (c. 1970 - 1980)
Anni Albers "Drawing from a notebook" n.d. (c. 1970-1980)
Anni Albers "Drawing from a notebook" n.d. (c. 1970-1980)

Iverson, Margaret "Desire and the Diagrammatic" (2016)

Suzanne Duchamp and Jean Crotti, Marcel Duchamp’s "Unhappy Readymade," (c.1919–1920)

P. 6: "Yet what if one argued, [against Buchloh's claim that Hesse's graph-drawings figure a recognition and struggle against the structures of capitalism], that [Eva Hesse's] small circular gestures do not struggle against, but rather willingly accommodate themselves to the grid while putting pressure on its fixity? A given structural matrix, like language or artistic convention, would then be understood as animated or disturbed by an insistent bodily perturbation. Hesse’s graph paper could then be understood as something neutral, noncompositional, readymade, impersonal, antiexpressionist, but not coercive and alienating."

P. 9:

[On the "reciprocal relation" between desire and the diagrammatic, the organic, and the mechanistic, geometry and abjection cf: Kraftwerk's 1978 album The Man-Machine, as well as John Akomfrah's 1996 documentary The Last Angel of History]
Gabriel Orozco "Astroturf Combination" (2012)
Gabriel Orozco "From Roof to Roof" (1993)

P. 11: “The diagrammatic, as I am unfolding the term, is polyvalent; as we’ve seen in Krauss’s analysis of Martin’s work, it can even carry ambivalent connotations. In the following account of Orozco’s work, I reconsider the diagrammatic as a paradigm of drawing that acknowledges our existence as hybrid creatures both caught up in and wielding our language, science, prosthetic machines, social institutions – not constrained, alienated and nearly powerless in the face of them. This expanded sense of the diagram has the advantage of opening options for the artist beyond either a self-deluded pursuit of a free, corporeal, expressive gesture, or a self-abnegating submission to the coercive, technoscientific-capitalist grid.”

Gabriel Orozco "Finger Ruler" (1995)

Orozco states:

"[Orozco] describes the paintings as ‘instruments of awareness’. This suggests that he understands the diagram as a kind of drawing that works. The diagram does not just display pre-existing information graphically; rather, it produces knowledge using figures that operate relationally rather than mimetically. As the author of a book on diagrams wrote, a graph ‘is an instrument for the invention and discovery of new truths as well as a device for proving old ones’.”

What might it mean for paintings to function as "instruments of awareness"? How might we--as an audience--use paintings as "instruments"?

Gabriel Orozco "Untitled (hand)" (2000)

How does Iverson define and differentiate the "technical" and the "creaturely"? The "diagrammatic" and the "gestural"? (P. 17) How is this different than Buchloh's dialectical opposition between the "authentic corporeal trace" and the "externally established matrix"?

How does Iverson's philosophy of history differ from Buchloh's? What's at stake in this distinction?

Latin American Diagrammatic Experimentalisms

Cecilia Vicuña "[Untitled]" c. 1960s
Untranslation by Cecilia Vicuña and Felipe Ehrenberg, from Saborami (1973 [2010])
Cecilia Vicuña, "Dream (Indians Kill the Pope)" (1971)
Cecilia Vicuña "Karl Marx" (1971)
Cecilia Vicuña "Libro Tul, Journal of Objects for the Chilean Resistance" (1973-1974)
Cecilia Vicuña "Quipu Menstrual" (2006).

"To find form I need a can-opener and then a thread with which to join loose ends and create a web of thought, a spiderweb that is a particular cosmos to be used by the thinker. Thought functions by creating diagrams, mandalas wherein each point is a 'point of relation' with which to move through the unlimited, a thread in the cosmos with which to travel and play, establishing certain arbitrarily selected 'truths' in order to construct systems or structures (fabrics)." [Translation Modified] (1973)

Cecilia Vicuña, "Kon Kon Pi, Con Con" (2010)
From Saborami (1973)
Cecilia Vicuña, "Corral Grid" (1994)
Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, from "Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno" (1615).

"The Inka never developed a writing system. Instead, officials used khipu, devices made of colored strings knotted in various ways. Khipu were used to record census data, the movement of goods and people throughout the empire, and religious and military information. The officials who managed the khipu were known as khipucamayuc." (From "Engineering the Inka Empire," Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian")

Frida Kahlo "Lady Liberty (Workers of the World Unite)" (1945).
Frida Kahlo "Lady Liberty" (1949).
Frida Kahlo (and Unknown Scientific Illustrator) "Chromophore, Auxochrome" (1944).
Frida Kahlo "Friday and the Miscarriage" (1932).