Performative Diagrammatics

Ten people standing and speaking, in a semi-circle around a diagrammatic instrument on the ground. The diagrammatic instrument is a large trefoil knot on the ground that has images of people in various poses attached to it.

Through forms of interaction and communication, relations consolidate into stories and narratives, into culture and objects, organizations and institutions. Such processes also generate change. My practice as an artist and facilitator, which I summarize as Performative Diagrammatics, attends to articulations that take place in conversation and play. I invite participants into facilitated workshops, where we use and alter Diagrammatic Instruments to model own and experience other ways of articulating meaning, drawing on embodied values through movement and conversation.

The Diagrammatic Instruments used in facilitating workshops range from verbal prompts to fabricated objects, like pre-printed diagrams on whiteboards, 3D printed figures, knotted strings, and live streaming, custom-coded 360° video. They emerge from months and sometimes year-long, studio-based Performative Diagrammatics laboratories, co-creation sessions that revolve around play, feedback and critique processes. Diagrammatic Instruments develop slowly and are modified over time, by observing their effects when in use. Co-creators may become workshop facilitators.

As a social and professional practice, Performative Diagrammatics centers epistemic diversity as knowing differently – personally, communally, and institutionally. What is at stake is which stories come into being. Epistemic violence denies and actively undermines unfamiliar or competing ways of knowing and doing. As an aesthetic practice, Performative Diagrammatics creates a 'doubling', the simultaneous experience of one's own and others' epistemic specificity, intentionally and artfully. In this way, it is possible to think about Performative Diagrammatics as a practice towards peace.

The image above shows a "Micro-practices for a New Gentleness" workshop, at Kurimanzutto, Mexico City, in 2020.

Fractal 3-Line Matrix Instrument
The Fractal 3-line Matrix is an instrument to generate an interpretation of a text. It emerged from attempts to diagram large amounts of information, for example notes from an entire conference. As it is, it can serve to parse any text, be it a book, or a narrative about situating oneself. The Fractal 3-Line Matrix offers four levels of interaction, which I deploy in order, but you may explore differently. I call them triadic, binary, fractal, and symmetric. The image above was taken in my studio in Chicago, in conversation with Tracie Hall and DeAmon Harges, comparing notes during a follow-up meeting to the 'Artist as Problem Solver Convening' Tracie Hall had organized and DeAmon had responded to on site. More

The Braid Instrument
The Braid diagram models doing, knowing and being as fundamental building blocks of articulating sense. Derived from conversations I led with artists about how they work, the initial categories were making, mediating and managing, mapped onto a torus traversed by a trefoil. These mathematical shapes evoke topology as a metaphor that models and also braces the practices of cultural and other practitioners. The Braid instrument has migrated from a drawing to a spatial object. Using The Braid performatively foregrounds questions of valuing. The image above was taken in my studio in Chicago, in conversation were artists Mark Jeffery and Judd Morrissey. More
Performative Topologies Instrument
Performative Topologies is an ephemeral instrument. Verbal prompts shape an interaction between several participants and a facilitator. The process is structured around open sharing of the memory of an object, and shifting between modes of engaging with this memory. Depending on the time allotted, conversations may be swift or probe an experience more deeply. The last step of the sequence consists of jointly performing iterations of a personal movement sequence that emerges from the process. This is when ‘art happens’ visibly, as a polyrhythmic, emergent choreography. A diagram is taking place, supported by a feedback loop from a 360-degree camera. The image was taken in 2019, at the exhibition, "Membrane", in Berlin. More

Micro-practices for a New Gentleness Instrument
Micro-practices for a New Gentleness is a score of 18 prompts, each presented as a statement and as a pose. Stewarding randomly assigned statements/poses, participants in a workshop engage in focused conversation on a topic of their choice. The name, Micro-practices for a New Gentleness, was inspired by diagram artist and philosopher Félix Guattari, who in The Three Ecologies asks to “organize new micropolitical and microsocial practices, new solidarities, a new gentleness, together with new aesthetic and new analytic practices.” The prompts and poses were developed through a co-creation process, working through what it is that happens when we enact affirmative critique. The image above is from a 2020 prototyping session at the Flusser Archiv in Berlin, part of Vorspiel/transmediale. More
The Intra-view
More than an instrument, the Intra-view is an evolving format. Like The Braid, it is rooted in reflexive studio conversation. Unlike The Braid, it does not offer a structure, but experiments with the intentional removal of strictures, and works with what flows into their former space instead. This creates a laboratory for performing own, specific ways of knowing. Its first formal iteration under this name, in 2018, was supported by an Art Research Grant from the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. While artists have interviewed each other for a long time, new exchange formats are explicitly being sought as part of methods discussions in the social sciences and humanities. In this context, the laboratory proceeds as a collaboration with professor of Gender Studies, Doris Ingrisch, and in conversation with performing and performance artists. The image above is an intra-view setting, at the Max Reinhardt Seminary in Vienna. (More soon)
Contextualizing Diagrammatic Instruments
Diagrammatic Instruments are 'middle terms', akin to other structures that both hold and generate meaning, yet are often invisible. This is precisely why they deserve the spotlight, serving as examples of such structures, and as an indicator of their contingency and malleability. Importantly, Diagrammatic Instruments and their kin can best be seen when in motion, in use.

Diagrammatic Instruments derive from my fascination with architectures of grammar and rhetoric, and performances of belonging in social contexts. This means that language and reading, interpretation and attention to modes of articulation are the roots that feed my work. Part of articulation are the conventions it is channeled through, which in addition to the traditions carried within the languages we speak include the permissions and prohibitions that are embodied in organizations and institutions, and the many ways of making sense we carry within our bodies.

Playing out along my own trajectory through a part of the art world and using that as material, Diagrammatic Instruments are interrelated. Performative Topologies intentionally mobilizes what I learned from the performative uses of The Braid. Micro-practices for a New Gentleness additionally draws on structural permutations, such as the Fractal 3-Line Matrix enables. Instead of finding and sharpening shared structures, the Intra-view actively does away with strictures. I can only do this work because others agree to co-create it with me, in studio sessions and workshops, as part of seminars, residencies, conferences, and laboratory set-ups in exhibitions.