The Braid

The Braid diagram shows a path that winds around a continuum. The path is a trefoil, the continuum a torus. Topology is a metaphor through which to inclusively model concepts that The Braid's users explore, in conversation with each other or with a facilitator. While the diagram is a significant part of it, it is not the full, diagrammatic instrument. Type of substrate, scale, mounting method and the inclusion of auxiliary objects (for example the String Braid) are equally important. The image above shows the most recent version of The Braid diagram as part of a wheeled whiteboard.
The Braid instrument functions in many settings - an installation in a gallery, a space prepared to host a workshop at a conference, an artist studio, or a classroom. Users may find themselves drawing systemic, perhaps ecological connections within their topic areas. The Braid may expand or contract at different times. There is no specified point of entry. The Braid may be prepared with prompts that are specific to its intended use. It was initially designed to support conversations about artistic and cultural practices, as shown imediately below, but can support conversations in any area.

Talking Whiteboards: How do you work?
The Braid diagram evolved from conversations with artists about how they work. The three lobes of the Braid diagram were labeled Make, Mediate, and Manage. Used as prompts, the labels facilitated conversation about personal arts ecologies. Artists and other cultural producers were invited to my studio in July and August 2016, to work with diagram templates that serve to prompt conversations about scenarios in the arts and culture. Asha Iman Veal facilitated the project, which was supported by an Individual Arts Program Grant (IAP) from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (DCASE) and by an Artist Project Grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Here is the Talking Whiteboards channel on Vimeo.

The String Braid
Following the Talking Whiteboards project, the trefoil knot incarnated as a freestanding object. In navigating this transposition with volunteers, we knotted a long, light rope into trefoil shape and spread it on the floor, large enough to traverse it. We evoked the torus by circling through the trefoil, declaring the floor a diagrammatic ground. We found that a walking conversation, during which focus is shared with attention to surroundings, activates different cognitive registers than a face-to-face or face-to-board exchange, and we explored what those might be. We slowed down, became empathetic in new ways, and easily included each other in physical play, for example lifting and reshaping the string. This online essay includes video examples.
Thinking with and about The Braid
In addition to the essay above, a longer piece, "The BRAID: Moving Across Dimensions from Representation to Performativity", is part of the book 'Exploring Dispositifs'. There, I describe how The Braid became a diagrammatic facilitation instrument, originating from conversations with artists about how they work. The Braid is also part of this Practice Sharing Platform. Since the begin of the pandemic, I have been able to adapt it to remote uses, as indicated under the events tab.
The Braid Kit
The Braid is eminently portable. It can be projected onto paper or an existing whiteboard, and the String Braid is easily assembled from many materials. I have also designed a Braid Kit that contains templates, a pre-assembled string, and a guide how to use it. The kit can also be prepared as a Braille version. The image above is from an impromptu session at the Bauhaus University, Weimar.
Facilitating a Faculty Retreat
In the fall of 2021, I was invited to facilitate a faculty retreat, in an expansive outdoor setting. Over two days, I facilitated the retreat at Grand Ravines Park in Michigan, for the Visual and Media Arts Department of Grand Valley State University. About 30 Faculty, staff and alumni participated. Starting with Braid diagram supported conversations about participants’ own, creative practices, we moved on to using five String Braids in reflecting on curriculum, pedagogy, and connecting narratives among Art History, Art Education, Visual Studies, and Fine Arts, Design and Production areas.

Braiding with Students
Working independently in three groups with as many Braid Kits, participants in an SAIC Performance Seminar share out their conversations, sparked by the included prompts. In the image above, a group is standing around one of the Braids on the path in the background, about to be joined by students just finishing their Braid exercise, on the left. On the grass in the foreground is an annotated Braid the full group returned to next. This video (8:38, 2022) is a contribution to a symposium on performance art and education at CAS, Andover, UK that addresses the Braid's use in education.