Adelheid Mers. "Transfer Diskurse – Einige relevante Künstlerpositionen. Kultur‑ und Kreativindustrie. Kreativität/Innovation. Ästhetik. Diagrammatik", in: Martin Tröndle, Julia Warmers, Eds."Artistic Research als ästhetische Wissenschaft. Zur transdisziplinären Hybridisierung von Wissenschaft und Kunst", transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2011

Excerpts from English draft:

Current research that heavily refers to Charles Sanders Peirce quite emphatically deems diagrams to be not only qualitatively unique forms of representation that fall under the category of ‘icon’, but states that diagrammatic operations are situated at the core of the functions of signs in general. Frederik Stjernfelt goes as far as to claim “all pictures, also in the ordinary art-history-meaning of the word, are also diagrams.”

Under “graphism”, a cognitive technique that is posited as equivalent to language and image, Sybille Krämer subsumes the diagrammatic dimension, which can be expressed variously through maps, schemes, diagrams, charts, tables, and notations. Defined as ‘images that make assertions’, diagrams proper are further classified as possessing six epistemological criteria: 1. Simultaneity gives an overview and allows comparisons. 2. Own Spatiality means that systematic composition within a diagram determines its specific space. 3. Hybridity designates the location of the diagram between the discursive and the iconic. 4. Referentiality names the diagram’s inherent function of always translating another while maintaining some structural resemblance to it. 5. Operativity calls out service as a tool for orientation, analysis, revision and reflection, and 6. Dependence states that both a diagram’s making and interpreting is situated.

Throughout, main stated characteristics of diagrams are their ability to reduce complexity, to offer visual simultaneity, to include fictive and imaginary, constructed components along with references to facts, and to exist in a tension of constant, dynamic interpretive processing. Thus, roughly sketched out, a diagrammatic mindset wants to grasp, simplify and communicate complex circumstances, to make them available to forms of action.

Steffen Bogen and Felix Thürlemann also speak to operativity: “The specific strength of genuine diagrams is grounded in what can be designated as their pragmatic potency [italics in the original]. More than other forms of discourse, diagrams are designed to engender activities. These activities encompass the entire realm of social action, exceeding the discourse that verbally explicates it. The diagram appears as an area that trades in meaning, a semiotic stop between producer and recipient. In relation to a specific topic, the producer of the diagram aspires to a synthesis of components which themselves constitute the world scenario that is deemed relevant. Formally, this synthesis is marked by a certain symmetry and boundedness. The recipient encounters this apparently ideal object as one who shall unpack its structures of meaning that are seemingly at rest, to unfold them into discourses and practical activities. The scientific research of diagrams will have the task to reconstruct these opposing movements of production and reception, which are not simply to be described as symmetrical.”

Cultural producers who are partial to diagrammatic thinking likely situate themselves in critical, policy relevant ways, creating and reflecting on emerging realities.


Sybille Krämer, ‘Epistemology of the line’ Reflections on the diagrammatical mind (2009) Freie Universität Berlin, http://userpage.fu accessed July 25, 2010

Steffen Bogen/Felix Thürlemann, Jenseits der Opposition von Text und Bild, in: Alexander Patschovsky (Hrsg.), Die Bildwelt der Diagramme Joachims von Fiore: zur Medialität religiös-politischer Programme im Mittelalter, Stuttgart, 2003, S. 1-22. (my translation)

Frederik Stjernfelt, Diagrammatalogy: An Investigation on the Borderlines of Phenomenology, Ontology and Semiotics, Springer, 2007