Into The Diagram
When | Sunday 13 November, 6pm
Location | Artspace, Ground Floor
Artspace and National Institute of Experimental Arts, CoFA present two lectures by Brian Massumi and Erin Manning, leading philosophers and practitioners of movement, affect and relationality. Together their lectures ‘Animality and Abstraction’ (Massumi) and ‘The Dance of Attention’ (Manning) explore the virtual, abstract and powerful dimensions of diagrams.
Everywhere maps and visualisations of space are multiplying around us as new applications of cartography gain prominence. In a quieter manner, the diagram has also re-emerged as an abstract device for thinking about, generating and re-imagining relations themselves. Unlike maps and the rapidly expanding domain of information visualisation, diagrams often seem more obscure modes of picturing and inscribing relations. They hint at something imperceptible, something that lies in wait that we need to make more explicit through further explanation or interpretation.
Pictorial and conceptual diagramming is increasingly deployed in collaborative and collective design, architecture, dance and new media practices as a means for facilitating complex cross-modal research and creation. The diagram’s very abstraction allows it to be open, elastic and resonant across practices and modalities. As the philosophers of diagrammatic thought Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari suggest, diagrams exist in the dimension of the virtual and help to construct, ‘a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality’. Thinking about the diagram, then, is to think generatively about what can and could be created; by whom – humans and nonhumans; and under what circumstances — via collaborative and singular relationships.
Please note that this is the only public event Brian Massumi and Erin Manning will present whilst in Australia. Admission is free of charge and no bookings will be taken. Seating is limited so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Animality and Abstraction
The aim of this lecture is two-fold: to rethink the creative element in evolution as a positive mechanism governed by a radically different logic than that of adaptation; and to connect this analysis to a concept of the ‘diagram’ as a vital function operating in a zone of indistinction between the animal and the human. The analysis of creative evolution will begin from what might appear to be the least propitious starting point: instinct. Tinbergen’s discussion of ‘supernormal stimuli’ — apparently maladaptive responses that follow a logic of intensity-seeking deformation generative of variation — will be used to extract instinct from the realm of stimulus-reflex response and resituate it in an aesthetic arena (Ruyer) alloyed with intuition (Bergson). This aesthetic element of animal life will be associated not with sexual selection (Elizabeth Grosz) but rather with play (Bateson). Bateson argues that play involves practices of lived abstraction that are an engine of evolutionary improvisation. The playful gesture brings the ‘supernormal’ functioning of instinct into fuller and more abstract expression, preparing the way for language. The gesture itself will be understood as an enactive ‘diagram’ of becoming. The argument will remain in dialogue throughout its trajectory with Deleuze and Guattari’s theories of ‘creative involution.’
The Dance of Attention
This paper is composed in relation to an earlier piece entitled ‘Choreography as Mobile Architecture’ where I explore the vibratory field of cues and alignments as they create spacetimes for movement in William Forsythe’s choreography ‘One Flat Thing, Reproduced’ (as documented on the synchronous objects website, www.synchronousobjects.org). What fascinates me about the idea of cues and alignments is how they activate a field of relation rather than starting or stopping at one particular human body. Often the idea of cue is used to denote a starting point for a movement, and the notion of alignment an effect of the cue-as-cause. What I attempt to demonstrate in Choreography as Mobile Architecture is that in fact the cue-alignment assemblage is an enabling constraint for the movement of the interval of dance itself. A body’s cue never lands strictly on a body’s alignment. What is danced is the in-between of the cueing itself as it aligns on the dance as a whole. What emerges is an intensive diagram – a mobile architecture – that in turn dances the bodies of the dancers. Not body initiating, but body relating. This is what I call a dance of attention: not the attentiveness of a particular body to the cue/alignment, but the attentiveness of the mobile architecture as it constructs a performance in the making. A more-than-human intervention into the spacetime of human bodies.
In ‘The Dance of Attention’ I take this analysis one more step to explore in detail how this practice of cueing and aligning creates a diagrammatic praxis. I do this in part through the work of Arakawa and Gins, exploring how their concept of ‘procedures’ is a diagrammatic praxis that proposes a politics of performance.