Diagrams are often relegated to the realms of quantification, formalized data, or strict research processes. When considered more expansively — with appreciation for the plurality of knowledge1 — we can view them as cogent tools for connection, creation, and sensation.
Defined simply, a diagram is a delineation of interacting lines — of gesture, connection, understanding, and more. Through these threads and their conversations, diagrams reveal stagnancies and flows in systems of every scale, posing new ways to connect and move through them. They invite us to create knowledge and to understand ourselves as always already embedded within orders and dis/orders. Diagrams are everywhere: knitted on looms, traced in a snail’s slime trail, held up by tendrils, scribbled in notebooks, and more, and more, and more.
There’s a sprawling web of artists, thinkers, organizers, friends, and writers who are in the practice of using diagrams to world, weave, and open up our lines of flight and sensing. Below are a few texts, diagrams, and practices that can help us think through the potentiality of the diagram as a tool for actualizing our thoughts and imaginings as we envision new worlds.
The resources below are all starting places. I invite you to absorb their dense meshworks and make your own by tracing, twisting, linking up, connecting, drawing, dancing, commoning, feeling, unthreading, etc, etc, etc. Embrace and walk with uncertainty2, let it guide you as a generative force towards tangled creation. Grab an open line and run with it!
alt id: gentle, curving, open green lines hold together a series of words in the same green: conocimientos situados, embodied knowledge, sensing, sense-making, solidarity, snail trails, collective lines, storytelling, interdependence, co-creation, visioning, worlding, weaving, connectivity, tendrils, plurality, mapping
Recommended Readings + Diagrammatic Dives
Ciguapa – El Sistema
Agnes Denes – Early Philosophical Drawings
W.E.B. Du Bois – Data Portraits
Sher Doruff – Diagrammatic Praxis
E.M./Elana Eisen-Markowitz + Rachel Schragis – Vent Diagrams
Renee Gladman – Interview With Visual Poet
Fosco Lucarelli – Mark Lombardi’s Narrative Structures
André Luiz Mesquita – Dissenting Maps
Cristina Ribas – Cartography as Research Process
Suely Rolnik – Cartografía Sentimental
Caroline Woolard – Solidarity Not Charity / Art.Coop
Alice Yuan Zhang – Capitalist + Ancestral Chronology
Jakub Zdebik – Deleuze and the Diagram
Ricardo Basbaum – Us and Them
Lygia Clark – Caminhando
Elisabeth Long – Vent Diagrams as a Healing Practice / in Beyond Survival
Mia Mingus – Pod Mapping
Agustina Vidal – Mapas Locos
Cecilia Vicuña – Red Coil
alt id: gentle, curving, open green lines hold together a series of names in the same green: Caroline Woolard, Alice Yuan Zhang, André Luiz Mesquita, W.E.B. Du Bois, Sher Doruff, Lygia Clark, Jakub Zdebik, E.M. + Rachel Schragis, Fosco Lucarelli, Agnes Denes, Agustina Vidal, Mia Mingus, Ricardo Basbaum, Suely Rolnik, Cristina Ribas, Elisabeth Long, Renee Gladman, and Cecilia Vicuña
1This wording is used in reference to Boaventura de Sousa Santos’ use of “epistemologías plurales” (trans: plural epistemologies) in his essay “Ecologías del Saber” (trans: Ecologies of Knowledge). The term is an antidote to monoculturalism and monolithic knowledge systems.
2This wording is borrowed from the Zapatista practice of “preguntando caminamos” (trans: asking, we walk) cited in Joyful Militancy. In this book, carla bergman and Nick Montgomery expand on the importance of uncertainty: “Uncertainty is where we need to begin, because experimentation and curiosity is part of what has been stolen from us.”