Drawing, Thinking, Doing: From Diagram Work to the Superfold

In 1998, when the names Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari still exuded a seductive attraction for architectural thinkers and practitioners, Any Magazine, edited by Cynthia C. Davidson, published an edition entitled Diagram Work, which was guest edited by architects Ben van Berkal and Caroline Bos. The diagram work in question predominantly drew on the philosophical thought of Deleuze and Guattari, especially their version of the diagram, or ‘diagrammatic’, as mobilised in their book A Thousand Plateaus, where the diagram is also referred to as an ‘abstract machine’. This essay will present a series of different ways in which the concept of the diagram can be argued to be at work in Deleuze, and Deleuze and Guattari’s ethico-aesthetics. I will address the different senses of the diagram that emerge across Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, and in Deleuze’s books Foucault and Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. I will undertake this survey to, in part, redress the speed with which Deleuze’s concept of the diagram was consumed and then discarded by architectural designers and thinkers at the close of the millennium. This essay will discuss the ways in which diagramming as an active engagement with a problematic field, whether architectural or philosophical, constitutes a material thinking that conjoins drawing, thinking and doing. This definition of the diagram accepts the inherent dynamism that Deleuze and Guattari bring to the term, and also the understanding that designers both contribute to the generation of, but are also held within diagrams of power.  Deleuze argues that the drawing out of a diagram not only allows power relations to be mapped, but goes further to insist that the immanent act of diagramming enables us to imagine new futures. This speculative, projective and radically creative employment of the diagram will allow me to conclude the essay with a discussion of Deleuze’s concept of the ‘superfold’, which he introduces briefly in the Appendix of his book Foucault. I will conclude by discussing the relevance of the concept of the superfold with regard to computational architectures and (post)digital diagrammatic processes, and also as a concept that alerts us to the risk of assuming too much about our relationship with diagrammatic forces.

“Drawing, Thinking, Doing: From Diagram Work to the Superfold” in ACCESS, 30 (2011). Peer Reviewed Journal.

An earlier version of the paper was presented and published as part of a conference: “Drawing out of the Fold: Battle of the Superfold” in Drawing Out: Festival and Conference of Drawing, RMIT University (7-9 April, 2010). Peer Reviewed Conference Proceedings.