Memos aplenty

So, where to begin (the perennial question!)? 

It's been a busy 4 months over here at the Salon du Diagrammatism. Our Brooklyn headquarters (also known as my home office) has been piling up with seemingly-disorganized stacks of papers galore; the trash cans are filled with dead highlighters; the walls are being papered over with illegible scrawl on torn newspaper; and the printer has just run out of ink. 

Sadly, however, a thin layer of dust has accumulated as well. Papers have been shunted aside for the sake of people. There've been visitors to entertain, holidays to celebrate, weather changes to contend with, and an utterly demoralizing political campaign to pay all too much attention to. But now that we've elected a man who cannot formulate a complete grammatical sentence (let alone read a stack of briefs) and the consequent hangover's subsided, I thought it would be good for all of us to see where the project stands today.


  • I've mentioned elsewhere on the site that much of the last year and a half has been spent tackling a number of the toughest, densest and most daring of Derrida's texts –– ones I could not possibly have pretended to understand fully when I was in undergrad with limited time for in-depth reading. The most recent has been a return to especially the left column of Glas. I'm happy to report that there have been incredible insights mined from this trove, informing especially those strangest-seeming portions of Ulmer's Applied Grammatology.
  • A wonderful surprise comes in the form of my finding out that the long awaited update to Tim Ingold's Lines: A Brief History was published last year under the name The Life of Lines (2015). The book should arrive on my doorstep any day now, to which I expect only the best things. It's worth remembering that much of my entire project was inspired by his first Lines book (2007), which with its history and taxonomy of line-making enjoined the reader to begin a new discipline: "...the book should be read as a prolegomenon whose aim is to open up lines of inquiry that others might be inspired to pursue, in whatever directions their knowledge and experience might take them. I have written it as an open invitation to join in an enterprise that, so far as I know, has no name. People who study things call themselves students of material culture. People who study lines call themselves... I don't know what they call themselves, but I do know that I have become one of them."
  • Speaking of new books, Genevieve von Petzinger's The First Signs (2016) has been a delight to behold. Not only is it a nice breeze of an Ice Age historical overview, it is the first of its kind not to pay strict attention only to figurative and representational cave art, but to finally catalogue and trace the history of abstract signs, symbols, shapes and forms –– all of which have historically been almost completely ignored by archaeologists and anthropologists. This should provide some of the best and furthest-flung openings to the study of pre-hieroglyphic shape making and the possibilities thereof.
  • Until recently, I had not revised my understanding of Edmund Husserl's Origin of Geometry (1939) and Derrida's Introduction to it (1962) since finishing the chapter on the subject in my undergraduate senior thesis. But returning to phenomenology via Brian Elliott's Phenomenology and Imagination in Husserl and Heidegger (2005) has proved invaluable in tackling the very idea of imagination as a human historical capacity. I shall soon update the method of 'morphological intuition' I had previously lifted from The Origin of Geometry into something much more solid. 
  • The 'Dadaglobe Reconstructed' exhibition finally rolled through MOMA this fall, collecting together the work of the attempted 1920 anthologization of Dada. What a treat. I make no secret of how the loose groups surrounding Picabia, Tzara & Co., like many of the avant garde artistic movements from the beginning of the last century, have considerably inspired what I hope to someday achieve through this project ... and it certainly doesn't hurt to now hold in my hands a record of how their vie for monumentalization came to pass. Naturally, too, the individual works provide many a springboard for idea generation viz. free diagrammatism. 
  • (Speaking of individual works at the MOMA, I recently encountered a work I had never seen by Robert Smithson, whose 'Spiral Jetty' I had once written on extensively, called "A Heap of Language". I have big plans for a commentary on this work or an alteration thereof viz. Derridean grammatology.)



en media res:

  • We're still in the middle of cataloguing all of the marginal aspects of the standout examples of tree diagrams in Manuel Lima's Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge. (Very similar research has been underway for his earlier Visual Complexity, as well as Rosenberg & grafton's Cartographies of Time and much of the Tufte readings.) These supposedly irrelevant and arbitrary details such as colors, framing devices, visual puns, surfaces used, connection with ruling authority, etc. will prove useful when attempting to expand upon the poetic vocabulary of trees as a diagrammatic model. Connection is all well and good as the primary relationship described throughout this history, but where else could we drift?


To be continued (I could spend days writing memos on everything I have in front of me...)


Advenience” is a wonderful term used by the inimitable Roland Barthes in a book called Camera Lucida, which incidentally happens to have been getting a lot of press these days. Barthes launched off on the word when he was looking at a set photographs and noticed that some pictures struck him or jumped out at him –– and others didn’t. And so he asked: Why this photo? What is it about this picture and not that picture? How come this ‘speaks to me’? Barthes ended up calling this quality of ‘calling out to you’ quality advenience. "This picture advenes, that one doesn’t." [p.19]

Latin ad - venire; adventus. To come, arrive. The root word is relatively common enough, known to many Christmas-celebrating Christians by way of the 'advent calendar', the ritualized, chocolate-guzzling reenactment of the expectation of Christ's original advenience. (His second advent, apparently, advenes only to the faithful.)

But most usually it is an event in ones life, the most common event of consciousness, the advent of an event. (Question: what does advenience mean for those theories which are so invested in intentionality?)

Advenience marks the advent of certain experiences. Certain qualities or features compel the observer: and from there a certain shared adventure takes place between the person and what advenes, the adventure of a new perspective or the use of a particular aspect –– the very same way one ventures to put something this or that way instead of in any other fashion. One might also then call it part of judgement –– or perhaps to to some degree “inspiration”. (At the very least, for me, this word “inspiration” advenes here.)

This is a uniquely useful concept –– something suitably non-phenomenological and poetically everyday –– to introduce going into things here. Advenience figures prominently in shaping our approach, the direction we’re heading, the first look at what we’re investigating. Where there is an aspect to pay attention to, there is its advent; where there is the use of a particular part or picture, there is/are adventure(s). It will be a particularly useful touchstone when it comes to talking about the various parts of diagrams which stick out to people; when we speak of when an interpretation or conclusion comes to light; what it is for there to be something which appears useful or important; and, conversely, what it is for something not to appear to a viewer but rather hide in the background.

Advenience frames the entire problematic: or analogously, it here provides for us our starting gate. (There is a certain human clarity to this figurative rationale.) Off to the races, then.

(Naturally, the word does not require this much in the way of explanation... but the resonances which surround the word should prove useful in the way of poetic development. In any advent, I find it a rather opportune idea to introduce at the beginning, given that what'll be visible on this site will be what has particularly struck my eye.)