SoAH Research Presents: Diagram

Diagram with Professor Marcus du Sautoy, Professor David Burrows and Dr Lucia D’Errico

Diagrams have a history in the development and emergence of thought in many disciplines and exist in many forms, combining words, lines and figures to express ideas, concepts, relations, propositions. However, beyond the graphic presentation of information, diagrams also function abstractly and creatively to generate the new, the unexpected and the unforeseeable.

In this research event we bring together three speakers who work in different fields of practice: mathematics, music and fine art. As well as being introduced to concrete examples relevant to each, this event provides an opportunity for the audience to consider relationships between diagrammatic practices and thought across the different disciplines. 

Professor Marcus du Sautoy will explore the role that diagrams have played in mathematical and scientific discovery. 

Dr Lucia D’Errico’s  presentation revolves around the practice of “divergent performances,” by which a performer’s relationship with Western notated art music is questioned and challenged in favour of an experimental attitude towards the past. Instead of presenting musical works in their original instrumental and sonic configuration, they are evoked through sounds and gestures unrecognisable as belonging to their pastness: electronics, modern instruments, dance, a.o. The interpreter turns into the operator, a figure that far from replicating, reproducing, or reconstructing the musical past, emphasises the potential in it latent for the emergence of the new. 

Whereas traditional interpretation relates to the “archival” dimension of notated musical works, regarding them as historical repositories of forms, the operator considers them as “diagrams”: reservoirs of forces, maps of possibilities that can generate unexpected and potentially infinite sonic results. This presentation will draw a parallel between my own divergent performance of Amarilli mia bella (1602) by Giulio Caccini and Gilles Deleuze’s observations around Painting 1946 by Francis Bacon in The Logic of Sensation.

Science-Fictioning Singularities  

Professor David Burrows will talk about recent research undertaken on a residency at Flat Time House in December 2020, with the Diagram Research Group, addressing cosmological diagramming in art and physics. The talk will address the work of John Latham and Yayoi Kusama and other artists, and diagrams and theories concerning time and black holes in the work of physicists Fay Dowker, Roger Penrose, Carlo Rovelli and Lee Smolen. The talk will begin with a brief examination of the ideas of C.S. Pierce and Gilles Châtelet concerning diagrams and end with reflections on the philosophical and aesthetic perspectives generated by cosmological diagrams.