Diagram Research Group

16 October–12 November

The Diagram Research Group (DRG), a collaboration between artists David Burrows, John Cussans, Dean Kenning and Mary Yacoob, will conduct four illustrated discussions online that explore their interests in diagrams in relation to Flat Time and Latham’s ideas concerning the unification of scientific and artistic bodies of knowledge and the primacy of time and event (rather than space and matter). 

Each session will be led by one member of the group who will initiate conversations engendering dialogical association and abductive reasoning, whereby images will be discussed and hypothesis presented. Each session will be accompanied by a picture wall of images and diagrams referenced in the discussions and a portfolio of diagrams generated by DRG in response to them. 

Accessible online at delta.flattimeho.org.uk

 (Diagram Research Group 0)

DRG Event I: David Burrows        

Available from Friday 16 October

Dwelling Place for Thought/ Plane of the Least Event


The Plane of Assertion and the Least Event centres on John Latham's figure '01-10' as a time-based diagram expressing the structures of events. The discussion addresses the spatial and temporal aspects of diagrams and the ground or space (the Plane of Assertion) of diagrams. This is further related to the problem of whether time or space is foundational or fundamental to reality, and whether novelty and agency or determination through natural laws shapes the cosmos and human development. In this, Latham's artworks and diagrams are compared to the diagrams of philosophers C.S. Peirce and Gilles Chatelet, and the diagrams and ideas of physicists John Wheeler, Fay Dowker, Kip Thorne, Lee Smolin and Roger Penrose. The session ends with a comparison of Penrose's 'Conformal Cyclic Cosmology' and Latham's figure '01-10', introducing the question of how inscribing entropy and gravity into the artist's figure might change or add to an understanding of Latham's time-based figures and artworks.

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DRG Event II: Mary Yacoob

Available from Friday 23 October

Addressing Space-Time Diagrams, Kinetics, Notation, and Flat Time

The discussion will address John Latham’s artwork the ‘Time-Base Roller with Graphic Score’ (1987). Although Latham maintained that time and event hold primacy over space and mass, the talk addresses how the space of the ‘Time-Base Roller’ relates to what the semiotician Charles Sanders Peirce called‘The Sheet of Assertion’ the space we make on a sheet of paper, or other type of material, to make a diagram in order to reach hypotheses though abductive reasoning. Latham’s ideas about time and event are discussed in relation to the structure of the Flat Time House archive, and the transition from a passive understanding of time to the active ordering of ‘time bases’ by the  ‘reflective intuitive organism’. It relates Latham’s ‘graphic score’ to alternative musical notation, the musical analogies that physicists use to articulate string theory, physicist’s theories about the direction of time, and the understanding of the universe as a series of never repeating events.

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DRG Event III: John Cussans

Available from Friday 30 October

The Librarian’s Outburst – Explosive Orality, Cosmic Consciousness and the Art Event/Event of Art

This discussion looks at Latham's 20th century art-science convergence diagram in relation to a general shift in artistic consciousness from the 1950's onwards from material object to temporal event; problems of temporal-historical consciousness within art, art history and art education; and parallels between Latham's thought and practice and that of Alfred Korzybski, founder of General Semantics and author of Science and Sanity (1933).

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DRG Event IV: Dean Kenning

Available from Friday 6 November

Attention, Entropy and the Arrow of Time

I will look at John Latham’s concept of ‘attention unit’ or Delta and link this to questions of time, particularly as they pertain to entropy or the second law of thermodynamics. I argue that Latham’s works often involved entropic and negentropic processes, and yet he does not seem to include entropy within his overarching theory of time and event. This is surprising given the singular importance entropy plays within physics as determining an ‘arrow of time’ i.e. non-reversibility. However, certain physicists such as Carlo Rovelli construct a relativistic model of entropy, suggesting that the relation between order and disorder is a function of what we consider to be special. If all probabilities of energy flow patterns are equally (in)significant then time does not exist. I link this idea back to the notion of ‘attention’ in order to think about what, in the art world, gets understood as ‘special’ and therefore ‘separated out’ for further attention in anti-entropic processes (studio, gallery, archive, etc). Different levels of separating out of ‘order’ from ‘disorder’ by ‘gatekeepers’ (Maxwell’s Demon) may be said to constitute a personal career or cultural timeline – a process of ‘distinction’ without which we lose a ‘sense of direction’.

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Sessions will accumulate over 4 weeks with a new contribution released every Friday.

David Burrows, Installation view of ‘Diagram of the Event Horizon of a Black Hole (following Susskind’s Holographic Theory): Blind Date Implosion’ exhibited in 'Future Landscapes' at Helsinki Contemporary, paper, card, foam, pigment, glitter, audio, 2018 (Diagram Research Group 1)

David Burrows, Installation view of ‘Diagram of the Event Horizon of a Black Hole (following Susskind’s Holographic Theory): Blind Date Implosion’ exhibited in 'Future Landscapes' at Helsinki Contemporary, paper, card, foam, pigment, glitter, audio, 2018

Mary Yacoob, ‘Drawing for Time Machine’, ink on paper, 13.6 x 18.5 inches, 2017 (Diagram Research Group 2)

Mary Yacoob, ‘Drawing for Time Machine’, ink on paper, 13.6 x 18.5 inches, 2017

Dean Kenning, ‘Aesthetical-Rational-Logical Diagram’, pen and tippex on paper, 2020 (Diagram Research Group 3)

Dean Kenning, ‘Aesthetical-Rational-Logical Diagram’, pen and tippex on paper, 2020

John Cussans, 'A Structural Differential/Anthropometer' (Diagram Research Group 4)

John Cussans, 'A Structural Differential/Anthropometer'

Diagram Research Group (DRG)

Since April 2020 the artists David Burrows, John Cussans, Dean Kenning and Mary Yacoob have been holding weekly Zoom meetings to discuss diagrams, diagramming and diagram theory in relation to art, philosophy and science. These informal sessions have taken particular texts as departure points to build upon, refine and transform the ideas, images and diagrams collectively generated in the previous sessions.

DRG is interested in the meeting of art, philosophy and science on ‘the plane of assertion’ – the (concrete or imaginary) spaces upon which diagrams are inscribed. They want to explore the possibilities diagramming and diagrammatology holds for embodied and pragmatic critical thinking, teaching and creative production.

Burrows, Cussans, Kenning and Yacoob are members of SMRU (Social Morphologies Research Unit), a collaboration between artists and anthropologists with a shared interest in the aesthetic, political and social use of diagrams. The SMRU’s first exhibition ‘Morphologies of Invisible Agents’ took place at Space Studios (London) in May 2019.

As part of DRUGG (Diagram Research, Use and Generation Group) Burrows, Cussans and Kenning co-organised and participated in ‘Plague of Diagrams’ at the ICA in 2015, an exhibition and programme of performances and talks held over three days.

 (Diagram Research Group 6)

Following an open call, DRG were awarded The Delta (Δ) Research Placement to undertake remote research with the John Latham Archive. Future digital projects by Delta (Δ) Research Placement recipients Padraig Robinson and Madyha J. Leghari will launch on the new online platform, delta.flattimeho.org.uk, in November and December 2020. For more information please click here.