Previously at the ICA - Exhibitions

David Burrows and Dean Kenning, 2015

Plague of Diagrams

20 Aug 201523 Aug 2015

"How many of these rough political rats are there around us? How many of them break things they don’t understand? How many of these rats simplify? How many of them have built such homogeneous, cruel systems upon the horror of disorder and noise?" Michel Serres, The Parasite

"The plague is met by order; its function is to sort out every possible confusion." Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish

Plague of Diagrams is an exhibition and a programme of performances, talks and discussions concerning the relationships between diagrammatic practices and thought in different disciplines. In particular, the event explores the function and use of diagrams in art as expanded diagrammatic practice beyond the graphic presentation of information.

Plague of Diagrams at the ICA

The event explores diagrams as actual/virtual machines that while taking material form and indexing existing relations and objects, point to other arrangements. As Gilles Châtelet declared, diagrams are gestures that invite other gestures. This is a vision of diagrams as abstract machines activated through performance or thought; a notion of diagrams as relays that connect or traverse different times and spaces. It is a conception of diagrams as critical and logical exploratory devices that, in presenting what is not apparent or visiblereal abstractions, potential modes of being, hidden relationsparadoxically depend on the register of the imaginary and the inventive production of images, figures and gestures.

Since the Enlightenment, when diagrams facilitated scientific and statistical breakthroughs, to cybernetic research of the twentieth century, to the algorithmic devices that govern relations and economies today, diagrams have extended and organised human culture. While diagrams have proliferated we can draw a distinction between diagrams that index and deliver knowledge, and diagrams that pose problems and facilitate thought as an exploratory process. Plague of Diagrams addresses not just the critical and organisational functions of diagrams but the art of diagramming too, while taking account of the reductive, controlling or ideological use of diagrams.

Plague of Diagrams is organised by David Burrows and Dean Kenning in collaboration with Ami Clarke, Andrew Conio, John Cussans and David Osbaldeston. The collaboration has developed out of discussions and events staged by the Diagram Research Use and Generation Group (DRUGG).


David Burrows, Rachel Cattle & Jenna Collins, Neil Chapman & Gillian Wylde, Ami Clarke, Richard Cochrane, Andrew Conio, John Cussans, David Burrows, Benedict Drew, English Heretic, Nikolaus Gansterer, Joey Holder, Dean Kenning, Christoph Lueder, Stine Llungdalh, Adelheid Mers, Mike Nelson, Paul O'Kane, David Osbaldeston, Plastique Fantastique, Patricia Reed, John Russell, Erica Scourti, Andy Sharp, Kamini Vellodi, Martin Westwood and Carey Young.



Please note this is an exhibition and entry is with Day Membership. The events listed below will take place within the exhibition space at the times stated below. Audience members are free to come and go during these times, however capacity is limited so please arrive on time for events.

Due to popular demand the symposium has been made bookable. Learn more.

Thursday 20 Aug     

  • Exhibition Preview, 6 – 10pm     
  • Featuring performances from 7.30 onwards by: Plastique Fantastique, John Russell, John Cussans, English Heretic, Ami Clarke, Rachel Cattle & Jenna Collins

7.30 – 7.50 Ami Clarke, In the Pull of Time (with Low Animal Spirits by Ami Clarke and Richard Cochrane).

In the Pull of Time draws on writing in the Error-Correction: an introduction to future diagrams series - scripts that reference and include found and appropriated texts, contemporary commentary; news items, as well as anecdotal evidence, culminating in an interrelated convergence of many interwoven threads. The texts consider diagrams and diagramming as a way of considering the way differing frameworks have historically constructed the notion of subjectivity, from single point and perspectival drawing, to projected geometry and further beyond the human sensorium, via abstraction in mathematics and quantum physics that problematise previously held classic mechanical models of representation, siting an object in space.

7.50 – 8.10 John Russell, Squirrel

8.10 – 8.30 Rachel Cattle & Jenna Collins, Why Do Things Have Outlines?

A performance based on a text by Gregory Bateson. Starting with the outline of Bateson's argument, we will proceed to question what might be made clear and what might escape the outline by re-examining the text and performing it in the shape of a four-piece band.

8.30 – 8.50 John Cussans, Dream Seminar Diagram

A re-staging of a dream about an art school seminar based on a floor-drawn a diagram that traced continuities between the historical European avant-gardes of the 1920s and 30s and the international counter-cultural movements of the 1960s that was extrapolated upon by the reputable art theorist Jonathan J J Charlesman, before a troubling Xeno-feminist intervention by an un-identified female artist.

8.50 – 9.20 Plastique Fantastique, Loops for AI Machines to Tell their Children

9.20 – 9.50 English Heretic, Cult Of Ku and Diagrams of Sacrifice

(English Heretic will draw on two key releases from its catalogue: Tales of the New Isis Lodge and A Study of Lunar Research Flights.)

The first part of the performance attempts to reconstruct the curious interplay of a form of Chinese Black Magic known as Ku with the pulp fictions of Sax Rohmer. Ku is Hexagram 18 in the I-Ching and the glyph has been studied along with a report by Feng and Shyrock as some kind of monad representing a form of poison magic, and in essence as a moral warning against corruption and decay.

The second part of the performance explores the notion of diagrams of sacrifice. English Heretic's latest release attempts to create a documentary of speculative archaeology in which an abandoned missile base on the Suffolk coast was reimagined to its primal ritual origins - a place of sacrifice akin to the bloody ball courts of Mesoamerica and the tophet of Carthage. Much of the incidental music for this documentary was constructed on site and modulated in the studio using aerial maps of these locations. English Heretic will present a new cut of this documentary.

Friday 21 Aug         

  • Exhibition open, 11am – 6pm
  • DRUGG (Diagram, Research, Use & Generation Group) present: Rat’s Nest Ratiocinations diagramming workshop, 2 – 6pm

John Cussans, Ami Clarke, David Burrows and Dean Kenning will each draw or otherwise present and discuss a diagram. Starting from these diagrams, which cover zombies in culture, probability theory, cybernetics, psychoanalysis, individuation and political economy, we will over the course of the day attempt to map out the ‘capitalist subject’.

This workshop is open to all and people are welcome to bring their own diagrams to draw as part of a collaborative exercise in diagrammatic thinking and problem posing/solving. Chalk is provided.

John Cussans, Bifurcation of the Zombie Complex

(see diagram)

David Burrows, Discourse of the Capitalist

Using the discourse of the capitalist I will discuss positive and negative feedback loops and speculate on diagrams of post-singularity fictions and discourses

Ami Clarke, Error-correction: an introduction to future diagrams: “the sum of all errors due of orientation due to rollings of the eye shall be as minimal as possible”’.

Looking at how ideas relating to the theory of probability lead to how users of diagrams, unlike viewers, are functional components inseparable from the system in which they are imbricated, and Karen Barad's ‘agential realism’.

Dean Kenning, Diagramming the Subject of Capital

I will juxtapose David Harvey’s diagram of the first chapter of Marx’ Capital with my own Metallurgy of the Subject diagram inspired by Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Inoperative Community

Saturday 22 Aug      

  • Exhibition open, 11am – 6pm
  • Symposium, 11.15 – 6pm

Sunday 23 Aug         

Exhibition open, 11am – 6pm

In partnership with and with the generous support of


E.g., 29-07-2021
E.g., 29-07-2021