Theories of materiality include attention to the literal, forensic, formal, and distributed—to which categories the “performative” adds another dimension, one that is premised on the instantiated and situated experience of an aesthetic work rather assuming its existence as a self-evident, autonomous object defined by inherent properties. The idea of performativity is also crucial to diagrams—drawings that work, that are generative in their activity because of structural features that spatialize semantic relations and make spatial relations semantic. Because diagrams are exemplary—even paradigmatic—they offer a way to reconceptualize approaches to design and reading/viewing aesthetic artifacts across a broad range of artistic works and practices. This paper proposes that the “diagrammatic” and “performative” concepts offer a way to think about aesthetic practice from a theoretical perspective that draws on non-representational and new materialist perspectives that embody crucial principles of humanistic epistemology relevant to the creation of knowledge in the digital environment. Examples from the history of information visualization, poetics, book arts, and digital arts will be used to illustrate these principles.


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