------ ongoingness (or some Physiological Descriptions of a Continuing Notion with Observations and Enquiries thereupon) ------

Louse turns into its smallness, and adjusts irreparably. Its attempted articulation has been spoilt by minor change; it has, in some form, found a way out. Louse is deft, a skillful maneuverer, but it’s the ant that troubles Robert Hooke in his attempt to render it:

“I could not, for a good while, think of a way to make it suffer its body to ly quiet in a natural posture; but whil’st it was alive, if its feet were setter’d in Wax or Glew, it would so twist and wind its body, that I could not any wayes get a good view of it; and if I killed it, its body was so little, that I did often spoile the shape of it, before I could thoroughly view it: for this is the nature of these minute Bodies, that as soon, almost, as ever their life is destroy’d, their parts immediately shrivel, and lose their beauty”11 – Robert Hooke, Micrographia (London: Royal Society, 1666), p.203

Ant has a borrowed score of 0.12, indicating very little evidence for borrowing. Source: https://wold.clld.org/meaning/3-817#2/24.3/-4.8

The ant, partially contained, twists and winds in an attempt to escape physically - which, though we know this to be a hopeless pursuit, enables it an escape in virtuality. It avoids a stifling, representational form. The fragility of the ant and its other minute accomplices even prepares for an escape post-life, a smudged protest against a pinning down. Louse leans in, and welcomes the worst.

Robert Hooke’s tussle with the depiction of the ant points to a far larger issue: that of the diagram. The diagrams in Micrographia of the minute bodies are anatomical; they aim to disclose a body-functioning in the microscopic realm, and do so mechanically, rigidly. So it is with louse, whose diagram, or drawing, as the holder & homepage of these texts displays it belly-up, legs in the air, its middle section unmoving and inanimate. The diagram gives a sense of one condition of louse but falls short of a true expression of it - it is not the multiple twistings and windings of the body that are captured, but one moment of this moving spectrum. Louse-drawing is an indicator of singular positioning, not of overlaid function. Even if it did manage to achieve a wider expression, such as in the ‘exploded-view drawing’, which is “meant to clarify some complex physical system for the benefit of a human constructor, operator, or designer” - a diagram that dissects even further into parts in order to indicate the effects of their comings-together - it would simultaneously offer up “as much intrigue as it does value”, enabling the uninformed reader “to fathom a small aspect of its murky otherworldliness”.22 – All quotes Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology, or, What it's Like to Be a Thing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), p.52 There is a double scurrying away: louse escapes in its manifold movements and undisclosed functions, and there is the lapse of the louse-viewer, who is inevitably drawn into otherworldliness of the microscopal realm rather than comprehending supposed instructional elements. This form of the diagram does not capture wholly.

fig.1 Robert Hooke's microscope in Micrographia, 1665

A reason for this impossibility of capture is perhaps because we are mistakenly focusing on a specific expression as a tying down of an abstract concept. Instead, it is the abstract or conceptual form that is the diagram, with Hooke’s drawings providing a cartographic realisation that points to it. This is in line with the Deleuzian concept of the diagram, which “marks a zone of abstraction in which concrete systems shed their specificity and interact on the level of pure function”33 – Jakub Zdebik, Deleuze and the Diagram: Aesthetic Threads in Visual Organization (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2012), p. 23 - the diagram displays such functions of a system, but does not resemble it in its particularities or as imitations. Instead of a previously supposed representational element, the diagram “maps out possibilities prior to their appearance, their representation”.44 – Ibid, p.1 - Jakub Zdebik explains that the concept of the diagram, and its mapping out of possibilities prior to appearance, is defined in two ways: first is an informal dimension, and then a display of relations as pure functions. The informal dimension involves a splitting into two heterogeneous forms: ‘discursive’ (which involve statements, such as ‘penal law’) and ‘non-discursive’ formations (environment, e.g. prisons) - the abstract function is what links the two incongruous systems together, and in doing so points to an informal dimension of intermingling functions. The diagram as display of relations as pure functions operates within this informal dimension, and can transfer from one system to the next, for example as a diagram of surveillance that operates in heterogeneous systems (school, prison etc), without physical transfer but instead through a transfer of relationship, of function. (pp. 1 - 23) The diagram is an informal dimension that exists of abstract functions linking incongruous systems together, and the way in which these abstract functions can transfer between heterogeneous systems - it is the very abstraction of the diagram that allows its application into heterogeneous situations. A diagram is therefore not specific. Its passing from one form to another and the intermingling with other functions leads to the diagram not simply being a model that traces similarities between things, but instead acts as a “generative device”.55 – Ibid, p.5
This brings a complex relationship between this abstract, generative, diagram and the image. As the diagram is non-representational, and due to its elusive nature, “it needs to be embodied in some kind of image so that it can be grasped”.66 – Ibid, p.23. A resistance to grasping can be found in leg 4 Two of the embodying ways that Jakub Zdebik discusses are architectural and cartographic representations, which help give some form of approximate image: “These two spatial markers are important because they are an attempt to capture the fluid and unstable dimension of the diagram”.77 – Ibid, pp.7-8 Yet the attempt always falls short - abstraction, as expected, is not fully capturable; something leaks. The drawing stalls somewhere between the lines - it is not wholly representational, as it cannot capture the abstract in full and, for practical reasons, it needs to be kept comprehensible to a viewer; it is not completely abstract, so that it can communicate some actual information.

Louse as depicted - louse-drawing - functions at an inbetween. The twisting and winding is an embodiment of a resisting abstract function - louse-diagram - the complex machinery of microscopic function on minute bodies, the power relation of observation, the parasitic habits and motions. Louse-drawing, as in Micrographia, exists as momentary cartographic attempt. Yet louse-drawing as homepage, holder to these writings, indicates a change in function, a display of an altogether different diagram. This is the diagram of ongoingness; an expansive, generative diagram, of which the collection of writings altogether are perhaps only a cartographic, or at moments architectural, rendering. Ongoingness-diagram is the abstract function/s that encompass and pertain to ongoing, those that these essays seek to express. That which louse-drawing, in all its dissections, only points to, anxious of a shrivelling up, a loss of beauty.

© Arieh Frosh, 2019