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Asemic writing from Marco Giovenale

Asemic writing is a "wordless open "semantic form of "writing.[1][2][3] The word asemic means "having no specific semantic content," or "without the smallest unit of meaning."[4] With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret. All of this is similar to the way one would deduce meaning from an "abstract work of art. Where asemic writing differs from abstract art is in the asemic author's use of gestural constraint, and the retention of physical characteristics of writing such as lines and symbols. Asemic writing is a hybrid art form that fuses "text and "image into a unity, and then sets it free to arbitrary subjective interpretations. It may be compared to "free writing or writing for its own sake, instead of writing to produce verbal context. The open nature of asemic works allows for meaning to occur across "linguistic understanding; an asemic text may be "read" in a similar fashion regardless of the reader's natural language.[5] Multiple meanings for the same "symbolism are another possibility for an asemic work, that is, asemic writing can be polysemantic or have "zero meaning, "infinite meanings, or its meaning can "evolve over time.[6] Asemic works leave for the reader to decide how to "translate and "explore an asemic text; in this sense, the reader becomes co-creator of the asemic work.

In 1997 "visual poets Tim Gaze and Jim Leftwich first applied the word asemic to name their quasi-calligraphic writing gestures. They then began to distribute them to "poetry "magazines both online and in print. The authors explored sub-verbal and sub-letteral forms of writing, and textual "asemia as a creative option and as an intentional practice. Since the late 1990s, asemic writing has blossomed into a worldwide literary/"art movement. It has especially grown in the early part of the 21st century, though there is an acknowledgement of a long and complex history, which precedes the activities of the current asemic movement, especially with regards to abstract calligraphy, wordless writing, and verbal writing damaged beyond the point of legibility. Jim Leftwich has recently stated that an asemic condition of an asemic work is an impossible goal, and that it is not possible to create an art/literary work entirely without meaning. He has begun to use the term "pansemic" to describe this type of work.[7] Others such as author "Travis Jeppesen have found the term asemic to be problematic because "it seems to infer writing with no meaning."[8]


Styles of asemic writing[edit]

An example of Zhang Xu's calligraphy

Asemic writing exists in many different forms. It is often created with a "pen or "brush, but can range from being hand drawn in the sand with a stick and documented by "photography, or to works on "canvas, "paper, "computer images, and "animations. The key to asemic writing is that even though it is traditionally "unreadable" it still maintains a strong attractive appeal to the reader's "eye. Various asemic writing includes "pictograms, or "ideograms the meanings of which are sometimes suggested by their shapes, though it may also flow as an "abstract expressionist scribble which resembles writing but avoids words. Asemic writing, at times, exists as a conception or shadow of conventional writing practices. Reflecting writing, but not completely existing as a traditional writing system, asemic writing seeks to make the reader hover in a state between reading and looking.[9] Asemic writing has no verbal sense, though it may have clear textual sense.[10] Through its formatting and structure, asemic writing may suggest a type of document and, thereby, suggest a meaning. The form of art is still writing, often "calligraphic in form, and either depends on a reader's sense and knowledge of writing systems for it to make sense, or can be understood through aesthetic intuition.[11] True asemic writing occurs when the creator of the asemic piece cannot read their own asemic writing. Relative asemic writing is a natural writing system that can be read by some people but not by everyone (e.g. "ciphers, "wildstyle, etc.). Most asemic writing lies between these two extremes.[12] Influences on asemic writing are illegible, "invented, or primal "scripts ("cave paintings, "doodles, children's drawings, etc.). But instead of being thought of as mimicry of preliterate expression, asemic writing may be considered to be a global "postliterate style of writing that uses all forms of creativity for inspiration. Other influences on asemic writing are "alien languages in science fiction, "artistic languages, "sigils (magick), "undeciphered scripts, and "graffiti.[13] Uses for asemic writing include mental and "creative "idea stimulation, "non-verbal communication, "hoaxes, and general authorial self-expression.


Newsletter from Mirtha Dermisache[14]

Asemic writing occurs in "avant-garde literature and art with strong roots in the "earliest forms of writing. The history of today's asemic movement stems from two "Chinese calligraphers: "crazy" "Zhang Xu, a "Tang Dynasty (circa 800 CE) calligrapher who was famous for creating wild illegible calligraphy, and the younger "drunk" "monk "Huaisu who also excelled at illegible "cursive calligraphy.[15] "Japanese calligraphers subsequently expanded upon Chinese abstract calligraphic expression by "Hitsuzendō (the way of "Zen through brush), allowing their works to move past formal presentation and "breathe with the vitality of eternal experience." In the 1920s "Henri Michaux, who was influenced by Asian calligraphy, "Surrealism, and "Automatic writing, began to create wordless works such as Alphabet (1925) and Narration (1927).[16] Michaux referred to his calligraphic works as "interior Gestures". The writer and artist "Wassily Kandinsky was an early precursor to asemic writing, with his linear piece Indian Story (1931) exemplifying complete textual abstraction. In the 1950s there is "Brion Gysin (whose calligraphy was influenced by "Arabic and Japanese calligraphy), "Isidore Isou (who founded "Lettrisme), "Cy Twombly (a former US Army "Cryptologist), and "Morita Shiryū/Bokujin-kai Group (Ink Human Society)[17] all of whom expanded writing into illegible, abstract, and wordless visual mark-making; they would help lay the foundation for asemic writers of the future. "Mirtha Dermisache is another writer who had created asemic writing since the 1960s.[18] Dermisache actively said that even though her graphisms have no meaning, they still retained the full rights of an autonomous work. 1971 was the year when Alain Satié released his work Écrit en prose ou L'Œuvre hypergraphique which contains asemic writing throughout the entire graphic novel.[19] "León Ferrari was another artist/poet who created many asemic works in the 1960s and 70s, such as Escritura (1976).[20] 1974 saw the release of "Max Ernst's work Maximiliana: The Illegal Practice Of Astronomy: hommage à Dorothea Tanning; this book is a major influence on asemic writers such as Tim Gaze, Michael Jacobson, and "Derek Beaulieu.[21] "Roland Barthes was also involved with asemic writing; he titled his asemic works Contre-écritures.[22][23]

A modern example of asemic writing is "Luigi Serafini's "Codex Seraphinianus (1981). Serafini described the script of the Codex as asemic in a talk at the "Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles held on May 8, 2009.[24] In the 1980s "Chinese artist "Xu Bing created Tiānshū, or "A Book from the Sky which is a work of books and hanging scrolls on which were printed 4000 hand carved meaningless characters.[25] The 1980s also saw artist "Gu Wenda begin the first of a series of projects centered on the invention of meaningless, false Chinese ideograms, depicted as if they were truly old and traditional. One exhibition of this type was held in "Xi'an in 1986, featuring paintings of fake ideograms on a massive scale.[26] Also in China, during the 1990s, an abstract calligraphy movement known as "Calligraphy-ism" came into existence, a leading proponent of this movement being Luo Qi. Calligraphy-ism is an aesthetic movement that aims to develop calligraphy into an abstract art. The characters do not need to retain their traditional forms or be legible as words. In "Vietnam during the 2000s a calligraphy group called the Zenei Gang of Five appeared. To this group of young artists, “Wordless” means that which cannot be said, that which is both before and beyond the specificity of naming. To be without words is saying nothing and saying everything.

Specialized publications[edit]

2013 saw the release of An Anthology of Asemic Handwriting (Uitgeverij), which has over a hundred artists represented from many corners of the world.[27] Asemic writing has also received mention and space in The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998-2008 ("Fantagraphics, 2012).[28] In 2011 a full issue of "William Allegrezza's poetry journal Moria was focused on the participants and theory of asemic writing.[29] Also in 2011, John Moore Williams published an asemic issue of his journal The Bleed. Other "publications that cover asemic writing include Tim Gaze's Asemic Magazine, Michael Jacobson's "curated "weblog gallery The New Post-Literate: A Gallery Of Asemic Writing,[30] Marco Giovenale's "collective group blog Asemic Net,[31] and De Villo Sloan's collaboration project Asemic Front.[32] Book "publishers of asemic writing include Tim Gaze's Asemic Editions,[33] Michael Jacobson's Post-Asemic Press,[34] and Rosaire Appel's Press Rappel.[35] Asemic writing has appeared in "books, "artworks, "films and on "television but it has especially been distributed via the "internet (such as on "Facebook,[36] "Tumblr, "Pinterest,[37] "YouTube, "Scribd, IUOMA,[38] and "Reddit[39]). Group exhibits of asemic writing have occurred in "bricks and mortar "art galleries in "Australia,[40] "Russia,[41] "Malta,[42] "Mexico,[43] "Spain,[44] "Italy,[45] and the "United States.[46] More recently there have been "architecture models which utilize asemic writing in the design process.[47][48] Currently, there is a "robot that performs asemic writing live,[49] and there is asemic writing produced by "artificial intelligence.[50]

Satu Kaikkonen, a contemporary asemic artist/writer, had this to say about asemic writing:

As a creator of asemics, I consider myself an explorer and a global storyteller. Asemic art, after all, represents a kind of language that's universal and lodged deep within our unconscious minds. Regardless of language identity, each human's initial attempts to create written language look very similar and, often, quite asemic. In this way, asemic art can serve as a sort of common language—albeit an abstract, post-literate one—that we can use to understand one another regardless of background or nationality. For all its limping-functionality, semantic language all too often divides and asymmetrically empowers while asemic texts can't help but put people of all literacy-levels and identities on equal footing.[51]

"Bruce Sterling comments about asemic writing on his "Wired magazine blog Beyond the Beyond:

Writing that doesn’t have any actual writing in it whatsoever. You would think that this must be some kind of ultimate literary frontier, a frozen Antarctica of writing entirely devoid of literary content, but I wonder.

What is “beyond asemic writing”? Maybe a neural brain-scan of an author *thinking about* asemic writing. Maybe *generative asemic writing*. Maybe “asemic biomimicry”. Maybe nanoasemic writing inscribed with atomic force microscopes by Artificial Intelligences.[52]

False writing systems[edit]

False writing systems are artificially constructed "alphabets or scripts used (sometimes within the context of a "false document) to convey a degree of verisimilitude. Examples of this include alien dialogue in comic strips, "cartoons, and "graphic novels (such as "Alan Moore's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the "Valérian and Laureline series). The script in "Luigi Serafini's 1981 "Codex Seraphinianus was confirmed by the author to have no occult meaning. The "Voynich manuscript, a mysterious work on which the Codex Seraphinianus was likely based, uses an "undeciphered writing system that some speculated to be false.

Influences, predecessors, and related forms[edit]

José Parlá painting a "mural at Barclay's Center


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TwentyFourHours Michael Jacobson interview". TwentyFourHoursOnline. 
  2. ^ "Tim Gaze. Asemic Magazine". Asemic Magazine. 
  3. ^ "Full Of Crow Tim Gaze interview". 
  4. ^ From "Greek: asemos (αόεμoβ) = without sign, unmarked, obscure, or ignoble.
  5. ^ "Satu Kaikkonen interview". 
  6. ^ "Samplekannon interview with Michael Jacobson". Samplekannon. 
  7. ^ "Jim Leftwich: "asemic writing definitions and contexts, 1998-2016"". 
  8. ^ "Hans Ulrich Obrist in Conversation About Inventing New Languages". Sleek Magazine. 
  9. ^ Jaime Morrison. "Nonism: Asemic Art". 
  10. ^ Geof Huth. "Varieties of Visual Poetry". dbqp. 
  11. ^ Michael Jacobson. "Works & Interviews". 
  12. ^ "PRATE, Michael Jacobson interview". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "Michael Jacobson interview". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  14. ^ dermisache-9 Newsletters & 1 Reportaje 2000: Newsletter, 2000 from Mirtha Dermisache, Nueve Newsletters & Un Reportaje, Buenos Aires : El borde, Marseille : Mobil-Home, Montpellier : Manglar, 2004. Offset printing, 440 copies.
  15. ^ Sarah Nicholls. "Center for Book Arts: Making Sense of Asemic Writing". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "'Leaking the Squalls': The Art and Letters of Henri Michaux". natalie ferris. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Calligraphy The Bokujin-Kai Group and Shiryu Morita". infinity of utterances kathryn simon phd. 
  18. ^ "Witness Mirtha Dermisache". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  19. ^ Alain Satie, Écrit en Prose, Éditions PSI, 1971.
  20. ^ Buzz Poole. "The Writing of Art, The Art of Writing". 
  21. ^ "PRATE". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  22. ^ Tierra Innovation. "Vispo". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  23. ^ "Drawings on Writing". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  24. ^ Jeff Stanley (2010). "To Read Images Not Words: Computer-Aided Analysis of the Handwriting in the Codex Seraphinianus (MSc dissertation)" (PDF). North Carolina State University at Raleigh. pp. 8–9. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "Free writing". stalker. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  26. ^ "asemic writing - Donna Tull". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  27. ^ "An Anthology Of Asemic Handwriting". 
  28. ^ "The Last Vispo Anthology". Crag Hill & Nico Vassilakis (editors). 
  29. ^ "moria". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  30. ^ "The New Post-Literate: A Gallery Of Asemic Writing". 
  31. ^ "Asemic Net". 
  32. ^ "Asemic Front". 
  33. ^ "Asemic Editions". 
  34. ^ "Post-Asemic Press". 
  35. ^ "Press Rappel, Printed Matter". 
  36. ^ "Facebook Asemic writing: The New Post-Literate group". 
  37. ^ "Asemic writing on Pinterest". 
  38. ^ "Asemic Writing For Mail Artists at IUOMA (The International Union Of Mail Artists)". 
  39. ^ "Reddit asemic page". 
  40. ^ "Asemic writing at The Hahndorf Academy". 
  41. ^ "The First Asemic Writing Exhibit In Russia". 
  42. ^ "Asemic Show at the Spiral, Malta". 
  43. ^ "First Asemic Writing Exhibit In Mexico". 
  44. ^ "Asemic Tech". 
  45. ^ "Utsanga Asemic Writing Exhibit". 
  46. ^ "Asemic Writing: Offline & In The Gallery". 
  47. ^ "Asemic Scapes by Sarah Schneider". Dezeen. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  48. ^ "suckerPUNCH  » Asemic ForestsuckerPUNCH". SUCKERPUNCHDAILY.COM. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  49. ^ "The Post-Literate (R)Evolution". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  50. ^ "Asemic AI". 
  51. ^ "". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  52. ^ Sterling, Bruce (July 13, 2009). "Web Semantics: Asemic writing". " Retrieved February 29, 2016. 
  53. ^ "The Commonline Journal: Without Words: An Interview with Tim Gaze". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  54. ^ "Gammm: le scritture asemantiche di irma blank / gillo dorfles. 1974". Marco Giovenale with English translation by Nerida Newbigin, 2014. 
  55. ^ "Poem Brut". Steven J. Fowler. 
  56. ^ "asemic-writing-matox". Post Graffiti :: Urban Skins. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 

References and works[edit]

Asemic "gif animation by Tony Burhouse and Michael Jacobson

External links[edit]

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