Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A letter from Cecil Touchon to Peter Schwenger discussing asemic reading!

Hi Michael, I have been corresponding with Peter Schwenger a bit and he said...

" This is a wonderful meditation on reading asemic, a topic that hasn’t been dealt with all that much on the various blogs—at least not to my knowledge. I think you should send it to Michael Jacobson for posting, just as it is."

So here is what I wrote...

You know, I was thinking to myself that reading asemic writing is a completely different experience than making asemic writing. I notice I have a hard time putting the same attention on the asemic writing (of my own for instance) than reading actual text. Even though I am pretty clear about what I am doing, it is hard to take the required time to really read all the markings line by line. It seems like it should be read quickly but I tend to skip through the 'text' taking in mostly the pattern of it and feel that I need to look at it over and over again to take it in and feel like I have 'gotten it'. Maybe like listening to classical music, it is hard to maintain attention the whole time I am listening and have to listen to a piece many times to feel like I have really heard the whole thing and can anticipate what is coming. I have to become really familiar with it. Even like that, I discover new things now and then. Maybe asemic reading requires the same approach. I wonder what your experience of reading this type of work is. Or anyone else's for that matter.

I observe when I show people a notebook of my asemic writing they usually just very quickly page through it and I wonder what they think they are seeing or are they seeing it at all? One reason why I do this kind of work is to present the actual writing itself as its own concrete, unique reality rather being representative of something else.The same argument that stems from abstract or concrete art. I think you say in your book and certainly I have said and considered that the actual physical language text disappears when we are reading and just becomes a dialog in one's head. It is mostly a delivery system.

Painting was read the same way  - looking beyond the actual painting to the image it is representing - before Impressionism that became much more involved with the optics of paint and really cut loose with Kandinsky and abstraction. People and even the artists themselves became confused about what they were supposed to see when they looked at it and how they were supposed to interact with it and what it might mean to an audience. I suppose that is still a problem for many.
Because of the very limited range of our focal point - maybe the size of a dime or even smaller I would say more like 1/4 of an inch around as far as actually seeing something - it seems that asemic writing is a very good way to present an artistic idea in a way where a viewer can look at the whole thing in a step by step logical flow that allows most of the work - line by line - to stay in the focal point while looking at it. Focused seeing.

A further thought...

Compared to normal text where you read through it and it becomes a story in your head that seems to be building an idea or following a train of thought that we are able to hold on to. With asemic reading, there may not be that same sense of having signposts to let you know where you are in the reading. Maybe asemic writing doesn’t have the sense of leading you along a trail since it is like walking through a wilderness where the reader has to develop his own rationale and cut his own internal trail through the work. Hence there may not be a sense of progression as with a literal text that moves along a paved and well marked road and this may cause an inclination toward disengagement.

And about seeing...

Testing 'seeing/reading' vision, look at the text on this page at a comfortable reading distance maybe 18 inches away I guess. Rest the center of your vision on a single word. Without moving your eyes, how many words around that word can you clearly make out while holding your focal point on the one word. For me, I can only see about a 4-5 letter word completely clearly with my eyes stationary. I assume that is roughly the same for everybody unless there is something wrong with my vision. Sure we can take in quite a bit peripherally but that is all fuzzy and out of focus until the center of your vision gets to it.
 Be sure to check out The Cecil Touchon Asemic Reader published by Post-Asemic Press!
 And check out Asemic: The Art of Writing by Peter Schwenger published by The University Of Minnesota Press!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

ASEMIC: The Art of Writing by Peter Schwenger is available now from University of Minnesota Press!

ASEMIC: The Art of Writing
By Peter Schwenger

University of Minnesota Press | 192 pages | December 2019
ISBN 978-1-5179-0697-9 | paper | $25.00
ISBN 978-1-5179-0696-2 |  cloth | $100.00

In recent years, asemic writing—writing without language—has exploded in popularity, with anthologies, a large-scale art exhibition, and flourishing interest on sites like tumblr, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Asemic is the first critical study of this fascinating field, proposing new ways of rethinking the nature of writing and exploring how asemic writing has evolved and gained importance today.

Peter Schwenger is resident fellow at the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. He is the author of several books, including The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects and At the Borders of Sleep: On Liminal Literature (both from Minnesota).

"How does the noncommunicative communicate? This is the seemingly innocent question Peter Schwenger unpacks. At once storehouse and treatise, Asemic has the clarity of a dictionary entry, its sagacity delivered with deceptive ease, revealing a domain vaster than anyone would have thought: a Copernican marvel." Jed Rasula, author of History of a Shiver: The Sublime Impudence of Modernism

"Asemic is a long-overdue study of poetries that occupy liminal spaces between art, like Cy Twombly's paintings, and recognizable words, like Henri Michaux's poetry. Peter Schwenger offers an extended theory and an introductory survey of contemporary asemic writing by Michael Jacobson, Rosaire Appel, Christopher Skinner, and others. From this book one can learn to read and, by extension, teach asemiological texts." Craig Saper, co-editor of Readies for Bob Brown's Machine

"This is the first full-length exploration of the history and meaning of asemic writing. Important figures such as Michaux, Twombly, Barthes, Jim Leftwich, and Rosaire Appel are included, as well as examples from Chinese culture. Well-chosen illustrations accompany Peter Schwenger's insightful text. This book is a solid first map of a territory previously unknown to academic study." Tim Gaze, publisher of Asemic magazine

For more information, including the table of contents, visit the book's webpage:

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Seven Segment Asemics by Volodymyr Bilyk

Here's a new thing. As i'm exploring defamiliarization of language - i've toyed with alarm clock display and found out that its seven segment display is really good at doing some abstract symbols.

—Volodymyr Bilyk, author of Codex Abyssus

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Magazine: The Cut-Up Asemics by Scott Helmes is available around the world at Amazon! Post-Asemic Press #010

Magazine: The Cut-Up Asemics by Scott Helmes is available now around the world at Amazon.

Here is Scott's description of his book:  "Where does the text go after it’s been read? Pure Asemic writing is the total dissolution of the text, leaving traces of the human hand. These works occupy the space between the initial visual text and the pure asemic result. Initially taken from print magazines, primarily selected for the text and typography forms, these works are visual/concrete states of the above process.They reflect memory loss, partial comprehension of meaning and non-verbal sensory input. These too will evaporate at varying rates, depending upon how they are inputted and the ‘reading’ by the viewer. The additional element of what appears to be motion/movement represents the active role of physical writing, the passage of time and loss of meaning. The works start when Helmes finds magazines with interesting type styles. He works primarily with black printing as he feels color is an intrusive meaning, and then tears out selected pages as a first step. India ink is then applied to blank 8-1/2” x 11” plain, paper using either a palate knife or a rubber eraser. The ink-marks are done in a free style writing motion that does not follow the typical typesetting grid. After an over-all ink image is finalized, the magazine pages are torn up into individual elements that are placed on the page and within the frame work of the ink marks. The original meaning of the type is then altered and loses its references. The type then becomes suggestive, especially when the various forms are placed in new relationships with other ‘letters’. Usually attached to the ink lines, the letters begin their total dissolution into nothingness. Without the reader being able to reference the original text, the reader brings to the process their ideas/thoughts about what the text ‘says’. Sometimes whole words or groups of words are included, but these are selected based wholly upon a visual need as opposed to making language sense. Helmes feels these works become after-images and extend the reading and memory process to a unique form and retinal image that is tacked on whatever is left of the language memory. By now becoming a complete work, they extend the life of the magazine/text/writing, as opposed to just the memory of the textural meaning. Some of the early works were given the title of ‘Bones’, which is meant to convey language being stripped of the ‘flesh’ of the word and being left with absolute basics of its form. Later works are just dated and contain no further references,thus enabling a concrete point in the transition to Asemic writing."

  • Paperback: 70 pages
  • Publisher: Post-Asemic Press (October 11, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1732878889
  • ISBN-13: 978-1732878884
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces 
  • Price: $16.00


In Magazine, there is poise; there is intention. Letters form openings, letters form arrows into openings. There is sexual heat, there is calm, there is clarity. There are lacey places like thin branches that form something together. Going deeply into the book, the images turn block-like, with greater conformance to solid letters. Some of the forms as humanoids resist each other or veer together. Angles are musical, even lamp like. Always there are edges. Always there are magnets and pulse-driven points of strength. Nothing is finished. Or everything is. Color is mildly allowed as suggested, but only that. A calligraphic zeal and respite all in one confirm a mind that plays precisely.

This is asemia at its purest. To the point that when I reach the author photo page, I reflexively begin to subtract flecks of the dark jacket and the word “Columbia.”  

 —Sheila E. Murphy

From among all the visual poets working today, Scott Helmes is the one most focused on the letter, especially the fragment thereof. His goal is not the word. His purpose is to examine the fractured letter in its typographic and calligraphic manifestations, to see what there is to understand in the atomization of written language, to uncover how the corners of individual letters can make us recall the language as a whole. In the poems in this collection, he merges his two major practices and fashions collage poems that mix the fluid rigidity of his favorite typographic forms with rough and painterly brushstrokes of ink, thus tying together the handmade forms of inking with the machine-made curves and slices of type. In this way, he reconnects two major practices in visual poetry, presenting us with two views of this world: the clean and the dirty—and the beauty of both.

—Geof Huth

Click on the following links to buy the book at Amazon:

Amazon USA 

Amazon Australia

Amazon Brazil (Brasil) 

Amazon Canada  

Amazon France

Amazon Germany (Deutschland)

Amazon India

Amazon Italy (Italia)

Amazon Mexico

Amazon Spain (España)

Amazon UK 

Here are some sample pages from Magazine:

Scott Helmes is a poet, book artist, writer, artist, architect and photographer. His experimental poetry has been collected, published and exhibited worldwide for over 40 years. Books include 1000 Haiku, Stamp Pad Press; Poems From Then to Now, Redfoxpress (Ireland), and The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998-2008, Fantagraphics. In 2015, two works were included in The New Concrete, an international concrete poetry anthology from Hayward Press, London.  13 poems were published as part of the Kobitadihi Online Magazine World-wide Visual Poetry, April 2017. An altered book was exhibited in the Wallpaper exhibition at Traffic Zone in July, 2018. His studio is located in Minneapolis, MN, USA.