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Asemic writing


Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means "having no specific semantic content," or "without the smallest unit of meaning." 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. 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. 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. Others such as author Travis Jeppesen have found the term asemic to be problematic because "it seems to infer writing with no meaning."



  • Derek Beaulieu, Flatland. York: Information as Material, 2007
  • John Cayley (Author), Lydia Liu (Author), Katherine Spears (Editor), Xu Bing (Artist), Xu Bing: Tianshu: Passages in the Making of a Book. Bernard Quaritch Ltd.; Bilingual edition, 2012.
  • Max Ernst, Maximiliana: The illegal practice of astronomy : hommage à Dorothea Tanning. New York Graphic Society,1974.
  • Tim Gaze, The Oxygen Of Truth, Vol. 1 & 2. Broken Boulder, 1999- 2000. [1]
  • Tim Gaze, Jim Leftwich, Louise Tournay, Abdourahamane Diarra, Joe Maneri, ASEMIA. Anabasis/Xtant, 2003.
  • Tim Gaze, Writing. xPress(ed), 2004.
  • Tim Gaze, Noology. Arrum Press, 2008.
  • Tim Gaze, 100 Scenes. Transgressor Press, 2010.
  • Tim Gaze & Michael Jacobson (editors), An Anthology Of Asemic Handwriting. Uitgeverij, 2013.
  • Marco Giovenale, Asemic Sibyls. Red Fox Press, 2013.
  • Michael Jacobson, The Giant's Fence. Ubu Editions, 2001-2006. [2]
  • Carlos Martínez Luis, Nomadic and Archeological Scriptures. LUNA BISONTE PRODS, 2009.
  • Luna-Park 2, 1976.
  • Raymond Queneau, Ecritures. Secret Books, 2015. [3]
  • Alain Satié, Written in Prose. Asemic Editions, 2011.
  • Luigi Serafini, Codex Seraphinianus. Milano: Rizzoli, 2013, 396 pp.,
  • Paul A. Toth (editor), ALPHA BET A TEST: The Eye Am Eye Asemic Anthology: Language in the Act of Disappearing. Eye Am Eye Press, 2015.
  • Zoomoozophone Review 8, 2016. [4]
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