Asemic writing

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Asemic writing from Marco Giovenale

Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means "having no specific semantic content". With the nonspecificity 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. The open nature of asemic works allows for meaning to occur trans-linguistically; 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.

Styles of asemic writing[edit]

Some asemic writing includes pictograms or ideograms, the meanings of which are sometimes, but not always, suggested by their shapes. 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.[citation needed]

Asemic writing has no verbal sense, though it may have clear textual sense. 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.[citation needed]

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). Between these two axioms is where asemic writing exists and plays.[citation needed]

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 postliterate style of writing that uses all forms of creativity for inspiration. Other influences on asemic writing are xenolinguistics, artistic languages, sigils (magic), undeciphered scripts, and graffiti.[citation needed]

Asemic writing occurs in avant-garde literature and art with strong roots in the earliest forms of writing. A modern example of asemic writing is Luigi Serafini's Codex Seraphinianus. Serafini described the script of the Codex as asemic in a talk at the Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles held on May 8, 2009.[1]

Specialized publications[edit]

Publications that cover asemic writing include Tim Gaze's Asemic Magazine, Michael Jacobson's weblog gallery The New Post-Literate, and Marco Giovenale's curated group blog "Asemic Net". Asemic writing has appeared in books, artworks, films and on television but it has especially been distributed via the internet. More recently there have been architecture models which utilize asemic writing in the design process.[2][3] Currently, there is a robot that performs asemic writing live.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

Influences and predecessors[edit]

  • From the Tim Gaze interview at Commonline Journal: "you could say that nature, since time began, has been manifesting asemic writing. It just needs a human to see the writing, & recognize it".[7]


  1. ^ ^ Jeff Stanley (2010). "To Read Images Not Words: Computer-Aided Analysis of the Handwriting in the Codex Seraphinianus (MSc dissertation)". North Carolina State University at Raleigh. pp. 8–9. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
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  6. ^ Sterling, Bruce (July 13, 2009). "Web Semantics: Asemic writing". Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  7. ^


  • Tim Gaze, Writing. xPress(ed), 2004. ISBN 951-9198-86-5
  • Tim Gaze, Noology. Arrum Press, 2008.
  • Tim Gaze, 100 Scenes. Transgressor Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9807303-4-0
  • Tim Gaze & Michael Jacobson (editors), An Anthology Of Asemic Handwriting. Uitgeverij, 2013. ISBN 978-9081709170
  • Michael Jacobson, The Giant's Fence. Ubu Editions, 2006. [1]

External links[edit]