Adapted from Wikipedia
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.
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.
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.
Asemic writing can also be seen as a relative perception, whereby unknown languages and forgotten scripts provide templates and platforms for new modes of expression.
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),undesipherable scripts, and graffiti. Asemic writing occurs in avant-garde literature and art with strong roots in the earliest forms of writing.
Some Artists and Writers who have done asemic work (please feel free to post others who might be of interest)
Henri Michaux (author, Alphabet)
Letterisme - Isadore Isou proposed the poem of the future will be purely formal and devoid of semantic content (visual poetry - literally)
Brion Gysin (collaborations with William S. Burroughs in particular - collage)
Abstract Expressionists - look at Jackson Pollock
Max Ernst (book: Maximilliana: The Illegal Practice of Astronomy (great title)
Roland Barthes (semiotic literary theorist - Writing Degree Zero is a classic)
Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs collaboration "Rub Out the World."
Glad you like it, Heather. I'm on a bit of a Burroughs-Gysin jag this morning. Here is the cover of an edition of Burroughs' "Exterminator" (City Lights) that uses asemic writing by Gysin. "Buffalo Bill" and Gysin did a long series collages during the London years that have a lot of asemic writing in them. I believe the bulk of these pieces went into private collections and are hard to view (I need to research this more), which is a pity, because they have a wealth of ideas:
Here is another asemic piece by Brion Gysin I think is really nice. Burroughs did a mock issue of Time magazine and this is one of the illustrations included. Kinda makes me think of David Stafford's Asemic Monthly:
Thanks, DVS, for the excellent post and photos of asemic writing. I am enjoying the information very much and look forward to checking out the work of the artists you have mentioned. Thank you!