Asemic Correspondence by Henry Denander (Stockholm, Sweden)

Henry - 12.5.2015 - 1

Mail art by IUOMA member Henry Denander (Stockholm, Sweden)

December 6, 2015 - I am thrilled to have received this FAB art on a stamp sheet from the extraordinary Henry Denander of Sweden. The piece is approximately 8.5 X 11 inches (A4). I am happy with the scan, but in person the image is even more striking. The stamps, signature and other details make the work very special. Henry Denander also sent an excellent example of his asemic writing, which has been circulating in the Eternal Network lately to much acclaim.

Henry - 12.5.2015 - 2

Currently, the asemic writing arena has grown very contentious with endless bickering and uninvited rants and verbal assaults if one dares to use the term “asemic.” Most of the haters (zealots?) seem to be contending (of course I am generalizing) that most of what is being called “asemic” is just “visual poetry.” To a degree, I am sympathetic with this position, although I will continue to use the term “asemic." (Unfortunately, I moderate the IUOMA asemic writing group, which I inherited when Cheryl Penn left.)

Not long ago one unknown soldier of asemics posted disparaging but brilliant remarks on Facebook about asemic writing having degenerated into “motel room abstract art.” I agree. Yes, the asemic writing realm is becoming increasingly infested by uninspired abstract painters who have no understanding of the literary dimension of asemics. To mix a metaphor thoroughly, I believe the Motel Room School of Abstract Asemic Art is now sinking the ship. The bad money drives out the good, as they say, not the other way around.

I still cling to the concept of asemic writing, which means that asemics involve language and text. Asemic writing explores core issues concerning the nature of language. Yes, the form is hybrid: Involving a mix of textual and visual art. But it is not solely a subset of abstract painting, which – unfortunately – it is becoming at the hands of the Motel Room School of Abstract Asemic Art.

So I find Henry Denander’s back-to-basics asemic correspondence refreshing in the context of the current situation.

Henry - 12.5.2015 - 3

Henry - 12.5.2015 - 4

The fundamental question of the mail art is: “What would Charles Bukowski Do?” In terms of anything I can ascertain from Bukowski’s writing, he would want you to think for yourself.

Many thanks to Henry Denander for the great m-a!

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Comment by De Villo Sloan on December 8, 2015 at 2:04am

OK, this is the point I wanted to make. Before this recent wave of "Asemic Art" started, I wrote about "purist" asemic writing, which is down-to-basics calligraphy, pen on paper. When all the abstract paintings and digitally deconstructed alphabets become too much, I think you can locate a true asemic writing in this kind of simple calligraphy. Geof Huth sent me this piece a few years back. He has never called it asemic, but what else can it be? It hangs perfectly suspended between the readable and the unintelligible.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on December 7, 2015 at 4:18pm

Great points, Chris. In light of the ascension of the Motel Room School of Abstract Asemic Art, I want to respond to your very important statement. I will do so later when I have a bit more free time.

Comment by chris wells on December 7, 2015 at 2:12am

I'm a big fan of the "terrible handwriting" school of asemic writing. That's actually what got me thinking about asemic stuff years before I had ever heard of it: the inability to read my own handwriting and realizing my creative "readings" were probably more interesting than what I had intended to write down, which was likely quite mundane. This kind of asemic work calls one to read, primes the mind to read, and then makes it impossible to read. It becomes an exercise in perception instead.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on December 7, 2015 at 1:06am

Thx res, when I first received Henry's work, I thought he just had terrible handwriting, but it turns out it is intentionally asemic. I guess it didn't really sink in for me that there is an asemic address there. Glad you pointed that out.

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