Tuesday, July 07, 2015




Asemic writing did not evolve from handwriting, it
emerged from typewriting, and more specifically
from typing on a keyboard for a computer screen.


Asemic writing developed from typography, not
from calligraphy.


Asemic writing is derived from the manipulation 
of letter-arrangements in words, phrases and


Asemic writing did not come into being as a
result of emptying the mind and imitating
the processes of nature. It came into being as
a result of activating the mind and analyzing
the processes of writing.


We can read things that are not written. We can
be frustrated in our attempts to read things that
are not written. But we gain nothing and learn
nothing by choosing to call things that are not
written asemic writing. We look at the sand on
a beach, or the bark on a tree, or the ripples in
a stream, and we can if we wish say that we are
reading what we are looking at, or that we are
unable to read what we are looking at, even 
though in some ways it reminds us of writing,
but it does not become writing if we take a
photograph of it, it only becomes a photograph,
and it does not become writing if we make a
rubbing or an imprint, it only becomes a rubbing
or an imprint.


Asemic writing began as a kind of experimental
textual poetry, not as visual poetry or visual
writing. It was in a sense a by-product of the
processes of recombination, permutation, 
improvisation, and iteration.


Asemic writing has as one of its immediate
antecedents my experiment of rewriting a
John M. Bennett poem while thinking about
Stephen Smale's horseshoe map and the
concept of topological mixing. Words and
letters that begin far apart will eventually
be close together, and words and letters
that begin close together will eventually
be far apart.  The variations are at least
in theory endless. (cf., Am Horseshoe,
John M. Bennett & Jim Leftwich, Luna
Bisonte Prods, 1996)

I took this kind of procedural experimentation
and added to it a subjective, processual stage
of associational improvisation. One source
text could provide the initial conditions, so to
speak, for the generation of a long series of
derivative texts.

The kinds of texts produced via these procedures
and processes seemed at least potentially
destined for asemia. The crucial aspect of this
critical concept was (and is) its existence as
potential, not as actuality.

Therefore, then and now: no such thing as asemic
writing, only a kind of unattainable goal posited
as a source of energy for our ongoing textual


My first explorations of quasi-calligraphic faux
writing came the morning after a particularly
intense experience of taking what Terence
McKenna called a "heroic dose" of psilocybin
mushrooms. I had experienced a complete
annihilation of the self, and not one of merging
harmoniously with the universe, rather one of
being ripped apart, as if in a ritual sparagmos.
The next morning i was sitting in my car and i
started for the first time to write lines of illegible
fake writing. It felt as if i were being guided to do
this, as a kind of healing for the night before.
When i sent some of these pages to John Bennett
for LAFT he called  them "spirit writings". I had
no argument with that name. Later Tim Gaze
published a book of them with that title. My
contribution to the recent Anthology of Asemic
Handwriting is taken from that book, in response
to a request from Tim.


jim leftwich, subjective asemic postulates - 2003

subjective asemic postulates

as one route through the experiential, a moment encountered as encoded information is decoded in the sensorium to a biosemiotic aggregate subsequently reencoded as language. at this distance, twice-removed, we find ourselves cognizant of our own experiences. human commonality in the sense of its social utility is predicated upon the assurance of subjective experience having become relatively homogenous through its encipherment in shared language. as one route through this encipherment, we might posit as its root components the recognizable variations on the standard shapes ascribed to a set of alphabeticals used in its written depiction. another, related route would investigate the sounds evoked under normative conditions by this same set of alphabeticals. by mutating the standard alphabetical forms, asemic writing destabilizes the encipherment at the site of its visible construction. asemic writing necessitates processes of navigation and decipherment only analogous to normative reading strategies. reading becomes recombinative, recuperative, and improvisational, in direct transgression of normative linguistic homogeneity, opening to a reconstituted subjectivity of experience within language. a strictly semiotic system is reconfigured as asemic when subjectivity assumes primacy for its interpretive elaboration. one effect of this is to introduce the seductive fallacy of having returned to an origin or immediacy, as if the act of destabilizing a human code could erase the human factor from a continual dialectic of the coded, the decoded, and the reencoded. destabilization of the alphabeticals disables received strategies of reading, thus opening the asemic text to interpretive experiences outside the set of acceptable interactions as reading. consensus reality is not communicable by an asemic field. structural censorship constraining the spectrum of permissible experience is not enforceable within an asemic field. hierarchical stratifications of the dominant culture, delineating slots and roles for authorities and subalterns, are available only as transparently arbitrary constructions within an asemic field. the asemic text offers an alternative subjectivity, a site for extrapolations of the experiential, in direct opposition to any homogenous template sanctioned in the diminished capacities of socially- and linguistically-constructed identities. the asemic writer extends an openness, an absence, to the reader. as one route through this absence, we might posit the provisional reinvention of reading as a radical extrapolation of subjective experience. nomadic reading strategies along the rhizome of the asemic insinuate fractal basins for the anarchic subject.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

John Crouse & Jim Leftwich, Acts