adventures in nonism: asemic art
our name, the nonist, was originally (for our purposes) coined as a half joking, half serious, (all drunk no doubt) reaction to the chain rattling ghost of art past and the verbose zombie of art present. i for one had gotten tired of all the manifestos and texts i was expected to care about, all the explanations i was obliged to stay awake through, not to mention the boundaries which a knowledge of art history sneakily laid down. been done. reminds me of so-and-so. thats so passe! simply put isms were a drag. who needed em? nonism was a way of saying fuck you politely. we were young and full of wine so what else would you expect?
the term was never used seriously but the sentiments it clumsily expressed remained a vital part of my opinions about art influencing not only my way of experiencing it but my method of creating it as well. there was a fairly simple main thrust- remaining willfully ignorant about certain things could, contrary to accepted wisdom, prove beneficial.
when looking at art i employed a simple mental algorithm. if a piece struck me, tickled me, wowed me, grabbed me, mystified me, etc, it was, to my mind, good. if a piece did not wow me and required a 40 minute lecture complete with schematic diagrams and interpretations by 6 leading critics to make an impact then it was bad art. simple as that. in my mind there were too many illustrated paragraphs out there masquerading as art with an explanation. some people love that stuff. i do not.
when creating art the imperative was simply to do whatever the hell i wanted, trends and art history be darned. it seemed too easy to trap yourself in an effort to be relevant and to do something new. those concerns are more than anything a way of imposing boundaries on oneself. life is too short to play those games. they say those who dont know the past are doomed to repeat it. id say if history has proven anything its that even those who know it full well repeat it anyhow. and in terms of art why should i be denied a certain style or subject or method just because someone else already tread that ground a hundred years ago? whats that got to do with me? sure i wont become wealthy and world renowned but who says thats why i create things?
anyhow this brings me to asemic art. when i was creating the pieces which now make up the archeography section i remember chatting with people excitedly, explaining what it was i was doing. i never once used the word asemic because until last week id never heard it.
and thems the wages of nonism folks. for good or bad i built a small body of work without ever being aware of the tradition it followed, the category it fit in, or the name which so succinctly described it.
tim gaze, creator of the mag (and asemic artist himself) offered this definition:
The word asemic means having no semantic content. Illegible writing or pretend writing could be described as asemic.
elsewhere he had this to say-
[Hand]writing does not just contain semantic information. It also contains aesthetic information (when seen as a shape or image) and emotional information (such as a graphologist would analyze.) Because it eliminates the semantic information, asemic writing brings the emotional and aesthetic content to the foreground. By contrast, e-mail is writing almost devoid of aesthetic and emotional content, apart from what the words contain. Asemic works play with our minds, enticing us to attempt to read them. Some asemic works make the viewer hover between reading (as a text) and looking (as a picture).
as it turns out the list of related artists and groups and styles is pretty lengthy. cobra, kruchonykh, zaum, georges mathieu, bryon gysin,tao magic diagrams, ulfert wilke, mirtha darmisache, ungolee, guy de cointet, antoni tąpies, mark tobey, lyrical abstraction, cy twombly just to skim the surface. really its just a matter of where you draw the line. (no pun)
i found it a bit ironic that id find my own interests allied so closely with cobra, practitioners of automatic drawing, inism, zaum, lettrisme, etc since they are manifesto lovers one and all. it seems to me though taken as a whole, this kind of work was done in so many eras, in so many contexts, by members of vastly different artistic cultures, that perhaps all the fevered-artist revolutionary tracts used to rationalize it were not strictly necessary. course its art were talking about and what is?
anyhow i thought id offer up a gallery of related works. as it turns out many of the artists who did / are doing asemic art are very underrepresented on the net. there was almost no bryon gysin calligraphy for instance. how can that be? almost no Rachid Koraichi work so i just did the best i could. see below.
one thing i find fascinating is that huge swaths of the worlds texts masquerade as asemic art. what i mean is that to me, islamic, chinese, and japanese calligraphy are all, through my own ignorance, without semantic content. as are hieroglyphs, aztec Logographs, and every other ancient writing system. and of course this is exactly the reason they inspire me. i can look over a korean mans shoulder on the subway, glance at his newspaper, and be inspired. id say ignorance has a definite
posted by jmorrison