Bookshelf - Asemic: The Art of Writing by Peter Schwenger

If you've ever noticed the vividly illegible graffiti on urban facades or the frenetic scrawlings of a very young child, you may have experienced the phenomenon of witnessing writing-like examples without being able to decipher their written meaning. However, while empty in terms of established word formation, an observer can still appreciate the motivations and skills behind these writings - revealing the efforts of the asemic writer to be neither pointless nor meaningless in their conception, manifestation and dissemination.

We've already covered asemic writing in a previous post - but to reiterate in brief: asemic writing is a wordless means of writing that hinges on the gesture of the artist rather than the meaning usually derived from written language. Asemic writing may look like words in shape, form, context and/or arrangement, but it owns no solid meaning other than how the viewer chooses to appreciate it (which incorporates the viewer as a participant or co-creator in the asemic process overall). Like any other artwork, the nature of asemic writing has the potential to evoke a distinctive range of emotions and offers the chance to share in a freedom asemic artists embrace over traditional writing practices.

[Asemic writing is not] the mere illustration of certain pre-existent concepts, rather, it is a provocation to thought; and the thinking it encourages is not that of a system or science. It is open-ended, based on wonder and wondering - Peter Schwenger

Like asemic writing, Peter Schwenger's book both solidifies and frees the quality of asemic discovery and production. The book charts the rise of asemic writing, tracing painter and poet Henri Michaux to practitioner and theorist Roland Barthes and the painter Cy Twombly. The book shifts from Paul Klee and Max Ernst and Ezra Pound’s experimentations with Chinese writing, to Mira Schendel, Mirtha Dermisache, Wenda Gu and Xu Bing, and on to Michael Jacobson, Rosaire Appel, and Christopher Skinner.

As the first book-length academic study in the field, what quickly becomes apparent in Schwenger’s book is a rendering of language and limitation, compelling us to witness and even participate in the expansive potentiality of incomprehensibility.

Asemic: The Art of Writing by Peter Schwenger is available in hard copy or ebook here


IRIS28 receives an affiliate fee from certain online retailers (like Amazon) when readers click over to their website via the links provided on our site. This policy helps support the operation of our blog and allows us to keep access to our content free to the public. In any case, we always remain objective, impartial and unbiased in circumstances where affiliate links are included.

Join our mailing list

Thanks for subscribing!