Tiresia, sguardi, veli, visioni, cancelli, porte, balbettii, sondaggi


Il 27 febbraio 2020 Federico Federici ha pubblicato, nel suo spazio Weisses Werk, una propria creazione di scrittura asemica e di poesia visiva intitolata Tiresias’ Gate: qui di seguito proverò non a spiegare o a illustrare l’opera, ma, invece, a commentarla, anche perché i migliori risultati di scrittura asemica non possono (e non devono) essere avvicinati continuando ad affidarsi pigramente ad abitudini di “lettura” derivate dall’approccio critico impiegato per la scrittura lineare e che facilmente si rivelerebbero fallaci e insufficienti: già di per sé la scrittura asemica e la poesia visiva vogliono andare oltre una certa tradizione e superare certe abitudini di lettura e d’interpretazione, certi atteggiamenti consolidati.

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Alphabets (seen in profile)


According to Marcel Broodthaers, «since Duchamp, the artist is the author of a definition»[1], i. e. a calculated shift of the object from its original context to establish new interpretive paradigms. This thought process, continuously submitted to interpretation, also addresses the need of making the inquiry into the nature of art explicit. The statement appears to openly contradict those positions rejecting any definition, whether it is meant to draw Art closer or farther. The methodological approach of proceeding by definition entails the capability to select signs or objects and manipulate them not as bare finds, but as the original, specific elements of the relational perspective to build.
In One ball total equilibrium tank (1985), Jeff Koons encased a basketball at the centre of a silicon sealed glass tank filled with distilled water. The outstanding realism, inspired by the real object replacing its representation, is counterbalanced by the absolute neutrality of the context. To all appearances, this work comprises several heterogeneous motifs: the aesthetics of Geometry with its exaltation of the full and the empty; the invisible force fields of Physics; the ordinariness of playful childhood called to mind by the ball itself with its unique dark grooves; the socio-economic implications epitomized by the Official Spalding brand and the role of basketball in social emancipation. This stand-alone artwork didn’t conform to the savage neo-expressionist painting dominating in that time, but the matter couldn’t be settled once and for all within the en vogue remake of Ready Made Art: the deceptively simple arrangement actually implies quite a complex project, from both a practical and a philosophical point of view. The gravitational field was to be perfectly balanced without introducing further hydrostatic drifts, to express that purest, unperturbed status of the spirit attaining a perfect balance between aspiration and reality. The fact that the ball was not asymptotically stable at the absolute centre of the tank is, from my standpoint, an enrichment rather than an issue. This sort of counter-futuristic effect addresses both Man’s substantial ineptitude at the purpose and the fuzziness of that «[…] point of intersection of the timeless/ with time […]»[2] which the seeming one frame shot of a bouncing ball would tend to exclude.
The process of search, displacement and redefinition has often been a latent stimulus to re-code quotes from one text into another,hence Literature from all times has served as a proper written matter from which to pick plots, sentences or lines to reframe into an entirely new context. The broadening of contemporary perspective has gradually included the internet as a huge trading area, engendering artworks which exploit networks as relational devices and merge logos, slogans, acronyms or shreds of files into powerful markers of a new slang. As of the early 21st century, Flarf poetry has explored algorithms-aided writing techniques (such as googlism) and «simulated multiple authorship»[3] to sample and manipulate ready-made text-objects. In that connection «[…] whatever-what may be art, or more precisely that whatever-what may become art, is decisively distinct from the notion that everything is art.»[4]
The practice of asemic writing sets itself apart from this. While not entirely defying the rules of language, it insists on their being implicit and hints at them. Despite it sometimes subsumes obfuscated letters, numbers or other recognizable symbols, it doesn’t barely consist of blurring meanings under the syncopated rhythm of handwriting. It is a pretended act of enunciation whose meanings remain beyond reach, undeciphered and to not decipher. Asemic writing naturally expresses a lack of a kind of realism, for the symbols in that polysemic spectrum are not elements of reality. Writing doesn’t predict the outcome of reading: its an ongoing negotiation. Borrowing the terms from the debate on the so-called Copenhagen interpretation, underlying meanings are the hidden variables within the quantum state of the text. This is not a question of definition, though. The asemic writer is not the author of a new definition, nor is he skilled in drawing new alphabets of symbols generating meaning according to certain shared rules. He is not essentially and functionally interested in meaning which, in the breakdown of the hyper-connected society, tends to be the dregs of the permanent production and consumption of second hand information.
The more the traits of meaning are paired down, the more asemic writing becomes a pure experience of aesthetic value, though watching is in no way compensatory to reading. It’s rather a new experience in itself.
Upon a closer look, seeing comes before speaking, objects before words, drawing before writing ever since Palaeolithic graffiti. In traditional texts, written words are both a landscape and a soundscape. This duality can no longer be maintained, to make room to experiences of the textual stimulus out of interpretive schemes and conventions in general. While the whole language is squeezed and the semantic, phonetic, orthographic terms are overcome and melt into the asemic compound, the whole text is charged with a veiled semantic value which startles the reader and conveys a sense of ultimate spiritual unity. Every piece of asemic writing is original, in the sense that it may be at the origin of a set of signs which will not further be manipulated or used elsewhere. No convention is established between the writer and the reader to fulfil textual expectations, no matter whether the starting point is a low resolution dot printed document or a stained paper rip. Every technique of unpredicted scrambling or disruption in the flux of meanings offers an environment of permanent creation, wherein to take to the extreme or to turn around the words of the american anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir: «no two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached»[5].
Marcel Duchamp once stated that «as soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, […] we never understand each other»[6]. At this stage, asemic writers don’t actually distrust language. They address the linguistic turn from a different perspective, weakening the hitherto often tacit idea that reality is either a language habit or a legacy. Words and sentences are not their aim, they focus on nonlinear patterns. The occurrence of repeated clusterings or of stronger marks may deceptively suggest the presence of rigid hierarchical structures, but the word-sign duality never gets solved. No syntactical residual points to a precise language and the edge between meaninglessness and meaningfulness is always missed.
Rather than the total equilibrium envisaged by Koons, asemic texts undergo a permanent brownian motion, which inhibits sharp trajectories while unfolding subtler perspectives. Primary signs may find themselves merged with already informed ones, as if ground by some uncalibrated machine of enunciation. The strong relational force between the signs themselves tends to shift the focus from orthography and syntax to almost topology, plunging asemic texts into metric spaces. No longer does the artist act «[…] like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing»[7]. His invasive surgeries cut the stirred nerves of communication, dissect texts and layouts against the backdrop of intangible digital languages, crammed with jingles and banners, dovetailed into a strategy of osmotic capitalistic propaganda. As opposed to this micro-textual assembly line, asemic texts are flickering pointers, muted enunciators, not oriented semiotic segments, challenging the reader to renegotiate an active relationship with the text itself, hanging in the balance between reading and watching but contrasting both. Meanings are compressed tree rings within the text, whose presence is intensified, but not resolved, by an all-pervading bark of signs. Unlike Pierre Huyghe’s Timekeeper (1999), where a series of concentric paint layers reveals the timeline of the gallery wall, the asemic coating of the texts prevents the corrosion of meaning. Huyghe’s procedure, which may recall Mimmo Rotella’s décollage, naturally lends itself to multiple authorship and to the paradox of generating multiple distinguishable copies of the same artwork, as much as «asemic writing is somewhat like dramatic writing and even entertainment script forms […]»[8], a persuasive flux of characters into which «each reader-writer-viewer breathes unique life […] and individual signs like actors»[9].
Without an univocal message to barter, the gap between authorship and beholdership is left intentionally vacant.

Federico Federici

[1] Haidu, Rachel: The Absence of Work. Marcel Broodthaers, 1964–1976, Cambridge (MA) 2010, p. 183.
[2] Eliot, Thomas Stearns: The Dry Salvages (V, vv. 18-19), in: Ibid.: Four Quartets, New York 1943.
[3] Mohammad, Kasey Silem, online, (13/11/2016).
[4] Kyndrup, Morten: Art and the Enunciative Paradigm. Today’s Objectual De-differentiation and Its Impact on Aesthetics, in: “Nordisk Estetisk Tidskrift”, 25–26, (2002), p. 30.
[5] Sapir, Edward: The Status of Linguistics as a Science, in: Ibid.: Culture, Language and Personality, (ed. D. G. Mandelbaum), Berkeley (CA) 1958, p. 69.
[6] Duchamp, Marcel, cit. in: Tomkins, Calvin: Ahead of the Game, London 1968, p. 34.
[7] Duchamp, Marcel: The Essential writings of Marcel Duchamp, (ed. M. Sanouillet and E. Peterson), London 1975, p. 138.
[8] Jacobson, Michael: Interview Conducted by Quimby Melton, in: Works & Interviews, Leipzig 2016.
[9] Ibid.

(First in «Infinity’s Kitchen», n.10, 2019. ISBN 978-1795298803)

The Cecil Touchon Asemic Reader


The Cecil Touchon Asemic Reader stands as some sort of data storage device, capable of hosting and properly displaying a variety of solid textual environments and set on discovering the way language naturally tends to abstraction and contradiction, the two together being its generative seeding. Openly challenging and overstepping the saturated mass media input-output system of consumption and production, Touchon seems to offer a thorough list of implicit instructions and poetical how-tos to conceptually work around the snare of an old, yet unanswered aporia: is text the obverse or reverse of an image? Is it true the opposite? “This side of card is for address” – an envelope reads, but the address points to nowhere on Earth, for to make reality real again, it must first be disavowed. Touchon’s creative logic works within these interstices of language to breach the borders and extend investigation beyond naïve interpretations of common goings-on and far beyond pure linguistics, though reality is the realm of language. The reader is thus a tool, a recipient and a sender at the same time, always involved in the process that makes the whole device work.
The very first page sets a purely asemic routine, which the subsequent works put into play. Ripped finds from old poetry books and journals, stamped envelopes and scores, all have become the bedrock the asemic practice erodes. Though a strict protocol cannot be established, other than the blue fingerprint at the right bottom corner of the first few pages, a rather recognizable rhythm of dots, lines and arrows pointing right, drives to the subsequent bloc of writings, opening with a carefully erased text. Few residual elements surface: “[…] the […] it […] )”. The pages that follow are crammed with broader and broader gaps as to suggest the presence of something intrinsically meaningful to be rooted out, as if they were semantically sampled by some mobile pointer. Erasure marks slowly turn into asemic fringes and gratings diffracting textual elements. See-through words and other identifiers resemble particles and micro-structures from within the living membrane of textual reality. The reader accesses new signification through this warped perspective of language which, in turn, extends the realm of creation.
In the last sections, the space of writing and the act of writing both undergo shifts, contractions and morphisms that push the original typographic structures of single words, sentences or of whole bulks of text to a critical point. This scathing montage actually attains poetic accumulation by way of endless deletions and duplications. The fragmented word-form connections tend to evoke the notion of space-text itself as a zone of progressive stratification and superposition. This multilayered technique subsumes as many layers of interpretations, as many spaces of truth. Language is not an immobile concept, but what lies below a word if not another word to disarm or erase?

Federico Federici,
Berlin, March 3, 2019

In The Cecil Touchon Asemic Reader by Cecil Touchon, Post-Asemic Press 2019, ISBN 978-1732878891.

Literature and Capital – a still unsolved problem: how lemons turn into lemonade

According to a highly reputable POD service, the cost for producing a single copy of a certain book is 3.48$. The publisher sells it by 6.50$ (plus shipping costs) and the author is supposed to earn 1.21$.
A world famous online store sells and delivers a single copy by as little as 1.56$ (including shipping costs).
How do lemons turn into lemonade?

A note about “Works and interviews” by Michael Jacobson

Works and interviews by Michael Jacobson is a collection of both asemic scripts (The Giant’s Fence, Action Figures, A Headhunter’s Tale), interviews and other textual installations (THAT: A Planet, The Paranoia Machine, MK JCBSN).
The first three sections challenge the reader to enter a net of finely entangled patterns and explore the residual signs of plots, which the paranoid characters, once inhabiting there, left deliberately behind.
Page after page, a carousel of abandoned or accidental symbols, of dreams cropped from a broader vision is delivered to the brain, which is supposed to edit and reassemble them into full narrative frameworks. Readers turn into spies collecting evidences of the impenetrable shelter of meaning. They may even find themselves connected to peripheral cameras, recording the relentless brain activities on the verge of dreaming.
Under a different perspective, the storytelling approach of this book convincingly relies on a cornerstone of asemic practice: however paradoxical it may seem, the intrinsic coherence of asemicism generates meaningfulness while stimulating the aptitude of readers to scan symbols in a meaningful way.
Asemic works act as blank tapes, simultaneously activated, recorded and erased again while watched. Each reader is, as such, an accomplice of the writer and possibly its desired alter ego.
A mirror is not an image in itself, but it has the property of imaging, likewise each asemic text does not exhibit a meaning of its own, but it is some sort of filter, capable of simulating and stimulating meaningfulness, engaging the reader into this unprecedented task.

Federico Federici

More about the book on Post-Asemic Press and on Michael Jacobson.

Asemic phenomenology

Full pdf download (Eng-It)
by Federico Federici

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

Asemic writing points to a gradual weakening of the correlation between sign and meaning or, within the language of Biology, to contradict the «form follows function» statement. Any textual hermeneutics based on an archaeological approach (restoration of a minimum set of alphabet signs from fragmented subsets, recovery of the original syntax from noisy communication channels etc.) would hopelessly fail. The reason for this failure is programmatic. The flux of symbols does not tend to intercept and duplicate encrypted information. It works around the uniqueness of each code by blending familiar patterns out of context, devising new ones or introducing modifications. This is one of the most subversive traits, legitimizing the paradox of asemic communication. There is no recognisable genome, nor any implicit one accepted by the community. Each text, regardless of its extent, embodies the highest expression of a unique and obscure language, which constitutes its stimulus and essence. This powerful, iconic synthesis absorbs all the traditional phonic elements, turning the act of reading into a pure visual experience, contemplative, even where the persuasive sequence of figures on the page seems to encourage the recovery of possible narrative dynamics, such as in The Giant’s Fence [1] or Action Figures [2] by Michael Jacobson.
Each asemic form is not a statement in itself. It’s rather an unaussprechbare Aussage, triggering the interpretive schemes of the subconscious, making the idea of an a priori meaning redundant. Reading no longer consists of two contiguous but distinct phases, namely decoding and interpreting; it becomes a unique and creative activity, acted upon the free surface the text, drawing from unknown resources. The psychological effects of brief asemic activities, stimulated in individuals with schizophrenia and alexithymia, have recently been investigated [3]. The comparative analysis of the writings, Continue reading “Asemic phenomenology”

Senza illusioni

Nell’epoca della comunicazione in 150 caratteri, dell’hashtag e delle istantanee che diventano virali a colpi di clic, Giancarlo Rossi, storica voce di Radio Uno, raccoglie in un unico, corposo volume le proprie riflessioni sugli ultimi 15 anni da inviato su alcuni dei fronti più caldi in Italia e all’estero. Nel suggestivo intreccio di grandi scenari e piccoli palcoscenici, la memoria del gionalista e quella dell’uomo si incontrano raccontando la Storia, senza tralasciare i retroscena e le ripercussioni nei rapporti, non sempre facili, all’interno di una redazione.
Dalla guerra in Kossovo, primo vero e proprio banco di prova in zone di guerra, lo sguardo penetra nel vivo dei vertici internazionali (senza banalizzarli, a dispetto della «realpolitik stracciona di qualche collega») e tra le pieghe dei viaggi organizzati dal governo italiano («una sottospecie dei vertici internazionali […] che permette(va) al politico di turno di farsi pubblicità a spese del contribuente»); registra i disastri dell’industrializzazione incontrollata e l’emergenza rifiuti in Campania; testimonia il dolore dei terremotati e il beffardo sperpero in mille rivoli oscuri degli aiuti di Stato («anche le faglie tettoniche obbediscono all’economia politica?»), benché i ritardi nella ricostruzione siano schiaffo alle popolazioni colpite e danno per l’economia nazionale.
Muovendosi tra gli scavi di Pompei e le macerie del Kossovo e dell’Afghanistan, ci si addentra in una specie di The Russian Jerusalem di Elaine Feinstein, incontrando, invece che poeti e spiriti di genio, comparse senza nome, figure ambigue o derelitte, schiacciate all’ombra delle maschere grottesche di un potere ugualmente crudele a tutte le latitudini.
Nella narrazione, Rossi restituisce uno stile radiofonico privo di enfasi letteraria, Continue reading “Senza illusioni”

The trees getting bare in Boston

«If anyone spams you on the right account, just spam his back.»

Rejection sampling is an elementary technique to sample a random variable, based on the idea of uniformly sampling from under the graph of its density function.
With this in mind, I have thought of randomly sampling from the rejectionwiki database, slightly changing sentences here and there, for them to fit into the different contexts and properly reply to the huge amount of requests of buying stuff, subscribing to journals, taking part in events etc. I daily receive.
Never turning the other cheek may be nothing but a joke.

Dear *,
thank you for sending me this outstanding picture of the trees getting bare in Boston which I read with interest, together with the funny joke between Continue reading “The trees getting bare in Boston”

Cinque congedi d’addio

Congedarsi è l’atto, forse un po’ formale, di chi si allontana senza ipotecare il futuro con il peso di un addio. Eppure le parole di Carraro affondano nel ripetuto fallimento di prendere una volta per tutte le distanze da qualcosa o qualcuno, voltare le spalle, magari con una scusa, e andarsene. Il loro scopo è subito chiaro: porre fine a un’incertezza, essere definitive, provocare un addio, senza falsificarlo con vuote formule di cortesia, rimuovendo ogni puntello biografico, seppellendo memoria su memoria. Tra le macerie urlano ancora le mille morti che un uomo si dà vivendo ed è lì che resta intrappolato il dolore, in attesa di essere giustiziato dal tempo e mutilato dal corpo.
Le due sezioni d’apertura (Ode al padre e Ode agli amici) costituiscono un unico incipit esteso, che assume spesso il tono di un invito a comparire, rivolto a imputati che sono anzitutto custodi e testimoni della coscienza di chi si appresta a liquidarli, giudicando se stesso. La sentenza è già scritta e non prevede assoluzione, ma solo discussione del caso, elencazione di colpe e discolpe, lettura finale delle ragioni e congedo.
La prima ode sfiora alcuni temi della celebre lettera kafkiana, nella quale la figura paterna tende a stagliarsi su tutte le altre, aspra e intransigente col figlio. Qui non sono però contrapposti ammirazione e disprezzo verso un’autorità comunque riconosciuta, ma difficile da scalfire con le sole ragioni dell’adolescenza. Il padre, l’antagonista per natura, si trova costretto in una condizione di subalternità nel presente (rispetto al figlio) e nel passato (rispetto al proprio padre). È come se lo spazio di una generazione fosse saltato e questa mancanza dovesse venir riscattata. Continue reading “Cinque congedi d’addio”