Asemic phenomenology

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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”

Sedimental symbols

«In our description of nature, the purpose is not to disclose the real essence of phenomena but only to track down as far as possible relations between the multifold aspects of our experience.»
Niels Bohr, 1939

Physicists refer to properties of Nature, alias observables, by means of symbols which differ from purely mathematical notations since they must be experimentally validated, i.e. a definite procedure exists that assigns numbers to them. Nevertheless, phenomena may sometimes appear to be quite counterintuitive or rest on pure abstraction. Let it suffice to quote the well celebrated case of the elusive wave-particle dualism.
In Hamlet and his problems, Eliot wrote: «The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.»[1] Laying the scene thus addresses the expectation of immediacy and concreteness of emotion.
It may be stimulating to rephrase this “chain of events” in terms of the quantum principle of superposition: «the way of expressing any state of any microscopic system in the form of quantum physics is by finding a “superposition state”; in other words, a set of complex numbers and a maximal set of commuting observables which, combined together, shall conveniently define the formula of any state of that particular system; such that when the external devices, which must terminate in an experimental result, are given, the microscopic system is immediately set into a particular state». While not actually solving any potential excess of abstraction, it may help bridge the gap between symbols and “reality”. Continue reading “Sedimental symbols”