Listening with the eye
Asemic Writing is a term that first developed currency in 1997 through visual poets Tim Gaze and Jim Leftwich and is a nascent international art genre emerging onto the scene. Previously works of this type were called lyrical abstraction or gestural mark making but was primarily practiced by visual artists rather than poets.
While gestural mark making among artists has been concerned with the traditions of painting, asemic writing primarily has arisen around the concerns of poetry and as a response to the traditions and poetic forms of literature or perhaps post-literature.
The idea behind asemic writing is to create artworks that are based on the act of mark making similar to handwriting but without reference to semantic content or literary meaning. Hence each ‘writer’ has a unique way of writing or making marks. One’s mark making may change by the day or even by the moment if the writer is sensitive to the changing twists and turns of the mind.
When we look at handwriting, even if we are unable to decipher it, we are getting some sort of visual content out of it from looking at the marks and rhythms or distributions of the markings on the page. We can get a feeling of order or discipline or perhaps a frenetic energy, or playful or sloppy or it might seem confused or muddled. You might say this is the body language of the writing beyond the message conveyed. This body language is the part that is of interest in these works.
While Touchon has been working with mark making since the 1970s and typographic abstraction in collage and painting since the early 2000s, Touchon has been gaining a reputation in the visual poetry and asemic writing communities and his work has been included in important group exhibitions and anthologies in these arenas since 2008 including; Bright: Typography between Illustration & Art, The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998-2008, The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century, An Anthology of Asemic Handwriting and the newly released book Asemic: The Art of Writing.
In Paris, January, 2018 Comme des Garçons Homme Plus debuted its Fall 2018 Menswear collection by famed designer Rei Kawakubo showcasing one of Touchon’s typographic collages as a pattern in the fabric of her clothing.
And currently, Touchons asemic writing works via a loan from Collezione Giuseppe Garrera in Italy are part of an important group exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland entitled; Scrivere Disegnando (“Writing by Drawing”), an exhibition about writing and its shadow side. Its aim is to look back over a number of practices, from the early twentieth century to the present day, in which writing leaves the function of communication behind and moves into the sphere of the illegible and unspeakable.
This exhibition will be followed by a 300+ page catalog soon to be published.