Archivi tag: desemantized writing

examples of a certain kind of thinking #3

Jim Leftwich

​Sun Ra, Words and The Impossible

The elasticity of words
The phonetic-dimension of words
The multi-self of words
Is energy for thought — If it is a reality.
The idea that words
Can form themselves into the impossible
Then the way to the impossible
Is through the words.


Robert Creeley, from Pieces (1969)

The pen,
the lines it
leaves, forms
divine — nor
laugh nor giggle.
This prescription
is true.
Truth is a scrawl,
all told
in all.

examples of a certain kind of thinking #2

Jim Leftwich: I am looking for examples of a certain kind of thinking about poetry which, if pursued to its logical extremes, would eventually include considerations of asemic and/or desemantized writing.


examples of a certain kind of thinking



Jim Leftwich: I am looking for examples of a certain kind of thinking about poetry which, if pursued to its logical extremes, would eventually include considerations of asemic and/or desemantized writing.

three asemic pieces / dave read. 2021

aswrig = asemic writing gallery 

ASWRIG = asemic writing gallery

 (est. 2017)

The best asemic writing from FB & the web. Daily updates.


the pieces of the shutter

asemic / desemantized

so… when they put back together the pieces of the puzzle they actually wrote a good asemic piece. we may also say they desemantized the graffiti on the store shutter.

Rome, via di Donna Olimpia, Aug 6th, 2021

a title is a road sign | arrangements evoke similarities (snow falling into a fumarole) | find it on a map / jim leftwich. 2021

jim leftwich @

Six Months Aint No Sentence, Books 1 – 15, written between 04.24.2011 and 01.13.2012. Originally published by Marco Giovenale at differx hosts as Six Months Aint No Sentence, a Journal: texts and works by Jim Leftwich, 2011 – 2016 Books 1 – 187
Books 1 – 30 were published by Peter Ganick and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen at White Sky E-Books.

poetry, visual poetry, asemic writing, historiography, writing against itself, useless writing, journal, textimagepoem, trashpo, desemantized writing, 21st Century American epic, collage poem, ongoing research

from semic to asemic: rome, swiss institute, jul. 6th, 2021


From semic to asemic: writing, artists, books

Conference, Summer Schools, Roma/Online

Entrance via Liguria 20
Live streaming

The encounter will be held in English. Limited capacity of seats.
Register here to attend the event in presence

The event can also be followed online on Zoom.
Register here to participate.

On the occasion of the Summer School Rome – Dimensions of the book, a project which is part of the Master of Fine Arts Program at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), Istituto Svizzero hosts an encounter with the interventions by Sara Davidovics, Marco Giovenale, Giulio Marzaioli and Nils Röller.

of course the asemic is absurd / jim leftwich. 2021

If I am writing about the word “asemic”, I am thinking about patience and persistence. I am thinking about failure as a source of energy, as that which keeps an absurdist idea of enlightenment alive and almost thriving. Standing in the absurd center of the asemic universe, we are surrounded by unexamined exits and entrances, unexplored starting-points, multiple escape-routes leading out in all directions. 
We need to synchronize our watches, then throw them all away. We need to get on the same page of the same map-book, then throw all the maps away. We need to set our compasses, and throw them away. We must promise each other to get together, at some unspecified time and place, later in our lives, to define our terms and make public our consensus definitions. Until then, we have some exploring to do, some making and some thinking, some reading and some writing.
Tim Gaze wrote, in an email responding to my recent texts (05.21.2021), that “asemic is an absolute state, whereas desemantizing is a process or matter of degree”.
He also wrote in the same email that he “consciously let go of asemic writing several years back”.
On January 27, 1998, I wrote to Tim, saying “the asemic text would seem to be an ideal, an impossibility, but possibly worth pursuing for just that reason.”
Desemantized writing is not an ideal, is not an impossibility. It is a very specific kind of writing, produced for very specific reasons. To desemantize writing is to intentionally make it less readable, less capable of participating in the language-game of giving information. 
We might aspire to the absolute state of asemic writing, producing beautiful and/or provocative failures in our quest, but we achieve desematized writing, to one degree or another, whenever we choose to do so.
In response to my recent texts, John M. Bennett wrote (05.20.2021) “i like ‘desemanticized’ better than ‘asemic’ myself; the latter term was always a bit misleading, even downright wrong sometimes, I thought; except perhaps in a few situations…”
In the late 1990s, “asemic” was not the word I wanted or needed, but it was the best I had at the time. For the past 20 years or so I have been exploring alternatives to the word “asemic”. For now, and for my purposes (which are not necessarily the same purposes as those of some likely readers of this text), “desemantized” (or “desemanticized”) is an improvement, a step in the right direction. It is a provisional solution to a problem.
These days, the term “asemic writing” is very widely used, and is surely in no danger of being discarded or replaced. My thoughts about the term “desemantized writing” will circulate, if at all, within the context of the global asemic writing community. As I write this, in the late spring of 2021, the theory and practice of asemic writing are not in any sense dead, the possibilities have not been exhausted. The Sisyphean struggle to attain the absolute state of asemic writing, absurd though it may be, continues to yield moments of existential fulfillment, and perhaps every now and then even a kind of happiness. 
My hope for my recent writings is that they might invigorate an increasingly faceted vision of the world of all things asemic.

jim leftwich, may 2021

keep moving / jim leftwich. 2021

I was a poet, and for me that meant pushing the edges of poetry, and the edges of myself while writing poetry. The line was an edge, and the rhyme was an edge, and the stanza was an edge, and the syllable was an edge. Eventually it became impossible to ignore the idea of the letter as an edge. Once having agreed to that, it became impossible to ignore the shapes of the letter — first the shapes of the printed letters, in an array of fonts, and then the shapes of the handwritten letters.

From the outset, the idea of producing meanings had been for me subordinate to the idea of making poems. If all I had wanted to do was produce meanings, I would have written conventional sentences and paragraphs. But that was not what I wanted.

So I wrote poems, and I pushed the edges of the poem, and in doing that I was pushing the edges of myself, my sense of satisfaction and achievement, my sense of my own skills and competence, and I was never satisfied, intentionally, by choice, never satisfied, I refused to accept the sense of being satisfied, so eventually, inevitably, I found myself producing desemantized or asemic writings.

And that was a plateau, a stage, and I knew from the outset that I was only passing through, that I would never be satisfied with desemantized or asemic writing, any more than I had been satisfied with writing conventional poems.

Over the years a community of asemic writers has become active and visible and, to the extent that I am a part of it at all, my role has evolved to be a kind of advocate for incessant criticality. As a participant in the conversation around asemic writing, I can be counted on to say something similar to “yes, you are right, but…” Yes, you are right, but that is not enough, it is not even particularly important. What is important is to keep moving. Asemic writing works for you? Fantastic. Now move on and do something else.

Jim Leftwich

recent posts @ repository magazine (cecil touchon, editor)

For me, the practice of asemic writing began in processes I was using in the mid-to-late 1990s to write textual poems. Beginning with a…
Monsters in Trousers  9:27 PM 5/7/2018 (collage poetry)   We use language to separate, to violently tear ourselves [apart]. There is…
Watch this ZOOM conversation I have with Michelle Moloney King; Editor of Beir Bua Press
Rosaire Appel: “asemic writing is also a way of leaping forward into territory not yet conceptualized… a transition strategy perhaps” (Jun…
Non fungible tokens have been around for a minute and I myself have only known about the idea for a few weeks. But here are some initial…
On view (in 2014) at Lanoue Gallery in Boston
Essay for an exhibition held April 15, 2016 — June 15, 2016
Following up on the first article: On Being an Artist

2 jim leftwich’s desemantized pieces in “lost and found times”, n. 39, nov. 1997, pp. 18-19

Jim Leftwich


download the mag:


a brief note on desemantized writing / jim leftwich. 2021

Jim Leftwich_ Desemantized Writing

Jim Leftwich_ Desemantized Writing

Desemantized Writing

For me, the practice of asemic writing began in processes I was using in the mid-to-late 1990s to write textual poems. Beginning with a large variety of source texts, those processes included syllabic and phonemic improvisation, varieties of cut-and-paste recombination (of letters, of morphemes, of words, of phrases, of sentences, and of paragraphs), varieties of misdirectional readings-as-writings (moving through paragraphs from right to left, from top to bottom and vice-versa in columns, reading multiple lines in wave patterns, reading paragraphs and pages diagonally, etc), and formulas for extracting, replacing and/or omitting letters from poems and paragraphs. The poems and paragraphs I was writing during those years were constructed, we could say, for reasons other than that of producing meaning.

Sometime late in 1996, I was warned that if I continued on the path I had chosen I would eventually wind up producing asemic texts.

In January 1998 I wrote the following to Tim Gaze: “An asemic text, then, might be involved with units of language for reasons other than that of producing meaning.”

If I had known the term “desemantized writing” at that time, I would certainly have used it, rather than “asemic writing”. The term ‘desemantized writing” is much more accurate, much clearer, much more precisely descriptive of the processes from which my “asemic writing” emerged.

Again, let me emphasize that this little note is accurate in relation to my own processes and practices, and I am fully aware of the fact that it does not apply to the relationships
that many others have with the theory and practice of asemic writing.

If I had known the term “desemantized writing” in the 1990s, rather than the term “asemic writing”, then Tim Gaze and I would have been using the term “desemantized writing” in our correspondence. The term “desemantized writing” would have been used in our international exchanges through the mail art and small press poetry networks. Chances are that Tim’s magazine would have been named “desemantized writing”. Then, sometime around 2005, when Michael Jacobson encountered the magazine and the word, maybe instead of “asemic writing” he would have used the term “desemantized writing” in his interviews and essays.

It’s interesting (again: speaking only for myself) to rewrite this imaginary history, but unfortunately, here and now, in 2021, it is only a kind of game. I didn’t learn of the term “desemantized writing” for another decade-and-a-half, when Marco Giovenale told me about its use among Italian verbovisual poets in the 1960s and 70s.

jim leftwich

feminist works (e scritture desemantizzate) di tomaso binga dal 29 al mascherino

29 feb, h. 18:30

Mascherino Arte Contemporanea, via del Mascherino 24, Roma


La Galleria Mascherino è lieta di annunciare l’inaugurazione sabato 29 febbraio 2020 della mostra antologica Tomaso Binga: Feminist Works 1970-1980. L’esposizione ripercorre l’attività dell’artista, performer e poetessa visiva Tomaso Binga e i suoi legami con il pensiero femminista attraverso una vasta selezione di opere appartenenti alle diverse serie da lei realizzate tra l’inizio degli anni Settanta e la metà degli Ottanta: dai Polistirolo alla Scrittura desemantizzata, dalla Scrittura vivente alla Carta da Parato, dal Dattilocodice sino al ciclo di dipinti Biographic. Nella sua ricerca Binga ha sfidato i limiti tra maschile e femminile, tra pratiche dominanti e subalterne, tra la convenzionalità della scrittura verbale e la soggettività del corpo, con l’obiettivo di trasformare le strutture simboliche e sociali della cultura patriarcale. Già nella scelta di adottare uno pseudonimo maschile, in occasione della sua prima mostra personale nel 1971, emerge la volontà dell’artista di denunciare le disparità tra uomo e donna presenti nel sistema dell’arte: “Il mio nome maschile”, scrive all’epoca Binga, “gioca sull’ironia e lo spiazzamento; vuole mettere allo scoperto il privilegio maschilista che impera anche nel campo dell’arte, è una convenzione per via di paradosso di una sovrastruttura che abbiamo ereditato e che come donne vogliamo distruggere”. Da questa consapevolezza Binga dà avvio a un lavoro di decostruzione delle rappresentazioni stereotipate del femminile, a partire dalla serie dei Polistirolo (dal 1971): piccole scatole da imballaggio di polistirolo bianco trasformate in teatrini entro cui l’artista incolla immagini trouveés tratte dal mondo della pubblicità e dei mass-media. Con un’attitudine da bricoleuse, in queste opere Binga demistifica con sguardo ironico la feticizzazione e l’erotizzazione del corpo delle donne, il rapporto tra cultura cattolica e società del consumo, l’interiorizzazione di modelli estetici imposti e omologanti.
A questa fase risale anche la ricerca sulla Scrittura desemantizzata, una scrittura “silenziosa” dove le parole vengono snervate sino a divenire segni grafici illeggibili, che conservano la memoria della scrittura, ma non significano più, evocando i tanti silenzi imposti storicamente alle donne: “La mia è una scrittura subliminale, nel senso che essa agisce (vorrei che agisse) dentro di noi senza essere distratti dal significato corrente delle parole e senza essere frastornati dal suono delle parole stesse: allora si può anche definire una scrittura silenziosa”. Con questa nuova grafia Binga testa il limite tra comunicazione verbale ed espressione gestuale, tra scrittura alfabetica e disegno, ideando una serie di opere tra le più significative del suo percorso, realizzate su carta, come Mettere bianco su nero (1972), Bianco nero con vista (1974), Lettera rossa (1974), Lettera strappata con ardore (1974), o nelle tre dimensioni, come nel caso dello Strigatoio (1974). Quest’ultimo è già all’epoca un oggetto desueto, tradizionalmente usato dalle donne per lavare i panni al fiume, scelto dall’artista sia come simbolo del lavoro domestico non retribuito delle donne, sia come simbolo del rapporto di sorellanza che si veniva a creare al di fuori dello spazio chiuso della casa.
A partire dal 1976 la Scrittura desemantizzata assume scala ambientale nell’installazione Carta da parato, in cui Binga traccia i suoi segni indecifrabili su rotoli di tappezzeria usati per ricoprire le pareti di spazi pubblici e privati: questa importante fase del suo lavoro è documentata in mostra dall’opera Guardo ma non scrivo (1977), dove con un processo di mise en abîme caratteristico delle ricerche di area concettuale del periodo, Binga incolla sulla carta da parati una fotografia a colori incorniciata che la ritrae, di spalle, davanti a un suo precedente lavoro della serie Carta da parato, nel quale, come in un gioco di scatole cinesi, è a sua volta visibile l’immagine dell’installazione da lei realizzata in occasione della mostra collettiva Distratti dall’ambiente (Riolo Terme, 1977).
La Scrittura desemantizzata di Binga, nelle sue varie declinazioni, non agisce soltanto sui limiti tra segno verbale e segno grafico, ma anche sul limite tra la convenzionalità della parola e il suo valore soggettivo, tra il carattere universale e quello personale del linguaggio. Per tale ragione, benché diversa sul piano formale, essa può essere considerata il diretto antecedente delle Scritture viventi, realizzate da Binga a partire dal 1976, in cui l’artista si fa ritrarre nuda, dalla sua amica fotografa Verita Monselles, mentre assume con il proprio corpo la forma delle lettere alfabetiche, lavorando anche in questo caso sulla soglia tra segno linguistico e immagine, tra l’universalità del linguaggio verbale e la singolarità del corpo che, fotografato, conserva i tratti unici della persona. A questa serie appartiene l’opera in mostra intitolata Lettera N come NO (1977), che da un lato richiama il celebre dipinto dei primi anni Sessanta di Mario Schifano e la recente lotta per il referendum abrogativo sulla legge sul divorzio, che nel 1974 aveva visto schierati in prima linea, insieme al Partito radicale, la gran parte dei gruppi femministi italiani, dall’altro, può essere letto come una dichiarazione di rifiuto radicale della cultura patriarcale.
Più vicina alle soluzioni iconico-verbali della Poesia Concreta è l’opera appartenente alla serie Dattilocodice, presentata nell’ambito della Biennale di Venezia del 1978 nell’ormai storica mostra di sole donne Materializzazione del linguaggio, curata da Mirella Bentivoglio, che all’epoca interpreta gli “ideogrammi miniaturizzati” di Binga, creati con la macchina da scrivere sovrapponendo due diversi segni alfabetici, come una forma di “recupero invenzione dell’archetipo linguistico attraverso la tecnologia”. Alla ricerca di un linguaggio più autentico e primigenio, Binga nel Dattilocodice mette in scena un nuovo alfabeto in cui simbolo grafico e icona si mescolano, e che pur realizzato con i mezzi dell’occidente moderno, chiama in causa la qualità originaria e arcaica del geroglifico.
Immagine e scrittura tornano a fondersi, con effetti squisitamente pittorici, nella serie Biographic, realizzata a partire dal 1984 ed esposta nel 1985 alla Quadriennale di Roma: in questi quadri di grandi dimensioni Binga si confronta con la pittura, che viene assorbita e si espande sulla trama grossa della tela formando immagini in cui, scrive Binga, “l’archetipo e il futuribile, l’arazzo e il computer, il passato e il presente si mescolano in una sorta di ballata senza fine”. Anche in questo caso, il richiamo alla biografia presente nel titolo serve a creare un ponte tra l’universalità del linguaggio verbale e la soggettività della vita, perché se il personale è politico anche il linguaggio lo è.

In occasione dell’inaugurazione Tomaso Binga terrà una performance fonetica.


The Galleria Mascherino is pleased to announce the inauguration of the anthological exhibition Tomaso Binga: Feminist Works 1970-1980 that will be held Saturday February 29, 2020.

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