MinXus Mail Bag: “Digital Asemics” by Ruud Janssen (Breda, Netherlands)

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Mail art by Ruud Janssen (Breda, Netherlands)

As his letter below explains, Ruud Janssen recently has had a very productive, creative phase. Many networkers are receiving some great mail as a result, including his renowned, hand-painted envelopes. We are fortunate indeed to be among the recipients. In the days ahead, we will share some incredible work from Ruud Janssen, interspersed with material from our other faithful correspondents.

This first posting is a Ruud Janssen foray into asemics. These days the asemic designation is hotly debated in some circles (and accepted wholeheartedly in others). The contention centers around not the quality of the work being produced under the asemic moniker but what to call it and how to view it. Designations include asemic writing, asemic art and pansemics. Some insist this kind of work is abstract art, calligraphy, automatic writing or visual poetry; leave the asemic or pansemic part out of it. At least some of the confusion is derived, we believe, from the fact that asemics bridge the boundaries between traditional literary and visual arts. Asemics are “intermedia” or at least conducive to that concept.

What we know is that we like this piece by Ruud Janssen very much. It is rooted in calligraphy. We accept the asemic concept as being theoretically sound and valid, so we believe this piece is asemic. Placing it in that context enhances interpretive possibilities. The piece is asemic in the sense that the cursive shapes suggest language but fall into the realm of the incomprehensible. The work cannot be “read” in the way we would read text; however, that does not negate the possibility that a viewer can find meaning.

A great deal of asemic writing is being produced by mail artists and circulated in the network. The IUOMA is one center of activity for this production. The IUOMA brand of asemics (because members tend to influence each other to a great degree) is  in actuality a visual poetry-asemic writing hybrid. This work Ruud Janssen sent is a very good example of the asemic-vispo hybrid, even though it retains his very recognizable style.

This work also has a logical place among the “mind maps” Ruud Janssen has been creating during the recent surge. These mind maps are meditations on mail art and its relation to art movements and technology. The ability of this work to communicate on a rhetorical level is based imagery (written text and computer components primarily) and thus the work has a correspondence to visual poetry as well as the asemic.

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This new wave from the Netherlands is being circulated in the beautiful hand-painted envelopes that already have a near-legendary status in the Eternal Network.

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And the reverse:

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Deepest thanks to Ruud Janseen. Stay tuned for more soon!


MinXus Mail Bag: Asemics by Terry Owenby (Portland, Oregon, USA)

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Mail art by Terry Owenby (Portland, Oregon, USA)

Tenderfoot Terry Owenby kindly sent us this beautiful postcard-size work. She has an ongoing interest in asemic writing and art. This piece, we believe, uses an unconstrained and highly expressive street art approach. The background, which has distressed tonal qualities, reveals the affinity between abstract art and asemics. The straight lines in the background form an interesting synthesis between the asemic calligraphy and the painting. We are thrilled to have this and think it is a beautiful piece. Anti-art scratches also have a correspondence to the writing. Terry Owenby included a very nice note with the work:

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Explanations such as this in mail art are appreciated but not necessary. Correspondence art is fun and rewarding, but it is also very demanding. The majority of participants take time off for varying durations and in various ways. Terry Owenby has, indeed, been a faithful member of the IOUMA asemic writing group and contributor to our humble blog. Keep in touch as well as you can, Terry. Many thanks!

“Captain Vispo” by Dark wall – visual poetry, asemic writing, asemic poetry


“Captain Vispo” by Dark wall (version #1)


“Captain Vispo” by Dark wall (version #2)

(After Gregory Corso’s “Captain Poetry”)

MinXus Mail Bag: Readymade Asemics by Richard Canard (Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

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Mail art by Richard Canard (Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

Riding yet another post-avant wave with characteristic adeptness, Richard Canard has donned his shades and made another foray into the realm of the readymade asemic (which is an eroded beach property that is becoming increasingly his personal territory due to squatter’s rights).

He sent us this (apparently) found material that is meant to be an approximation of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. We had to look it up, but we do confirm the reality of Ptahhotep’s instructions. Whether these hieroglyphs are accurate or legible would become a key question, were this readymade to be cast into the arena of asemic scrutiny. Minus the following paragraphs, we will avoid theoretical discussions and enjoy the mail art.

Right now there is a great deal of interest in asemic writing in both the Eternal Network and (often overlapping) visual poetry community. Most online discussions gravitate toward the question of what makes something asemic. As we have proposed in other venues, work that is “asemically correct” (that would satisfy the most hardcore purist) cannot be read or understood using conventional modes of reading; however, that does not exclude asemic writing from being expressive. These discussions can become heated and often involve dizzying definitions and complex qualifications involving the definitions.

A constant in asemic writing, though, is the requirement that the material have “no semantic content,” an idea we present via Michael Jacobson. Some sidestep the language issue by writing about “asemic art” or claiming asemic writing is a ruse and should be considered abstract art. Even more perspectives exist, but we have already expounded too long and too far on the subject.

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We are very pleased to be able to add Richard Canard’s readymade asemics to the growing canon of asemic writing.

MinXus Mail Bag: Asemic TLP by Jason C. Motsch (Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, USA)

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Asemic TLP (Tacky Little Pamphlet) by Jason C. Motsch (Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, USA)

We are thrilled to share with Tenderfoots another TLP recently received. (We will return to Le Becca soon.) Jason Motsch sent us this FAB booklet of asemic writing. You might recall that we posted some of his work here upon our humble blog not long ago. Jason Motsch has been an enthusiastic and active member of our asemic writing group at IUOMA-Ning. He has mostly been sharing asemic-vispo hybrid work. The asemic writing in this TLP is more fundamental, purist or as some might call it: “asemically correct.” This is certainly a great format for Jason to share and explore his considerable asemic abilities by getting down to basics.

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The pages are relatively small: approximately 2 X 3 inches.

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And the back cover:

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We are not sure if this is a one-of-a-kind TLP or other copies have been made. Regardless, we are thrilled to have it for the growing asemic collection. And the envelope:

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Many thanks to Jason!

MinXus Mail Bag: Asemic Vispo & Mail Art Call by Rosa Gravino (Canada de Gomez, Argentina)

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Mail art by Rosa Gravino (Canada de Gomez, Argentina)

Rosa Gravino is a wonderfully talented visual poet and faithful correspondent. She continually works on exhibitions that promote vispo (visual poetry) on a global scale. We have enjoyed working with Rosa Gravino for some time. In particular, we have fond memories of her contributions and involvement in the book projects we coordinated with Cheryl Penn (South Africa).

So we are thrilled to have received this postcard-size asemic work by Rosa Gravino. While the asemic elements are pronounced in this piece, we have seen many other fine examples of vispo-asemic hybrid work by Rosa Gravino. Here is the reverse side of the card:

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Rosa Gravino included documentation from one of her amazing exhibitions.

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Marcela Peral is another excellent visual poet. Here is the reverse side. You can click to enlarge:

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Rosa Gravino also included a modified call for more work:

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Send your vispo!

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Make sure to visit Rosa Gravino’s blog:


MinXus Mail Bag: Scanpo by Maria Morisot aka Moan Lisa (Des Moines, Iowa, USA)

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Mail art by Maria Morisot aka Moan Lisa (Des Moines, Iowa, USA)

FinnBadger’s (Columbus, Ohio, USA) recent scannerpo experiment stimulated some conversations about text-oriented compositions in relation to printers, scans, etc.; the concept has been “in the air” lately. Simultaneously, Moan Lisa was interested in ways to generate vispo; so we suggested a kind of scannerbed-rooted layering.

Moan Lisa – or more accurately Maria Morisot – kindly sent us a result of the exploration in a postcard-size format. Maria Morisot appears to have overlaid poems by Jean Garrigue (a fairly obscure contemporary of Elizabeth Bishop and John Berryman) and Queer, William S. Burroughs’ deeply disappointing sequel (if that is the correct term) to Junky.

Maria Morisot’s vispo transcends both Garrigue and Burroughs in this particular instance, IOHO. We did some re-mix work to accentuate the distortion:

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This overlaying has and can be used in effective vispo composition. Overlaid text, we believe, can be used in the generation of asemic writing as well.

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We are huge fans of text overlays – if that is not obvious – and so we are thrilled to have and share this work by Moan Lisa/Maria Morisot. Deepest thanks!

The reverse side of the card:

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Thickly overlaid concrete poetry (aka scanpo aka scannerpo) by Dark wall:

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