Sunday 28 June 2015

Messy Handwriting

Nathanial Woo ranks the ten most "bizarre" literary movements and genres. My favourite is asemic writing:
When we think about literature and writing, we often think about words. But asemic writing is a type of writing that doesn’t involve any words at all. It merely involves a bunch of pretty squiggles. Asemic writing is designed to have no specific meaning. In fact, the term “asemic” derives from a condition called asemia, sufferers of which are unable to understand signs and symbols. This meaningless state is achieved through writing in nonexistent languages.

This isn’t to say that asemic writing is totally meaningless or incomprehensible. On the contrary, the abstract and unreadable nature of asemic writing enables it to be broadly interpreted as having multiple different meanings. In this sense, asemic writing can be seen to establish a universal language that is accessible to all nationalities and cultures. Also, asemic writing can be viewed as capturing and reflecting emotions that cannot be fully explained through words. It can be pretty neat stuff, or it can be meaningless rubbish. It’s really up to you.

Similar to the calligram, asemic writing can be viewed as an art-literature hybrid. The genre’s nonspecific nature means that the appearance of the writing is important. Essentially, good asemic writing has to be made of attractive or striking scribbles, not just the messy handwriting of a two-year-old. (Unless you really like the messy handwriting of a two-year-old, of course.)

This focus on appearance often results in asemic writing looking similar to calligraphy. In fact, some of the oldest recorded asemic writing is Chinese calligraphy from the eighth century. Specifically, the calligrapher “crazy” Zhang Xu was famous for his bizarre cursive calligraphy. It was all twiddly, squiggly, and rather pretty but nearly impossible to read. The calligraphy of crazy Zhang has been noted as an influence on asemic writing practitioners like Tim Gaze and Michael Jacobson, both of whom run asemic writing publications like The New Post Literate and Asemic Magazine. To these asemic writers, the movement is an important contemporary development that can progress and evolve conventional written language.

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