Collaborative Mail-Art Book Project
INTRODUCTION TO EDITION 1
The global mail-art network, which evolved from art practices in the United States and Europe in the 1960s, has for decades served as a conduit for visual-verbal forms. Mail-art’s close ties to the Fluxus movement have unquestionably strengthened this connection. Vital work long-nurtured by the network includes concrete poetry, visual poetry, haptic and object poetry as well as the fairly esoteric yet endlessly fascinating practice of asemic writing.
In May 2011, South African artist Cheryl Penn launched an ambitious collaborative mail-art book project encompassing four editions; this is the first. I have been greatly honored to coordinate the project with her. The International Union of Mail-Artists (IUOMA), founded by Ruud Janssen of the Netherlands, has served as an ideal headquarters in cyberspace for an effort that involves many artists from around the globe.
Through Asemics 16, Penn has sought to chronicle the work of contemporary asemic writers in the mail-art network, to encourage other artists to explore asemic writing, and to push the boundaries of current practice. Thus you will find in this edition work by asemic writers who are well-known in the field. You will also find artists who work in collage, painting, photography, and conceptual art, among others. By crossing traditional boundaries they have produced extraordinarily innovative contributions.
The realm of asemic writing includes the invention of imaginary languages with corresponding symbols and systems for their arrangement. Asemic writing suggests a language, might at times reveal traces of known language, but ultimately cannot be read as any existing language or extinct language that has been recorded. Through the absence, discontinuity or disruption of conventional signification, new meanings and realizations are made possible. Visual and material elements of written language are brought to the forefront.
Depending upon the approach taken by the individual artists in Asemics 16 – Edition 1, asemic writing can be wondrously simple or intriguingly complex. Some of the artists found inspiration in the scrawling of young children seeking to mimic the writing they have seen but not yet mastered; some delved into personal symbol systems they first created as children themselves.
Other contributors have made asemic signs and syntax from found material and asemic-suggestive shapes in nature. Some have delved into prehistoric glyphs and ancient texts; others have drawn inspiration from street art. The result in Asemics 16 is a vast, global dialog of human expression not constrained by time, space or language.
Asemic writing is also a medium that can be illuminated and explained through advanced cultural theory in fields including semiotics and linguistics. It addresses deeply philosophical questions involving indeterminacy, incomprehensibility, and meta-language. This edition with all its visual richness brings us together in the shared experience of being human and our relationship to the world.
De Villo Sloan
August 8, 2011
Auburn, New York, USA