Amnesiacs & Asemiacs: Three Pieces by David Chirot

David BC - 12.5.2017 - 11“Cover for an as yet unnamed asemiac book” by David Chirot (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA”

 

Asemic Front expands its depth and breadth today with these three asemic pieces by poet, writer and visual poet David Chirot.

AF visitors are likely to be already familiar with the legendary Chirot (also known as David Baptiste-Chirot). I am of the opinion – shared with many others – that he transformed visual poetry in the late 20th century (at a time when it was languishing) and is now a key figure in the post-literature of the 21st century. I am thrilled at long last to be able to provide a platform for his work.

While a master of the image (visual syntax), Chirot’s work has long contained what is now called asemic symbols and texts. In fact, he was among the early asemic pioneers – Jim Leftwich and Tim Gaze come to mind also – who anticipated that asemics and image-oriented visual poetry would merge to become a genre (or subgenre). As a result, Chirot has developed an original and distinctive asemic (anti-)language that, paradoxically, is deeply expressive.

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“Striker rubBEing” by David Baptiste-Chirot

However, despite the fact that he is also a literary theorist of consequence, Chirot has not engaged in the often angry debates about asemic writing that have been so divisive in the international visual poetry community. So I want to make sure AF readers do not assume Chirot is taking positions here when, in fact, I am featuring his work on Asemic Front due to its importance and what I see in it. He has kindly allowed for the presentation of pieces that are fundamentally asemically “purist.”

Indeed, Chirot’s wordplay that I have kept intact – “asemiac” and “asemniac” (amnesiac) – shows a playful or even satirical view of the ever-so-serious subject of asemic writing. While – beyond a doubt – he has an intellectual understanding of the asemic enterprise, Chirot’s iconic “RubBEings” are simply a natural medium for the generation of asemic symbols, syntax and forms. His artistic process produces distortions and deconstructions of the language he finds in his environment and which provides much of his subject matter. I believe asemic conceptualism is simply inherent and thus natural in his work.

DVS

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“Asemniac rubBEing” by David Chirot

 

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“Asemniac rubBEing” by David Chirot (remix by DVS)

 

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East Meets West: Collabs by Joey Patrickt (California, USA) & De Villo Sloan (New York, USA)

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Collab by Joey Patrickt (Oakland, California, USA) and De Villo Sloan (Auburn, New York, USA)

 

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Mail art by Joey Patrickt (Oakland, California, USA)

 

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“Smear Cat” – Collab by Joey Patrickt and De Villo Sloan (scanner smear)

 

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“Smear Cat #3”

 

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Mail art by Joey Patrickt

 

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Collab by Joey Patrickt and De Villo Sloan

 

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Mail art by Joey Patrickt (Oakland, California, USA)

 

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“Hyper-Glitched Joey” – Joey Patrickt and De Villo Sloan

 

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Mail art by Joey Patrickt (Oakland, California, USA)

 

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Asemic Visual Poetry Collabs by Eduardo Cardoso (Portugal) & De Villo Sloan (USA)

Asemic vispo collab by Eduardo Cardoso (Sines, Portugal) and De Villo Sloan (Auburn, New York, USA)

 

Closer in:

 

 

Reverse:

 

 

Asemic vispo collab by Eduardo Cardoso (Sines, Portugal) & De Villo Sloan (Auburn, New York, USA)

 

 

 

 

Asemics & Letter-Essay by Dave Araki (New York City, USA)

Asemics by Dave Araki (New York City)

 

This is Dave Araki’s second appearance on Asemic Front. I am thrilled to be able to share this wonderful work as well as his thoughtful writing. I plan to send him a letter in response that will go into more depth than this brief commentary. I believe the most important function of this AF post is for the audience to see and read Dave Araki’s work.

https://asemicfront.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/found-asemics-by-dave-araki-new-york-city-usa/

Asemic Front is also (in addition to art) a place for writing (theory especially) about asemics. Dave Araki’s thoughts on asemics are, I believe, very insightful and should be of great interest to readers.

Dave Araki’s art has a conceptual aspect and he does remarkable things with found material. Those of us in the Eternal Network (mail art) are fortunate indeed to be learning about his work through his participation in the international network. In fact, some exciting new artists are emerging in New York City above and beyond the NY Correspondance School-type stalwarts whom we have come to know and admire. Due to Ray Johnson and Fluxus, New York City was for a long time the unofficial capitol of correspondence art. The tradition continues with new generations.

Dave Araki’s discovery of the network is beneficial to him as well. As you can read in his letter-essay to follow, the current interest in asemic writing and working with distressed found textual material (named Trashpo by visual poet Jim Leftwich) prevalent in the network has an affinity to Dave Araki’s interests. He brings exciting work and fresh vision to the expanding asemic movement in particular. Hopefully, he will discover the work of artists across the globe who are working in the same areas.

Here is the reverse side of the opening scan that has interesting material as well:

And the letter-essay:

I appreciate Dave Araki’s praise for the Karnival of Trash, an international call and exhibition emphasizing Trashpo. Over a decade, there have been a number of significant Trashpo events in the network. The KoT is just a recent manifestation that proved to be great fun. DKult is a group within Trashpo similar to a Ray Johnson fan club as well as the Church of the SubGenius (related to Neoism). In truth, Trashpo is – in my view – a manifestation of the Fluxus impulse that is still vital in the mail art community and which has gone through its own, sometimes peculiar, evolution out of the mainstream.

 

Asemic Writing & Visual Poetry by Brent Nathan Bechtel (South Carolina, USA)

“A foreboding sort of scribble” by Brent Nathan Bechtel (2014)

 

Brent Nathan Bechtel is a gifted and prolific visual poet and artist whose range extends to asemic writing. I would guess many Asemic Front visitors are familiar with his work already, although I am thrilled if you are discovering him for the first time here. He was featured at MinXus-Lynxus and Brent Nathan Bechtel’s compositions are – perhaps – even more relevant to the Asemic Front project.

Brent kindly granted permission for me to sift through his photo folders to compile this selection of his work. I had intended to spotlight recent work but found pieces from 2014 that are so significant to Asemic Front that I have included a sampling.

The range of Brent Nathan Bechtel’s work is astonishing and could easily fill at least one hefty volume (books that is). He uses many approaches to visual-textual composition with alacrity. To focus, I have selected pieces that have elements of asemic calligraphy and that are – for the most part – recent. Other avenues of his work should be explored, so I hope Brent Nathan Bechtel will be a consistent contributor to the Asemic Front project.

DVS

“Asemic piece” by Brent Nathan Bechtel (2014)

 

“Trade-off Manifesto” (2014)

How can I omit a piece with a Trahpo vibe and a Diane Keys aesthetic?

 

“And I waited forever” (2017)

 

“Text chop burlesque” by Brent Nathan Bechtel (2017)

 

“Untitled” (2017)

 

“Unbranded Consumable Item” by Brent Nathan Bechtel (2017)

 

“Drawn under my eyes” (2017)

 

“Stairway” by Brent Nathan Bechtel (2017)

 

 

Asemic Front Review: “Too Much To Bear” by Robin Tomens (Timglaset – Sweden)

Cover of Too Much To Bear by Robin Tomens (London, UK)

 

I believe Robin Tomens is among a group of poets and artists working today who are placing British visual poetry in the vanguard of global visual poetry. I am thrilled to have an edition of Tomens’ Too Much To Bear as part of the Asemic Front effort.

Too Much To Bear is a beautifully produced collection of 24 compositions that have depth and resonance. They are not quickly disposable (then discard) visual-verbal gimmicks nor are they the motel-room-abstract-paintings which asemic-vispo is listing towards. These are pieces you will return to again and again, each time finding more.

Because Tomens’ work emphasizes the materiality of images and language, the printed book format is especially illuminating and effective. Too Much To Bear shows the power that art can achieve beyond the limitations (yes limitations!) of the digital realm. In short, and not trying to sound too Fluxus, you can best experience Too Much To Bear by being in its physical presence and touching it.

Too Much To Bear is published by Timglaset: A Swedish/English endeavor that, humbly, refers to itself as a “fanzine.” (Timglaset appears to be much more than a fanzine.) My research indicates Timglaset is the creation of Joakim Norling in Sweden. Norling deserves applause on several fronts including his choice of poets/artists and his unique distribution system that involves the international mail art network:

About Timglaset

In reviews, I often navigate a narrow line between trying to – visually – give a sense of what a book is like and – going too far – inadvertently publishing a digital edition. So I will provide some shots of personally favorite pages from Too Much To Bear. Keep in mind the collection contains much more.

“Status Symbol” by Robin Tomens from Too Much To Bear

The methods of collage are now firmly available to the visual poet without contest. In the case of Robin Tomens, I do not believe genre analysis alone yields insights. He is an excellent collage artist and some would leave it there; however, I believe his great strength is as a visual poet adept at the use of language. This is how we can best understand and appreciate him.

Tomens’ compositions explore – even relentlessly at times – the shifting and complex relationships between image and text. He explores the process of signification and the processes of both creating and obliterating meaning, which is of central interest to asemic writers. “Status Symbol” provides a perfect example for my contentions. The piece exhibits Tomens’ use of the Punk (anti-aesthetic) – probably generational symptom – which serves as a deconstructive filter. Perhaps Joakim Norling’s “fanzine” concept has a greater aesthetic depth than at first appears. “Status Symbol” has a street art quality as well.

Thus I believe Robin Tomens is at his best in pieces that combine image and text. Some Tomens pieces do (see above) rely on the prominence of image and visual syntax and are successful. But, in fact, what I like best about contemporary British visual poetry (if I may generalize) is that it uses visual-verbal constructs that draw from concrete poetry, text collage and that are – then – “postavant” – suggesting connection to a tradition. (Rarely do I have much praise for tradition!)

Many visual poets have abandoned text altogether in favor of image constructs. Some of this work is extraordinary and groundbreaking, but I find more energy and interest in visual-textual work. The British visual poets currently working whom I have encountered are well-grounded in concrete poetry and the cut-up work of Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs. (Clearly Burroughs made a BIG impact during his London years that still resonates.) I hope this explains my enthusiasm for the work of Robin Tomens and British visual poetry. This “tradition” bodes well for a British visual poetry of the future.

“It’s You” by Robin Tomens in Too Much to Bear (Timglaset)

In closing, I want to identify another source that I believes inspires Robin Tomens’ work. That is his knowledge of jazz:

https://www.amazon.com/Points-Departure-Essays-Modern-Jazz/dp/1900152797

As a longtime student of postmodernism (pomo), I am very aware of the important impact jazz has had on Modernism and – more important – American Postmodernism of the second half of the 20th century. The work of the Beats, Black Mountain, and much of the New York School, for example, is derived from a “jazz poetics” grounded in spontaneity, improvisations, quoting and fragmentation. Charles Olson’s historic and influential “Projective Verse” is essentially a handbook of jazz poetics. With this “tradition” comes – philosophically – the huge, rugged and bleak continent of Existentialism. That is likely where we should look to locate Tomens in terms of a worldview. It’s easy to forget about the centrality of jazz in current art, lit and music.

While Robin Tomens’ nods to Punk and street art make his work engaging and provide a textured aesthetic, I believe it his jazz sensibility that accounts for the brilliance of the pieces in Too Much To Bear (and elsewhere). In other words, Tomens brings jazz poetics to vispo. Hoping not to make a comparison too grandiose, the Abstract Expressionist painters (Pollock) brought a jazz sensibility to painting which was revolutionary in the West. I have always expressed disdain for “middle of the road.” Yet in the case of Robin Tomens I make an exception or at least a qualification. Visual poets capable of innovation (rather than regurgitating the achievements of the past) but who are also aware of and drawing from tradition (such as concrete poetry and the cut-up) are in an advantageous position to produce work of note and value. Robin Tomens opens new ground and continues the enterprise. It will be interesting to see where he takes us next.

– DVS

“American Face” by Robin Tomens in Too Much To Bear

 

New Asemic Collab by Nancy Bell Scott & De Villo Sloan

Asemic collab by Nancy Bell Scott (Maine, USA) & De Villo Sloan (NY, USA)

 

A great honor to have worked with Nancy Bell Scott on this piece for Asemic Front. Here are some detail studies:

By Nancy Bell Scott & De Villo Sloan (2017)