Asemic Writing and Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia

Those involved in asemic writing and especially asemic-visual poetry hybrids have likely noted the use of color associated with asemic symbols and constructs. The effect of “reading” one of these colorful asemic texts essentially creates a state of synaesthesia for the reader, the well-known mixing of perceptions. (For instance, being able to see music is a frequently reported synaesthetic phenomenon.)

Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia is a specific, documented condition where the reader sees individual words and numerals in different colors. The condition has been studied (see link) and specifics words are associated with specific colors and thus repeat in patterns.

These colors are possibly triggered by memories and emotional associations. Thus, both an individual experiencing Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia as well as an asemic text using color are essentially “reading” color constructs. The experience is deeply subjective and can also be deeply fulfilling and fascinating. On some level, the reader is also connected to the author of the asemic text.

This is not a process of ordinary “reading,” but it is an experience rooted in language and interaction with a text. The asemic text draws on the uniquely human capacity for language but it is also a new kind of “reading” that transcends the limitations of traditional signification and offers possibilities for new kinds of understanding, communication and experience.

References to Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia are frequently noted in the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. This fascination along with an emphasis on imagery among Rimbaud and the Symbolists had a powerful impact on Modernism and likely set the stage more than a century ago for the current asemic movement.


( Link = Dixon, Mike J., et al. “The role of meaning in grapheme-colour synaesthesia.” Cortex 42.2 (2006): 243-252. )





Black A, white E, red I, green U, blue O—vowels,
Some day I will open your silent pregnancies:
A, black belt, hairy with bursting flies,
Bumbling and buzzing over stinking cruelties.

Pits of night; E, candor of sand and pavilions,
High glacial spears, white kings, trembling Queen-Anne’s lace;
I, bloody spittle, laughter dribbling from a face
In wild denial or in anger, vermilions;

U,…divine movement of viridian seas,
Peace of pastures animal-strewn, peace of calm lines
Drawn on foreheads worn with heavy alchemies;

O, supreme Trumpet, harsh with strange stridencies,
Silences traced in angels and astral designs:
O…OMEGA…the violet light of His Eyes!

Arthur Rimbaud (1871) (Trans. Schmidt & Bauer)




Asemic Visual Texts by Werner Krause (Vienna, Austria)

“In Between” by Werner Krause (Vienna, Austria)


Werner Krause has created an impressive body of art that combines visual and textual elements. The work can be described and “read” with increased illumination as visual poetry. I am thrilled to be able to offer here a selection of his work from his Layers Unlimited collection.

I have selected them because they are particularly suggestive of language, especially syntactic structure. They explore the relation of symbols in linear and non-linear forms. Some of these works by Werner Krause show a masterful use of digital constructs to make asemics and others draw from the tradition of calligraphy.


“Chemical Sensitivities” by Werner Krause


“Continuing Dissolutions” by Werner Krause


“Down by the Sea” by Werner Krause


“Otto Mit Omi (1961-2016)” by Werner Krause


“P.A.N.K. 82” by Werner Krause


“Yes We Scan” by Werner Krause


Many thanks to Werner Krause for generously allowing this sampling from his Layers Unlimited. I hope to feature more of his work in the future.


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Found Asemics by Dave Araki (New York City, USA)

Asemic vispo by Dave Araki (New York City, USA)

Dave Araki submitted these pieces for the Karnival of Trash exhibition, but I found them much more relevant to Asemic Front. These compelling images, given the distressed and weathered nature of the originals that arrived in a similarly battered envelope, appear to be found material. The notion of “Found Asemics” is, of course, another exciting genre we can hopefully explore further on Asemic Front. Thanks to Dave Araki for opening the conversation.