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  • Joakim Norling

Marco Giovenale's Enciclopedia Asemica

One of our favourite books so far this year is our friend Marco Giovenale's Enciclopedia Asemica (Ikona Liber). The book ends with an interesting interview with Marco by Giuseppe Garrera which is republished below by kind permission of Marco and the publisher.


Marco, I’d like to start by asking you to explain what installance is.

— It’s an action that blends installation with performance. In a playful way, mind you, without giving the term too serious a slant. You could call it a « secretly performed installation ». It consists in leaving special objects, usually asemic or verbovisual material, in places that are not easily or not at all or perfectly or overly accessible. Their presence can be recorded in photos that posted after the fact on websites or social networks, or else not recorded: they can be announced or unannounced.

So I’d say what’s at work here is an ontology of the ephemeral, lost, forgotten object. Something factual and concrete but ungraspable, as compared to the ‘metaphysics’ of the art object, with its unique status, special place of glorification (the museum, gallery, studio, collection), and ineffable, unverifiable essence.

There’s also some element of the infrathin and infra-ordinary. But dragging Duchamp and Perec into it might seem presumptuous.



In what sense can asemantic writing be seen as possessing its own matrilineal tradition?

— The deeper I venture into asemic territory, sailing the waters that seem charted thus far on the web, and the more I learn, the more I come to think that the best artists in this field – or perhaps just the most interesting, from my perspective – are women. I suspect that the many (unquestionably brilliant) male figures who are often cited as the very first groundbreakers in what has only recently been identified and studied as the asemic ‘tradition’ were not the only pioneers; rather, they were the ones capable of getting their work seen in a century, the twentieth, whose cultural structures were still solidly dominated by male power and thus male presence. In literature, in art and so on.

That said, I’m tempted to think – hoping not to slip into amateur paleoanthropology here – that some kind of asemic tendency could perhaps be seen and identified back at the very dawn of the (human) species, as a mode and modulation of the tendency to engrave abstract/distracted lines and marks; to work without a goal, leaving traces that go beyond any set meaning. Long before any written (or perhaps spoken) code appeared on the horizon.

These traces were almost a need, demanding to be etched into the clay of objecthood. Before one could even unconsciously suspect that some act of production of meaning was on the horizon, they were already, in some sense, waiting for a hand to write them.

The (non–)category or field of ‘asemic writing’ – as a blurry shadow of the human fondness for the purely material act of producing free – form signs and glyphs – is of indeterminable age, it’s ancient. Obviously, the ‘bloodline’ most capable of incarnating and passing on the values of an ur – tendency like this was the maternal one. It was successful due to this, that is, due to its difference from the obsession with language, with the fullness of meaning, with the sacred powers of the Word: an obsession governed by men.


Don’t you think the explorations of Adriano Spatola or Emilio Villa seem to pursue an enigmatic, stilnovista – like mirage, in which ‘dictating Love’ – i.e., writing – is a female image, and falling in love is a journey into the blessed realm of meaninglessness, of signs that at long last have ceased to mean and simply are, as in every love story?

— Yes. And I’d also put this inclination into the broader category of ‘sense’ / ‘nonsense’; the two words merge into one that includes and regards the whole spectrum of human activities, which are unavoidably caught in a bond that ties the attribution of meaning to perception, and more generally speaking, to experience.

From this perspective, it embraces many (a)semantic playing fields, like stuttering and scribbling, which lie outside of any established meaning or intention.


To what degree does your asemantic writing contain an element of protest, that is, a stance of radical aversion to the word as an organized, institutionalized system of lies and deception (the entire asemantic tradition emphasizes the deadly link between logos – language – law)?

— This element is definitely present (and has come up in past interviews on sites like the magazine “3:AM” or the blog “Asemicnet”). At the same time, I should point out that this idea – of a layer of signs that forms a barrier between me as an author and the dirty politics of the Western logos – is also one segment and area of a very complex pattern or strategy of works that I’ve been committed to constructing ever since I began writing, drawing, and drawriting (a word I’ve coined in English).

I also write linear pieces in prose, for instance. Which are far removed from an asemic context, but are equally tied to my conscious status as an enemy of (most) current forms of logos, writing, art, texts, linguistic devices, and above all, spectacle.


Could you say that many of your works suggest a mythos of the ‘left hand’ (a bereft hand, an untrained, unaligned, disobedient one) for which writing becomes drawing and a sort of mystical dysgraphia, like doodling?

— Yes. That pretty much sums it up. Although actually, I should add two things. First, that I have tried to describe my investigation, my work, using the neologism I mentioned before, which I believe is completely my own: drawriting. (Essentially, a blend of acquired techniques and total improvisation). And second, I am quite allergic to elegant scripts and adornments, bibelots, those graphic frills that so often verge on the baroque. Ruffles and flounces from an evening dress, lacy drapery with a ‘nice hand’ to it: that irritates me beyond anything. The same goes for those glossy, saturated images, in high resolution (and high style), which pay tribute to the confident, adroit gesture. And so on.

I’m fond of imperfections, the graphic result of being half awake; I’m fond of sketches, mistakes, garblings, glitches, random graffiti, soured music, half – finished projects, cursory jottings, even the worst kind of doodles. I have no fondness for displays of skill by the deft asemic artisan.


In this fertile crescent of writing and language, it seems to me like you also assign an important role to the materials of this adventure, the brushes, markers, gouges, needles, chalk, collage, and paper, all the shopfloor equipment that is necessary to the game and that lets you hide your tracks.

— Of course, though I should note that I often tend to think of these tools as flashes in the dark. Momentary allies. I can’t imagine taking a Renaissance workshop approach to asemic art.

I rely on a whole range of instruments, even found objects, with the goal of leaving personal identity aside as I give shape to the asemic ‘thing’.

And I should add: I often end up going back to the most elementary tools, pen and paper. All implements – whether simple or complex – are itching to threaten, scratch, and erode the surface, but also the depths of received meaning, and to combat and deflect the readers’ expectations, helping them blithely let go of any solid foothold they may have had, on any castle of ghosts, ideas, content, and context.


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