As above, so below…

June 23rd, 2022
This is my essay for Runway Journal, my intention as editor of Issue 45: Asemic was to introduce text-based computing convictions and a realm of computational poetics into and to bestow a provisional taste of what holistic computing practices may mean for us. Invoking a space of radical openness, asemic is a stygian space. Best read as a cradle for aesthetic ambiguity that sheds assumed notions, asemic is a fertile and marvellous source of abundance, where obscure symbolic elements, wayward strategies, and indeterminate offerings transmit elsewhere.
if (today <= as above && so below <= definition) 
return false; 
} else 

In Politics and Poetics of Transgression Stallybrass and White remind us of the excess acumen necessary for putative alternatives in deciphering the world: ‘It is one of the most powerful ruses of the dominant to pretend that critique can only exist in the language of “reason”, “pure knowledge” and “seriousness”. …This logic could unsettle “given” social positions and interrogate the rules of inclusion, exclusion and domination which structured the social ensemble’.

overground_understory (2022) [detail Andrew Burrell

The contributions for Runway Issue 45: Asemic are aesthetic probes for re-shaping and re-thinking in unhinged times. Each contribution is a continual accretion of possible association and a simultaneous divesting of certainty and phenomena obscured by habit. A taxonomy of illegibility, cadence and consciousness, Ella Skilbeck-Porter delivers a ‘necessary freedom from definition’ in Towards an Asemic Space Continuing the gesture of cohesive ambiguity and manoeuvring, we find a system of tensions and abysses in Andrew Burrell’s overground_understory . A spectral realm of perceptible and inexact degrees of unknowing encounters is configured.  Another rare and not reasonably legible marking of space is created in Asemic Press. This nimble work by Jo Pollitt suggests an expanded dance of distributed corporeality. A transposition of a composition of that which is protolinguistic.

Asemic Press (2022) Jo Pollitt [Detail]

A choreography of interchanging awareness and tacit knowledge is further substantiated in Writing the Virus by the Expanded Writers Collective (Yoko Akama, Martina Copley, Linda Dement, Maria Griffin, Pia Ednie-Brown, Anna Farago, Cleo Farago, and Lucinda Strahan). Sets of scrambled verses are re-enacted, composted and cut up through cross-compilation by a chorus that moves between epistolatory genre, nonfiction and artistic research. The work reveals the favourable environment a self-determined cooperative can create as the audience witnesses the potency and potential of computational poetics.

Writing the Virus (2022) by the Expanded Writers Collective [Image details]

Labyrinth-like structures made from lines of text are prominent in Francesca da Rimini’s libation for the banished, Asemic Alembic. By passing through the web browser and entering the alchemist’s sanctum, we mingle in the mediumships of transmogrification. Plunged into a nonlinear time where mysteries have a venerated place, da Rimini reminds us of the significance of the things we do not understand. Drawing attention to the layers underneath where we sit acknowledging the generations stretching before us. In CAUTION: A BODY IS IN DECAY  Najrin Islam considers homespun yearnings and the imperceptible tendrils of power that enable or hinder our ability to belong. Epitomised by a rotting tooth, asemic is a cypher to behold the nuances when paying attention to our interiority. Interrogating inherited customs, grasping the ‘constructedness’ of a human being through a particular identity — the elements that form race/class/gender/nationality (as symbols that can be altered) reveal identity’s inherent performativity.

Wearing talismans and costumes, for instance, can tell a particular part of who you are, as in the work Hypershade Hype-Simplified. For 高飞 Fei Gao performance is a process of collectively unravelling, re-orderingand subverting as a ‘way to challenge previous authorities…Asking for new social authority’ On the stage, or more often these days, in its counterpart, a web browser, we may find the opportunity to explore many aspects that comprise a person, the porosity to embody other beings through modifying, adapting and enabling alterities. Seeding the ground for an alternate molten epoch to reign.


Hypershade Hype-Simplified (2022) 高飞 Fei Gao [work detail]

Asemic Alembic (2022) Francesca da Rimini [work detail]


Dismantling dominant ideas of how language and code perform and indulge in illusions of control, the tentacles of the Internet’s imbroglios plant themselves into the interstices of our daily lives as a new kind of species that exist with/in us. Designers and activists Lewis et al. (2018) meticulously examine indigenous protocols for Artificially Intelligent (AI) processes “our goal is that we, as a species, figure out how to treat these new non-human kin respectfully and reciprocally—and not as mere tools, or worse, slaves to their creators”. [2]

The Internet is a rodeo for keystrokes, scripts, and text files nesting in mined metal alloys. Its presence is palpable. This is evident in the elegant and gritty of Matilda Sutherland. Concrete Cowgirl is a benediction guided by the moon. During her vivid crossing, she displays a fortitude for wonderment, riding on a solid-state drive, rabid hardware interference and data wranglers are transfigured into beats and tensile digital objects. The convulsions of realising the signals transmitting from the components that characterise the works presented in this Issue are advanced by Denise Thwaites. Where Art Grows in Circuit’s Opened: An Ekphrastic Response points to our ontologically insecure surroundings, opening up vernacular perceptions about techné. The use of technology is shaped by a knowledge of socio-political histories and cultural experiences.

Concrete Cowgirl (2022) Matilda Sutherland  [ work detail above and below]

Localised, scalable and situated, asemic writing has gestural origins. The concentric drift of trellises, dots and crosses in petroglyphs on a stone exhaling and pulsating. Asemic acts relay the sentience of a fern by a lake. Its permutations include a diversity of forms: scrying, divination, theatrical improvisations, concrete poetry, choreography, cut-ups, punk rock mystic language, programming languages, media collage,, chance compositions (and so on)…

‘I love writing because there are acoustic typewriters and electric ones. It’s a physical act, but the word is still trapped on the page. The neat thing about performing is it keeps the act of creation alive. I love the process of creation, although the end product is in itself a necessary evil. Still, I’m glad it’s there, otherwise I wouldn’t have Rolling Stones records, William Burroughs or Rimbaud books to enjoy.’ -Patti Smith



Peter Stallybrass and Allon White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), 200.

Jason Edward Lewis, Noelani Arista, Archer Pechawis, and Suzanne Kite, “Making Kin with the Machines,” Journal of Design and Science (July 2018):

Patti Smith, “Somewhere, over the Rimbaud,” in Rock She Wrote, ed. Evelyn  McDonnell and Ann Powers (New York: Dell Publishing, 1995), 282.

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