Monday, January 12

Without Words: Asemic marks and sounds

It started with writing in my journal every day, and then not - because I was writing and reading the same whining about pain day in and day out. (For those of you who are new, I have lupus, as well as chronic pain due to a back injury that has led to three surgeries. I state these things as facts - part of my life, nothing more, nothing less.) I needed a way to express myself, just to get jump started into the day - to get it out of my system. When the first thing you register the moment you wake up is pain, or it is the reason you wake up, or can't sleep, or what ever, it gets old. So does talking about it, writing about it, journaling about it, trying to work with it, trying to get past it, ignoring it, etc, and my journal allowed me to purge and move on, but then that stopped working.
One day, this is what happened:

(clink on image to see in detail)
Which evolved into this set of 4" x 4" books hand written on tracing paper, sewn, and nestled inside a plexi box -which I constructed and then dremeled the same glyphs on, and rubbed paint into.
I have found many artists use this form of expression, which I've learned is called asemic writing, markings, scribbles that resemble words, but "having no semantic meaning". Tim Gaze has even created a free e-journal dedicated completely to asemic works! If you google it, you'll find there is a lot out there.

That's the technical aspect of it, but the deeper meaning...
As early back in my life as I can remember, I could let myself essentially disappear, into the process of making art. I didn't know, until much later, that I was practicing a form of meditation - taking my body, mind, and spirit to a place of oneness. This is where I would (and still do) return when the world around me became too violent, too chaotic, too exciting, simply too much. Art is my practice, my prayer, my inner peace; the process of creating is my breath, my heart beat. my pathway to truth. If, however, I choose to indulge my ego, and force an artistic idea (the way I might force my body into a defined proper stance in mediation) my mind is everywhere, my focus nonexistent, my peace out of reach.

Keeping preconceptions out of the way, staying present in creation's divine energy, takes me into the flow where boundaries between my body and my art begin to blur, and all sense of my small sense disappears.

When I practice "asemic" writing I am able to tap into that creative mediative flow directly. There is a cadence, a rhythm, an hypnotic repetition to the process. The results could be perceived as boring, by the viewer - the way 'just sitting' is too tedious for some. Upon slowing down and taking a closer look, my hope is that more will be seen and felt.

As I scribe I feel I am hearing ancient voices, foreign prayers, and reading through my body's eyes - words in a language I do not fully comprehend. The process of rendering takes me outside of myself, into a strange and unknown land - one of reverence, very personal, and deeply in need of a witness.

I can't seem to resist putting these things into a video, since it's the best vehicle I've found, to take you through my books - page by page.


  1. This turned out to be a very informative post for me. I've never heard of ascemic (sp?) writing. I plan on researching it some more.

    And I agree with you about journaling, and how you write about the same thing over and over again. That's why I got away from journaling. Maybe I'll find a way to get over it.

  2. Lovely post. Soulfilled work.

  3. Thank you for sharing your beautiful work with us, Karin. Watching the video definitely became a perfect meditation in itself.

    I have felt this "invisibility" or "stillness" before when I get into my journal making. I am just learning that it is ok to shut the world completely out and "be"... funny that that sounds so scary and yet so right all at the same time for me.

    You and your pain are powerful teachers, Beautiful One.

    Thanks again for today's lesson.
    Sending love...

  4. loved both your images and your words.

    Having a place that feels like *home* is what make us stronger to face all the challenges we have to deal out there.

  5. Beautiful, soft words and art...This was a very soothing visit. As a new-to-blogging visual artist, I find it interesting to see the different roads which lead to such creativity. Thank you for sharing such a personal journey.

  6. Oh wow! Asemic writing is new to me and I certainly will be googling it. I love all your images, the little books in the case and the thought behind it. You have put into words what I feel about the art process and its healing qualities. Also a sanctuary when life is too frenetic. I am working on a carving at the moment with meditation in mind....Rythm, hypnotic repetition etc.. I've called it Ancestral Voices so it seems that this post has come at just the right time...perhaps as a sign or confirmation that I'm on the right track.

    Karen, my cousin has had Lupis for many years so I know just a little of what you are going through. Extra loving thoughts coming your way.

  7. Hi Tiffany, I still think the daily recording in a journal is a powerful practice, it's just become more of a visual one for me these days, than verbal. The daily discipline charges me!

    Thank you Tamsie...

    You are welcome Kim, and thanks to you for your thoughtful presence here. So glad that you are experiencing the okay-ness of shutting out the world to simply 'be'. It's most certainly your right, first a foremost!

    Maria, yes, I agree having a place of h'om'e, especially if we can find it within ourselves, makes facing all the outside challenges possible.

    Welcome Curio, and thank you. It is a fascinating landscape, this artistic blog land - wide and varied. Your StoryBook Box work is fascinating - glad you stopped by and introduced yourself :)

    Hi Robyn, sounds like we are exploring very similar ideas, through our different mediums. I love the idea of your creating work through Ancestral Voices, and really look forward to seeing what your working on - and I always love your work! Hopes for wellness to your cousin.

    thanks to all, Karin

  8. Karin, I like this new book a lot. I liked your old books, too, but like you said, awfully intense. I like the brighter side of you.

  9. Karin, I love your latest blog post. I also have done this type of writing, but I didn't know there was a name for it, or that other people did it. Interesting! Your books in the transparent box are beautiful, as are the words you use to describe the effect that art-making has on you. I have always thought that it's the best meditation I've ever found. I have tried many types, and found that nothing compares to state of being and transcendence that occurs when I'm working on art.

  10. Karin I look at your blog everyday and as a matter of fact, I have used two of your things on my blog: amnesty international and the 1929 video on war? I think that was the year.

    I love what you have to say and I see that you believe in peace.

    I had to write this time, however, because when you said you had Lupus. My oldest daughter has lupus and that is one hell of a disease.

    It made me look at your work even a little closer to see your strong spirit and to wish my daughter's spirit also stays strong.

    I admire all that you do especially because sometimes I am sure you don't feel well. By the way, I have not noticed any whining on your blog.

    Take care of yourself.


  11. beautiful and worth the wait!!! is that the dog licking in unison with the music? very cool. will have to watch it on my bigger screen later tonight - i'm on the laptop... ooh, that one looked like a female body part - i'm watching as i write:)
    so glad to hear your laugh yesterday!

  12. I never realized there was such a thing. I have been doing a similar writing since high school 20+ years. It is filled with energy and find it amazing others do this as well
    Thanks for sharing

  13. As soon as I clicked on the image and saw the detailed view, I said, "Ah, the Language of Light!" and then I read your words –

    As I scribe I feel I am hearing ancient voices, foreign prayers, and reading through my body's eyes - words in a language I do not fully comprehend. The process of rendering takes me outside of myself, into a strange and unknown land - one of reverence, very personal, and deeply in need of a witness.

    – and then I said, "YES!"

    In case you are not familiar with this term, you might visit Language of Light and The Sacred Language.

  14. hi karin,
    really beautiul. watched the vid as well. i knew you had back pain, but did not know you had lupus.(: i am sorry to hear this.(:

    anyway, karin, i love your art and you are an inspiration.

  15. thank you karin for taking the time to create this beautiful post! i am filled up! i need an asemic keyboard for leaving comments here. ; ) xxoo

  16. You are an inspiration. I linked to your blog from mine in a recent post. Hope you don't mind. I'm looking forward to trying asemic writing.

  17. A wonderful post. Since 1975 I've been working on my spirit writing and I've found it has opened many doors for me.

  18. beautiful post karin. and your handmade just makes me want to be still...i don't know how else to put it.
    when i am painting, i feel the most centered. it's like how you described it. it is when i feel closest to my higher power. painting and creating can be a sort of prayer, meditation as you say. I am so grateful for it.
    My sister has lupus...sending you a big hug.

  19. I love reading about how many people have done this kind of writing them selves, how many of us weren't really aware of all the others that were doing it, how we all share reach a deeper plane through our expression of creativity, and can move deeper into our center - call it prayer, meditation, how ever we choose to language it, here we are connecting, and this wordless language has resonated deeply with so many of us, from the responses I've gotten here. This intrigues and excites me as I imagine it taking form not only visually, but through music and performance... asemic expression, language without boundaries!
    Thanks everyone for all your sharing here, and caring wishes,

  20. Hi Karin,
    I felt today so connected to your words,so poetic, so deep, your heart spoke to my own. For so long my creative self has protected me, made me safe and put me into bliss. I felt mesmorized by the asemic writings here, they do seem ancient, I zoomed in on your images and words spoke to me of times past. Egyptian scrolls, pyramids, primitive art all came to me. Thank you for sharing of yourself today, it makes me appreciate your art so much more. Do you display your books in shows? Would be wonderful to see them in real life!

  21. oh, thank you Bev,
    yes, my work does get shown in galleries, though I haven't been actively showing too much the past couple years. I will post info if and when work gets out and about :) thanks for your interest,

  22. You are incedibly soulful. My mom's healing journey encounters obstacles as well. Love and support are sent your way in order to encourage you to work through whatever holds you back. Ultimately, your mind can be your worst enemy as well as your own best friend. You choose whether it will help or hinder your sense of fulfillment. I reccommend you read A New Earth: Awakening to your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle.

  23. While I continue to have challenges with my physical body, I wouldn't say I am "held back". Without having the experiences I have had, I am sure I never would have begun creating this way, never would have started this journal, never would have started this blog. The imagery granted me has come, primarily, through entering fully the pain in my body - I experience it as a gateway, rather than an obstacle.
    Thanks, I have read A New Earth, as well as The Power of Now, and am a fan of Tolle :)


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