Seeking Metal – The Truth of Rust







As regular visitors to this blog will know, I’ve been exploring some aspects of Asemic Writing. This interest grew out of my pieces, which all call textured text. In the process of scanning and photographing various pages of books, magazines, and junk mail, I decided to include some of my daughter’s writings and drawings.  Tasha is a Downs person, and some of the writing was of her own invention, while other pieces were carefully copied, if not well spaced.  Studying her pieces  drew me to the concept of Asemic Writing.  Asemic  means “containing no semantic content”, an absence of meaning. In effect, writing that becomes abstract art/patterning.

Now such writing  contains the codes and conventions of writing, and appears to be a predictable sequence, or at least part of a particular sequence. As such, our minds attempt to impose structure & meaning upon these abstract patterns. This is a quite natural process and is in fact the basis for how we read (interpret/decode) any text ( forms of mass media).  One of the basic rules of literacy is that ” the Reader brings meaning to the text”.  We experience text within the context of our experience, knowledge and skills.  When we do this very effectively, we think of it as reading, a learned skill that has been mastered. The Reader fills in the implied space of the text with the context that they bring with them.

To put this in perspective, imagine that you have been presented with pictographs from the Tuu’angha  Tribe.  If you have no background in pictographs  , and no knowledge of the Tuu’angha  Tribe, then your ability to read this text is very limited.  You try and decode the symbols based on what you know.  Say you have knowledge of pictographs, but no nothing of the tribe.  You can apply your knowledge of how pictographs in other cultures are used to make better predictions about the possible meaning/interpretation of the text.  If you had knowledge about the tribe, but lacked information about pictographs, you may be able to apply that knowledge to make better predictions about the possible meaning/interpretation of the text. An individual who know both  can derive more meaning from the text in relation to that knowledge base.

As you can imagine, someone with poor reading skills, for any number of a wide variety of reasons, has difficulty  bringing meaning to the text. Those of us who were exposed to school music through singing, and lacked musical vocal ability, understand all too well that reading the notes was frustrating and left  one a lack of self esteem.  Older people who struggle with digital text on the computer screen and other electronic devices, have the same problem.  They are unable to decode the digital text because they still are attempting to interpret it as if it is simply printed text ( “What do you mean it is hyper-linked and opens in a new tab ?”)


Asemic Writing plays with the brains expectations of decoding text, by presenting patterns that resemble text, but lack semantic content ( See:Apophenia ). It turns everyone into a frustrated reader or non-reader. The  visual pieces presented here create the illusion of the physical context of corroded metal. It then places a mixture of types of text that the reader  attempts to interpret.  Included is English and some European based languages.  A variety of fonts are used, including one that belongs to a fictional language that comes from a well known science fiction franchise.  Some of the various letters have been degraded and blended with the metal textures. In some cases the letters have been altered in some manner, flipped or modified.  Finally some pure asemic writing, lines that resemble writing, but lack any semantic content have also been used.  Your mind  will seek metal, solid meaning, but you need to seek the truth of rust in order to have understanding. 



12 thoughts on “Seeking Metal – The Truth of Rust

  1. “You need to seek the truth of rust in order to have understanding.” If “truth + rust” is in fact “trust” then I shall seek to trust your offerings as a route to understanding.


    1. Excellent interpretation of an open ended metaphor. Rust can also indicate a deterioration or re-imaging of meaning – hence an open ended message that allows the reader to bring their context and depth of understanding to the text. So very well done and many thanks for your on going contribution to this blog. 🙂

  2. This is a wonderful development. I have tried adding text into my images but never as successfully as you do in these. I like the idea of asemic writing – letters for the sake of their patterns, or symbol-like patterns for the sake of their hidden meaning. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

    1. Many thanks. I was thinking that you could take the medical text description of a particular lung condition and layer one of your X-ray compositions over it. It could be very striking. 🙂

      My greatest challenge is the limitation of creating pure asemic writing digitally – just do not have the level of control. I need to either get a device to let me write digitally or write manually on good old paper and scan it in for digital manipulation.

      Right now, for the next post, I am exploring two techniques. One method is to just do one letter in a stylized font and then distorting it by flipping / turning perspective. The other method is use a stylized font with another language that does not have a wide recognition. Once the the words are flipped, the brain has a more difficult time assigning a semantic context, because the font and letter configuration are so unfamiliar. Of course, those familiar with the language will be able to spot some clues, but the font style still acts as an interference to processing.

      1. There’s a lot in what you say – subliminal understanding of something familiar but unfamiliar. I think you want to present something that viewer can intuit without necessarily intellectually understanding. I knew a sculptor who made delightful objects, usually small, mixed media. the sort of things you want to pick up and hold. Each had a cavity inside which he would secretly hide something; a phial of rainwater collected at the height of a storm, the body of a small frog, a small piece of text, and other items that he claimed you could ‘sense’ the presence of. You see it on Jewish doorways – the Mezuzah. Thanks for the suggestion to add a scientific description into my images, I shall add that to the compost heap of my mind and allow it to rot down for a while. Maybe one day!

  3. You have inspired me. I have made images with asemic writing in the past – before I knew it had a name. I really like your explanation of how the mind interprets asemic writing and the way you have incorporated into your digital images.

    1. Many thanks. looking forward to see what you come up with. 🙂
      Working on some more techniques for the next post. I detailed some of the information in my comment to Tony. 🙂

    1. I’ m trying to catch-up with all your comments. 😀 Tasha needed some assistance and I’ve been bouncing back a forth – physically as well as mentally. 😀

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