by Satu Kaikkonen and Quimby Melton
Satu Kaikkonen's work explores many different artistic and typographical terrains, but the pieces reproduced below fall into two categories. The asemic writing samples (gallery 1) draw, perhaps most heavily, from Asian calligraphy, emakimono, ukiyo-e, and other Nihonga artforms (imgs. 1-8 & 10), but they also appropriate palimpsests (imgs. 9 & 13) and other hand-lettered manuscript forms (imgs. 10 & 12); childhood drawings (imgs. 9, 12 & 14); a café blackboard (img. 11); and circuitry (img. 14). Her asemic comics (gallery 2) also emphasize a certain technological awareness as each panel connects itself, like a computer chip, to the several others in a (WW)web of lines and routes.
Such connections -- technological and otherwise -- infuse Kaikkonen's approach to her own work and assessment of asemic texts at-large. She writes,
As a creator of asemics, I consider myself an explorer and a global storyteller. Asemic art, after all, represents a kind of language that's universal and lodged deep within our unconscious minds. Regardless of language identity, each human's initial attempts to create written language look very similar and, often, quite asemic. In this way, asemic art can serve as a sort of common language -- albeit an abstract, post-literate one -- that we can use to understand one another regardless of background or nationality. For all its limping-functionality, semantic language all too often divides and asymmetrically empowers while asemic texts can't help but put people of all literacy-levels and identities on equal footing.
Since asemic writing emphasizes the visual, representational quality of language, it creates a unique dialogue between the writer/reader and the world of signs, one that allows for multiple, subjective acts of decoding. This paradoxical, cosmopolitan-yet-personal quality, I think, lends asemic writing a hyper-contemporary sense of being and makes it much more than art. I read it, in fact, as an archetypal language, as a (recon)figuration of the words spoken by the Babel-builders. Asemic texts, as it were, serve as a projection of humanity's desire to reconnect with the mythological root of all languages and, by extension, one another.
All quotes from Satu Kaikkonen were collected by Q.M. via email.