Salette Tavares

Mary Ellen Sol

Flowers in Concrete

Tamara Janković, Šesta Dimenzija 16

Feminist writers have influenced my work, but I
have learned a lot from my personal experiences.

Have you explored in your art or your writing the
role that language plays in the distribution and
reception of art?
Certainly, language always has been the way to
explore art. It plays a big role in our reception
of art, but the works have to be experienced by
feeling. Afterwards, rationality and knowledg

Have you explored in your art or your writing the
role that language plays in the distribution and
reception of art?
Certainly, language always has been the way to
explore art. It plays a big role in our reception
of art, but the works have to be experienced by
feeling. Afterwards, rationality and knowledge
may explain how that feeling was reached.

Can you talk
about how your work challenges our understanding of the book?
The book is an object deeply imprinted in our
psyche. It is a symbol. We swear on closed books,
not on open pages. Additionally, the book is a tangible object. We have to experience it physically if
we read it. We touch its pages, we hear the sound
of turning them. 

Many of Bentivoglio’s early works deconstruct and reassemble a single word
or phrase in order to illuminate meanings buried within the text. 

Mirtha Dermisache and the Limits of Language

One could argue that writing is a state of being in conflict—with oneself, with one’s subject, with one’s government, or with one’s community. But the unconscious impulse to write comes before the word, and it does not always take the form of language. 

They haven’t learned that what they should fear is not written language but, instead, the very impulse to write. 

She scribbles, fills in horizontal lines running one above the other, or blocks out polygons and abstract hieroglyphs into tidy rows.

They compose a sort of ur-language, which may, on occasion, vaguely resemble the sleekly linear letters of Arabic or the regimented cursive of South Asian abugidas, but follow no grammar or syntax. They fall into a tradition of asemic writing—writing without semantic content

While avoiding language, they are nonetheless functions of it, in as much as their work hinges on expressing some linear idea.

Her Diarios are copies of the daily newspaper with information translated into nonsensical script. 

Dermisache turned language back into something resembling pure, unformed clay.

but Dermisache’s asemic writings were simply pinned to walls or laid across tables in the top floor of the brownstone. Guests were invited to sit, read, and rearrange them according to their own internal sense of their meaning.

What I did and continue to do is to develop graphic ideas with respect to writing, which in the end, I think, have little to do with political events but with structures and forms of language.”

Irma Blank – who has been creating her 'writings' for over 50 years – talks about her relationship to word and image

Can you describe how these ‘asemic writings’ (similar in form to handwriting but meaningless and unreadable) came about? Irma Blank When you arrive in a foreign country and you’re no longer surrounded by your native language, you’re unable to express yourself to the people you meet, so writing is a kind of escape. The ‘Eigenschriften’ series employs a language that doesn’t belong to any culture – or, perhaps, it belongs to all cultures.

Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing.[1][2][3] The word asemic /eɪˈsiːmɪk/ means "having no specific semantic content", or "without the smallest unit of meaning".

With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret.

an asemic text may be "read" in a similar fashion regardless of the reader's natural language.

Multiple meanings for the same symbolism are another possibility for an asemic work, that is, asemic writing can be polysemantic or have zero meaning, infinite meanings, or its meaning can evolve over time.[6] Asemic works leave for the reader to decide how to translate and explore an asemic text; in this sense, the reader becomes co-creator of the asemic work.

Various asemic writing includes pictograms, or ideograms the meanings of which are sometimes suggested by their shapes, though it may also flow as an abstract expressionist scribble which resembles writing but avoids words. 

asemic writing seeks to make the reader hover in a state between reading and looking

Asemic writing has no verbal sense, though it may have clear textual sense

True asemic writing occurs when the creator of the asemic piece cannot read their own asemic writing

Other influences on asemic writing are alien languages in science fiction, artistic languages, sigils (magick), undeciphered scripts, and graffiti.[15] Uses for asemic writing include mental and creative idea stimulation, non-verbal communication, meditation, hoaxes, and general authorial self-expression.

The Argentinian artist Mirtha Dermisache (1940-2012) wrote her first book in 1967, 500 pages in length and not a single word.

“I started writing,” she said in a 2011 interview, “and the result was something unreadable.”

Her skill is for distracting the onlooker’s impulse to read.

a sort of drawing that imitates a “communication format” and exhaustively limns alphabetic templates.

Maybe it’s like saying that for me the liberation of the sign takes place within culture and history, and not on their margins.”

And since the distance from which the work is seen has something to do with the degree to which it implies linguistic value, it obviously plays with our typographic expectations as readers. 

IB I think whatever you write is autobiographical. All of my work is: whether the signs I make are rigorous or free, small or large, they all express different aspects of myself. I write and recount, yet it also provides an escape because I simultaneously declare something and deny it.

IB When I first started making my writings, I did not know what I was doing or why.

To me, one sign represented all the other signs, because they were always the same, yet never identical.

with the ‘Trascrizioni’ series I responded to the world around me: to media, culture and knowledge.

BC Your work has often been discussed and interpreted in relation to minimalism and concrete poetry. I find it fascinating that so many women artists have attempted to structure an alternative language by means of abstraction.

Mirella Bentivoglio that explored the relationship between word, sign and female identity.

IB Every era has a tendency to want to define itself, without recognizing that labels quickly fade, losing their power and significance. What counts is the doing itself, which gives strength to thoughts and underlines fundamental questions.

Labels belong to fossils.

For me, writing refers to our rational development, while colour refers to our emotional side, to the origins of the self. In that show, for me, being and becoming, inside and outside, came together.

Mirtha Dermisache


Any given artist included in Women in Concrete Poetry 1959–1979 could fill volumes with their work and endless inquiries into language, form, feminism, embodiment, and technology. As a whole, the anthology proves the liberating potential which pours out of language once it is engaged as a structure. Grouped as a collective, this generation of women illustrate a radical blueprint for intervention that artists and poets might consider when making language in our contemporary context.

Mirella Bentivoglio | Materializzazione del linguaggio

While the anthologies and most criticism of the movement proved this assertion true, that women were not acknowledged to be much of a part of Concrete Poetry

Enter Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979, a new anthology released in 2020, edited by Alex Balgiu and Mónica de la Torre. It presents the work of fifty writers, more than 400 pages of evidence to contradict the notion that women were not practicing concrete aesthetics when the movement was at its peak

Paula Claire

Balgiu and de la Torre argue that the inclusion of women artists in concrete poetry discourse opened a further space to explore questions of identity, a subject not often found in the work of more established concrete poets:

Gender inequality was often explicitly denounced by the artists and poets in this anthology. They proved that questions of identity, gender, and power were not only not antithetical to concrete poetry, but also could be made intelligible—and could be activated—through the process of the materialization of language.

The text’s focus on the hand as a writing instrument adds the human body to the common repertoire of tools and materials under consideration in concrete poetry: the typewriter, the page, the mimeograph machine.

A Documentary Herstory of Women Artists in Revolution

Women In Concrete Poetry

Mónica de la Torre

Materializzazione del linguaggio

With an emphasis on performance and play, Fluxus artists aimed to bring art and life together, collapsing the traditional divisions between mediums and undermining the authority of the artist through collaboration and audience participation.

The women featured in this exhibition created various forms of intermedia art—falling somewhere between visual art, poetry, performance, and sound art; they acted as interpreters of works by others and hosted seminal concert series that enabled avant-garde movements to flourish. In doing so they contributed to the expanding parameters of artistic expression that characterized their era while redefining “women’s work” for the female artist.

Forms of Writing

For women artists associated with Fluxus, language was a site of aesthetic inquiry and play. The textual elements of many Fluxus artworks led to their inclusion in literary collections and underground magazines at a time when American art magazines did not devote much space to the group.

Nye Ffarrabas, known then as Bici Hendricks, has described her book as a game without rules, invoking the “serious play” of children, who need no instructions to use a sandbox but simply start digging. The reader initiates his or her own process of creative synthesis, choosing to manipulate, arrange, define, or ignore the words printed on each side of the cards.

Bici Hendricks. Language Box, Box Language (Black Thumb Press, 1966).

Nye Ffarrabas (formerly Bici Forbes Hendricks)

Then, reflecting that almost my entire oeuvre
consisted of a series of notebooks, much of it in the form of events
and abstruse conceptual whatnots,

Since I am a poet,
and the pieces had their genesis in words on a page, we called the
show "Word Work."

"Language Box is an invitation to the reader to involve themselves in this process of creative synthesis. It is an attempt to break out of, not to break down, traditional habits and inhibitors in order to arrive at a richer, fresher sense of language and the world," Ffarrabas writes in her introduction.

Bohumila Grögerová

the experimental nature of which is indicated by their very conceptual definition (name of chapter): Vznik textu (creation of the text), Gramatické texty (Grammatical Texts ), Logické texty (Logical Texts), Stochastické texty (Stochastic Texts), Syngamické texty (Syngamic Texts), Intertexty (Intertexts), Objektáže (Objectives), Přísloví (Proverbs), Partitury (music sheet), Portréty (portraits), Mikrogramy (micrograms), Koacerváty (coacervates)

On the epigraph: “the limits of my language are the limits of my world”

Josef Hiršal & Bohumila Grögerová: BOJ JOB JOB BOJ


A journey that leads from the seeming precision of language to its disturbing ambiguities.

Janković was a member of the Belgrade-based Signalist group of experimental poets in the early 1970s and was on the editorial board for the group’s magazine, Signal. Her use, here, of numbers, letters, and the Pierre Cardin logo reflects the Signalist goal to explore symbols and imagery in new poetry that transcends national languages.

I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (2012)

Woman's Art Inc

For Bentivoglio, the survival of this egg and the
destruction of the towers were a lesson in the relative
permanence of female versus male forms. Indeed, much
of her work deals explicitly with the dynamic between
male and female, The Egg of Gubbio being only one

Her mother, Margherita Cavalli Bertarelli, while
also talented and creative, had little opportunity to
develop her talents outside the role of mother and
housewife. The mother's frustrations left a strong mark
on the daughter who, many years later, would discover
in feminist theory an explanation for what she viewed
at the time as an unnecessary waste of talent and

The scene of my childhood is books. The walls were
covered with books. I think this influenced me. I refused
to accept the idea that knowledge was this scene

knowledge was direct approach .to experience. So I
wanted to relate books to concrete matter. I wanted to
put together what I felt about my mother and about my

work "with the openness of life."

Bentivoglio's egg, therefore, symbolizes "an
agreement of peace between man and woman under the
sign of equalit

Bentivoglio's concern with her surroundings, with
public spaces and the public, especially female, that in-
habits those spaces, developed during the 1970s within
the context of the women's and environmental
movements. An organizer as well as an artist, she put
together several shows of women artists working in
media similar to hers. One of the most ambitious was
"Materializzazione del linguaggio," held September
20-October 15 as part of the 1978 Venice Biennial.
Eighty artists from around the world exhibited work
which focused on the relationships between language
and image and language and object. Along with ex-
perimental forms from the previous 15 years, including
works by Agnes Denes and Rochella Cooper, U.S.; Pat
Grimshaw, England; Sveva Lanza, Italy; and Sylvie
Fauconnier, France, were a few works by artists from
the first decades of the 20th century, among them Sonia

Bentivoglio, in the catalogue introduction, provided
an historical summary of the development of this form
of artistic expression among women, from the Russian
avant-garde artists Natalia Goncharova and Elena
Guro to the Italian Futurists Benedetta Marinetti and
Maria Ferrero Gussago and the contemporary Italian
artist Elisabetta Gut. She also organized and wrote the
catalogue essays for "Fil - Sofia: El concepte del fil en la
dona-artista" (Metronom, Barcelona, February 16-
March 18, 1982), an exhibition dealing with the ex-
pressive use of thread by women artists, and "II Suono
Visivo" (sound sign), shown at the Municipality of
Sassoferrato, Italy, in 1984.
Agnes Denes has written about Bentivoglio

Bentivoglio's works are different in appearance but
united in concept. From working with words, she
became fixed on certain letters, especially "o". The "o"
became the egg, first in the tray, then detached from the
tray. In a similar manner her art and her art criticism
all are of a piece, moving from one to the other via words
and objects. "The meaning of all my work in culture,"
she states, "is against separation. Separation of roles,
separation of elements in ourselves, separation of
creativity and analysis. I am, myself, egg and stone

Hannah Weiner (1928–1997)

hannah weiner clairvoyant journal

Told him how dont eat people the forces showed me all my failings with words 

These words in lower case that don't mean anything are
their PHIL See me coming Confusion about orders for tonight, see rolls
on the letter B on the typewriter of course it said APPLE PIE a few times don do it
encourage the forces 

li a lot of wine drunk dream say david a lot of words CHILDREN dont explain
quo not alright more margin? tues. no more periods answer its drunk 

since Rinpoche came in town the words do a up and over and down d'unk

minute I stay in the bedroom with the hair dryer all the words start joking but in
the living room they're very serious ADVERB NOT ALL THE TIME APRIL 

words appear over words

With Clairvoyant Journal, Hannah Weiner writes a specific form of diary, using the characteristics of typographic styles (roman, italic and CAPITAL) to present an inner discussion between three separate voices.

Although largely unknown and practically unread,
Hannah Weiner accomplished such an invention. She called it “large-sheet poetry” – I
call it “avant-garde journalism.”

Regina Vater

Fiona Banner, 1066

Kunstpostbriefe (art letters) operated as free spaces of exhibition, exchange, and personal correspondence.

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt worked with letters, literally.

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt worked with letters, literally. Starting in the early 1970s, the artist (who was born in Wurzen in 1932) created series of “typewritings”

Employed as an office manager, and working as a self-taught artist under a regime of strict surveillance, it was only by turning herself into a typist—a stereotypical female job—that she could dictate the content of her pages. 

She practiced camouflage: aptly “sterilized” and imbued with mechanic anonymity, her signs resisted alienation to broadcast free messages and to communicate openly.

I asked Judith Copithorne, who has written a small book of dirty concrete called Horizon, to speculate on the absence of women and she replied to me something to the effect that back in those days, dirty concrete was considered pretty ‘out there’ and women were already having a hard enough time getting noticed for less ‘out there’ work.

Perhaps this can serve as a kind of bookmark to myself and others about the archaeological research and writing that has yet to be done on these women:

Bettina Adler
Mirella Bentivoglio
Jennifer Books
Paula Claire
Jennifer Pike Cobbing
Jo Cooke
Judith Copithorne
Patricia Farrell
Maxine Gadd
Beth Learn
Peggy Lefler
Maggie O’Sullivan
Sylvia Ptak
Betty Radin
Rhoda Rosenfeld

Misunderstood information

When I asked my father, an immigrant from the Philippines, why he was fascinated by the shapes of letters on the page, he told me that it had to do with the limits of language. “I wanted to understand the minds of my clients,” he answered. “I needed a way in, to get ahead.”

The onslaught of social media, the news, the language of tweets, was beginning to feel unbearable. I was coming to the conclusion that words were worthless, that meaning could, at any point, become muddled, lost.

Mirtha Dermisache’s Selected Writings.

“I started writing and the result was something unreadable.” Dermisache said. Born in Buenos Aires in 1940, Dermisache started publishing her texts the year she turned 27; her first book was filled with what looked like illegible writing, scribbles and strokes that resembled wave graphs or clusters of yarn.

“Nobody will understand what you are doing,” said filmmaker Hugo Santiago when Dermisache showed him her work. “The only one who can understand is Jorge Luis Borges, but Borges is blind, so you have no chance.”

Was writing considered writing if there were no identifiable words?

Looking at it was like viewing a complex future language that rejected both syntax and form, or a child’s first unsullied experiments with handwriting. 

That was also how it felt, opening up Dermisache’s gray book—unheimlich; the gestures were familiar but the meaning was ungraspable. One could describe the thickness of the strokes and the position of the text on the page, but the shapes themselves had no hierarchical order, a turbulent river of text running across a page.

The drawings are endowed with a sense of otherness, a kind of detachment from certainties. The work exists at the intersection of the graphic, the linguistic, the literary. The white area surrounding the illegible text struck me as poetic; was Dermisache a poet?

Hugo Santiago took one of Dermisache’s books and gave it to Roland Barthes. A year later, Barthes wrote her:

Paris, March 28, 1971

Dear Miss,

Mr. Hugo Santiago was kind enough to show me your graphics notebook. Let me just tell you how impressed I am, not only for the highly artistic quality of your strokes (which is not irrelevant) but also, and especially, for the extreme intelligence of the theoretical problems related to writing that your work entails. You have managed to produce a certain number of shapes, neither figurative nor abstract, that could defined as illegible writing—leading to suggest its readers, nor exactly messages nor the contingent forms of expression, but the idea, the essence of writing.

Dermisache stated that the letter from Barthes was the first time anyone had labeled her work “writing.”  It was the confirmation she needed, a kind of permission to continue with her creative undertaking.  Barthes’s phrase, “the essence of writing” is accurate; “Nothing is more difficult to produce than an essence…

In Dermisache’s work, which resists conventional interpretation, she dispenses with the semantic meaning attached to words altogether; writing that does not refer to language but rather the idea of language itself. Essence, in fragrance, referring to the primary element, or distillate. Language boiled down to its concentrate.

For me, it was the proximity to language and even music, that was intriguing.

Dermisache’s texts worked in the way good poetry operates, welcoming the reader, while not letting them completely in

I wandered the city, trying to walk off my anxiety. Erin Mouré wrote: “Poetry is the limit case of language.  It is language brought to its limits and where its relationship with bodies and time and space can crack open.” It is these limits my father spoke of, coming to a new country, reading between the lines. It is the unbridged fractures of Dermisache’s drawings that felt most faithful to the physical displacement of being a stranger in a bleak, beautiful city. Art as an ongoing translation between here and there, east and west, knowing and unknowing.

Josef Hiršal–Bohumila Grögerová, Experimentální poezie, 1967

Aside from the philosophical implications of an ongoing process of reading and re-reading where meaning is perpetually deferred, what is compelling to me about the idea of reading non-textual information as if it were its own language is that this is (im)precisely what we do, every day, from the moment we wake. We interpret our surroundings, we build narratives, we assemble patterns of meaning obliquely from the objects, shadows, movements around us. Our sensory experiences shape a kind of subconscious discourse that we read and navigate by as we move through the worl

Francesca Capone, who explores the materiality of textual language by literally warping and distorting it (she even has a piece entitled Refraction). Such treatment converts text into a new mode of visual information that one experiences bodily and viscerally

The uneven cadence emulates the interpretive, subjective eye—its rhythms and motions as it ambles through existence. It is the elliptical and elusive encounters of our wanderings amongst familiar and unfamiliar debris.

We propose an active reading of this timeline, one that makes use of some of the resources Mirtha herself employed in her workshops. Music was a key part of her exploration and personal creative process, and she used it as a tool in her original teaching method. She would design a playlist for each activity and technique in the workshops, or she would play music brought in by students; other times, work would be performed in a pregnant silence. The timeline includes a series of songs and albums from the AMD envisioned to be played while reading about different episodes in her life or phases of her work. Another resource is the artist’s own words, which are highlighted

A pioneering institution in a conception of education as means of individual and social development, the Instituto Nere-Echea was the first school in Argentina to implement a curriculum based on philosophy for children and “educational camping trips.” The underlying principle was “learning by doing.” Mirtha worked as a consultant in visual education at that school for four years; she developed mural projects with students based on their interests. In the schoolyard, there is still a fountain that she and students made and donated to the school. The production of the cement and stone fountain covered in mosaics of recycled tiles was an enriching experience 2, and the origin, for Mirtha, of a question: Why can children learn by doing whereas, if adults sign up for a studio class, they are “taught” how to draw or paint with antipedagogical methods like copying?

Due to three major developments, her career changed course in late 1971: she created a studio space to stimulate creativity in adults, thus beginning a new phase in her work as an educator19; she applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship, which required developing an extensive project; and she began corresponding with Roland Barthes,20 who proved key to the distinctive nature that Mirtha’s graphisms were taking on.

she purchased a space at 1209 Posadas Street. It was there that the “taller de Acciones Creativas, de Mirtha Dermisache y otros” was started. The aim was to interact with, explore, and experience different techniques in order to develop creativity and free graphic expression in adults

Also in 1971, Mirtha engaged in experiments, along with Ricardo Ferraro—an engineer and the director of programmers, engineers, and analysts at the CAyC—in which her graphisms were exposed to the processor of an IBM 1130-16K computer and a Calcomp plotter, which translated them into computerized graphisms that could be printed on paper. It was envisioned as a way to publish Mirtha’s work—and to increase its number—which had always been one of her aims.

It was amazing because it was at that point that I understood what I was doing. It was as if he were explaining to me what I was doing. That was very important… The day in 1971 when I got the letter from Roland Barthes—especially when I read the part where he says “You have managed to produce a certain number of forms … that could be called illegible writing”— I felt that, after having said “I write” for so many years, someone was finally, for the first time, calling my work writing. That was so important for me. From then on, of course, I could not for an instant think of anything else.26

I “write” (inscribe) my books, which are perfectly illegible, and that tenuous structure of “emptinesses” is filled when the “reader” comes along; it is not until that point that it could be said that what I “write” constitutes a “message” and the “empty signifiers” signs.

I never wanted my work to be read in political terms. What I was doing, and still do, is develop graphic ideas on writing which, in the end, have little to do with political events but much to do with the structures and forms of language. I never delved into the theory on the topic, though.

Writing With No Idea

González asserted that art works autonomously from the art theory that attempts to explain it: thus, art is “knowledge that knows as long as it is doing”, but “not what it is saying”. Consequently, “writing with no idea” refers to writing that knows but at the same time does not know and serves different users and people working with literature. Through different textual practices, in the chasm of words or in the Möbius strip that unfolds before the world, “writing with no idea” can entail “writing well”, even very well, but also “writing against”. Thus, “idealess writing” is writing situated in reality before Literature with a capital L and is woven in the loom of many flows of meaning that traverses all language, opposite its privatisation at the service of norms, classes, technocracies and interests.
Elena Asins (Madrid, 1940 – Azpiroz, Navarra, 2015) ardently explored abstract language in the fields of logical thought and algebra applied to geometric abstraction, with a career arc that tied in with the constructive tradition of the twentieth century’s avant-garde via computing and 1960s information theory, leading to her standing as a pioneer of computer-generated art in Spain.

This documentary explores the uniqueness of Elena Asins’ work — perpetually characterised by a compositional rigour and formal refinement — stretching across a broad array of forms and mediums, from concrete poetry and drawing to video, via sculpture and installation.

Giustina Prestento

Prestento creates her drawings or paintings using  codified sign language, a kind of cheironomic transcript or neumes which appear to recover original marginal notations in a musical script. 

The signs mimic musical movement, melodies or simply a single chord or rhythmic sequence. All of Prestento’s work hinges on the contrast between music and the graphic representation of sounds. The abstract or informal aspect of her signs permeate from a kind of scripture that is already symbolic and devoid of grammar, in that it refers to an arbitrary musical notation and not a codified alphabet. The result is a colorless score of aleatory music, gestures, tingles, and musical vibrations for the eyes.

Giustina Prestento succeeded in transforming the sound vibrations into images on paper which, if projected onto a large canvas, became a "luminous page" behind and in front of which makes a body move in synchrony with the sound. The work thus became a living picture, a "Living picture" as she had nicknamed them, three-dimensional frames which, if carried out in sequence, gave the idea of ​​leafing through a "living" book (Opus Intercodex). Increasingly involved in performance and in the iteration between sound and sign, Giustina Prestento created the live action "Dialogue" and "Ambientazioni", the latter also adding the spatial dimension. She also devoted herself to the composition of Montages (photo collages) and artist's books.

elisabetta gut

chiara diamantini

She is a meta-author who does not use her literary sources to construct comments, or illustrations, or symbolic reversals, but purely to produce her own poetry. 

Chiara Diamantini extracts phrases from famous pages in literature

and assembles them in a strict visual order: her citation of the published word, which she extracts from the original metric or narrative text, (using graphics, colours, materials, photographs or small transfers) take on new meaning without harming the matrix text. It is broken up, but never mishandled.

liliane lijn

AMc: Do you think the fact that you were bilingual – multilingual – from an early age has played a role in there being so much text in your art?

LL: Definitely, yes. My family spoke six languages and so it was like living in the Tower of Babel! My brother and I, although we understood, never actually spoke any of these languages. We didn’t learn them. We were absolutely adamant that we wanted to speak English because we wanted to be American. That’s typical first generation. I think my interest was in language from a very early age, but that language was constantly shifting and changing, and so, actually, working with visual art was much easier. There was just something much more direct. But, at the same time, I wrote a lot. I wrote poetry from a very early age.

AMc: Where did the idea for your Poem Machines come from?

LL: It started because I had been going to the Science Museum in Paris and I saw a beautiful experiment, which was an experiment in light interference, and I tried to do something similar. I managed to create interference using just lines on cylinders that rotated at a certain speed. And what you’d see, although these lines were black and white, was colour – you’d get colour coming out of it. And then, from that, I thought: “Well, words are made up of letters, and letters are made up of lines, so why not use words?” I thought that might be more interesting.

I started off just using the alphabet and then I was going to do cut-ups from newspapers, but I had a really good friend in Paris, Nazli Nour, and she asked me to work with her poems. It meant cutting them up because they were very long, but she didn’t mind. I started using words from her poems, and then other people asked me to do it with their poems. It was always a question of whose work would be right, and I did find one person, an American poet I met in Greece, Leonard Marshall, whose poetry was just perfect because they were all very, very short poems. He died very young and the only person who published him was me. A lot of the early pieces were his poems and Nazli’s poems, first on drums and then on cones.

AMc: You’ve done a lot of work evoking further elements of feminist mythology. How and why did this become part of your work?

LL: It was around 1980 when I realised that was what really interested me. And so I started drawing and trying to elaborate a new image of the feminine. New is a strange word: I didn’t want it to be obviously feminine; I didn’t want it to be connected with the feminine attributes that we always consider as feminine; I didn’t want it to be connected with women’s work or that kind of idea, necessarily, although I didn’t mind if it came into it.

More and more, I felt that machines had this feminine quality, which, of course, people don’t usually think. 

Her work is a testimony to an exciting epoch: the exploration of space, evolving technology and new materials, utopian dreams, feminism and the issues of identity and gender equality which it raised. 

Bani Haykal

liliane lijn

Alba Savoi

In '86 she produced terracotta books: Far lands - travel notes, where the engraved signs give rise to an asemantic writing and the colors recall those of the lands visited. Her interest in photography and photocopying dates back to 1987. She is attracted by the precariousness and poverty of the duplicated sheet, she exalts and exasperates the concept of duplication through compositional games that try to elevate the banal photocopy to an Artistic Work by creating the Xerorilievi and the Xeroxculture. 


Tomaso Binga (male pseudonym that Bianca Pucciarelli Menna adopted in the seventies to challenge the privileges of the male world) - was born in Salerno in 1931, lives and works in Rome

In general, writing interested me then and continues to interest me today. I have always worked on alphabets. 

The element of transformation, particularly evident in the use of the word as a poet and performer, is central in the works of de-semantic writing such as asemantic scripture (1972), Abbassalingua (1974), living scripture (1975), dattilocodice (1978), biographic ( 1985), Picta / Scripta (1995)…

Yes, indeed. It's all about the word taking other forms.

Binga’s ‘Typecode’ works of the late 70s comprise typewritten letters and symbols which are repeated and overlaid to result in obscured, abstract graphic compositions. Much like the decision to change her name as a mark of liberation; Binga’s coded geometric diagrams represent a language freed from the restrictions of a male-dominated society; as letters of the alphabet are rearticulated to manifest a new aesthetic language.

In the 70s Binga would perform these words, using her body and voice to project her new independent language.

Italian artist Tomaso Binga is the alter ego of Bianca Menna; who changed her name to a male pseudonym to disguise her sexual identity and make a parody of the cultural privileges reserved for male artists. Since the 1970s Binga has been a driving force of avant-garde feminism; working in a multi-disciplinary practice engaging performance, film, painting, collage and poetry.

anna oberto

Anna Torelli

There is a sector of visual writing that does not have a global historical category, foundation or name. It is the area of para-musical writing. The use of musical scripts purely for visual purposes.

The protagonist of all her phonic-spatial research is Silence.

There is a sector of visual writing that does not have a global historical category, foundation or name. It is the area of para-musical writing. The use of musical scripts purely for visual purposes.

The protagonist of all her phonic-spatial research is Silence.

poet, novelist, and filmmaker Tan Lin

has been at work creating an "ambient" mode of literature that engages a set of practices including sampling, communal production, and social networks, addressing issues such as relaxed copyright, boredom, plagiarism, and the commodification of attention.

the many different uses of technology in his work and what its implications are for the future of literature

People forget that a book or codex is a technology. 

My interest with HEATH and 7CV was to treat the book as a distinct medial platform through which a lot of ancillary information passes

I think a book is something consumed slowly over many years—it’s a little like watching a plant reproduce.

I wanted to highlight the book’s medial and time-based underpinnings.

What are HEATH and 7CV? I’m not sure, but maybe a delayed reading experience that involves Course Paks, marketing departments of publishing houses, seminars at the University of Pennsylvania, RSS feeds, and Post-it notes.

I consider Google a mode of (loose) autobiography. A book in Google Books, like someone’s search history, isn’t really a book; it’s data connected to other data, and it’s searchable. Reading, like autobiography, is a subset of a search function.

Books change over time and they’re blind; they give up information as readily as they gain it. What is a book today? I have no idea.

I mean, you read Harlequin romances differently than recipes, and you read Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets differently than you read Excel, and you read experimental Japanese novels differently than you read text messages, and in terms of documents processed by software, you have distinctions between, say, end-user manuals, bills of sales, Unified Modeling Language models, and legal contracts. These are genres of reading, and they’re housed or processed in the same generic platform that I call “reading.” So reading is an application that processes or assembles varied kinds of material. I was interested in creating works of literature that could be read like recipes or spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations.

I also inserted other languages: Chinese and machine codes. 7CV has various things in it that look like captions or interfaces or even bits of source code, and I was interested in the difference between a caption and bit of machine code in a book.

If you look at the handwritten Chinese text in 7CV (it was written by my mother) you'll notice that it was put in upside down by the typesetter!

Reading can be looped. 

Reading can be looped. That, I think, is the definition of a poem today!

I assembled both PowerPoint works similarly. Bibliographic Sound Track was compiled from SMS, IM chats, video game walk-throughs, Tweets, Tumblr entries, PowerPoint bullet points, photographic slides, the overhead transparency, the text box, the couplet, the book page, the fading film titling sequence, etc. PowerPoint is a multimedia ecosystem that encompasses a wide variety of reading practices, and where each slide or page is a frame: modular, linked to other frames, and encompassing various platform specific reading or communications functions. So here was a generic poem, where a poem is the most varied collection of different material that could be read continuously in a time-based manner with a definite run time. Reading can be looped. That, I think, is the definition of a poem today!

Reading can be looped.

The most obvious difference is that when you read a book or codex, the only thing moving is your eye; with the PowerPoint works, both text and eye are moving. In this sense, PowerPoint makes reading autonomous and it sets it in motion

No one expects to go to the cinema and read a book on the screen, one word at a time, but that’s kind of what I wanted to do.

The most beautiful thing is a book that could read itself!

People tend to forget that reading is a kind of all-over experience, and it takes place in a particular room or in a particular moment of childhood.

I was more interested in what might be called the general mood of reading: the overall atmosphere or medium in which we experience our daily thoughts and perform actions

affective or amodal attunements

And these mood-based systems, which are common to Zen meditative states, are bottom-up, non-directed, allotropic modes of general receptiveness rather than top-down, attention-based focus on specific objects or things. A book, at bottom, is a very general and very generic thing (that we happen to be reading).

My print-based and web-based works both tend to operate with the minimum amount of material necessary needed to constitute what we call reading. I’m interested in the forms of non-reading and boredom, which surrounds all reading and aesthetic experience as its customary default.

7CV is about skimming material, appropriating other titles (like The Joy of Cooking) and indexes, and extending the book by enlisting 30+ grad students at The University of Pennsylvania to spin off what publishers would call ancillary titles. Can 7CV be made more interesting by individual readers? Absolutely.

This is common in academia, a profession defined by writing books about other books, i.e., generating secondary source material. But there’s no reason secondary source material cannot be more interesting than original source material. Do you have to read 7CV to have read it? Not at all. Moreover, there are many ways to not read a book: you can leaf through it, read reviews or synopses of it, or just lie and say you read it when you didn’t. I was at Columbia where I got a Ph.D. in literature, and there were about 250 books on my orals reading lists—books I had to be able to talk about—but I probably only read a third of them. In fact, though, I had read all of them, just in different ways.

The Ph.D Sounds

Powerpoint and the Perfume of Reading

Artist Statement

My principal aim in the past fifteen years has been to produce an “ambient" literature; really a mode of literature rather than a recognizable genre that would be permeable and could disable the rigid categorization of work into such categories as poetry, fiction, and literary criticism/poetics. This project is grounded in relaxing certain parameters and engaging a set of (generic) practices that I see functioning in the culture at large, but that are not normally regarded as productive for the making of serious literature or literary criticism. Those practices center around but are not confined to sampling, communal production and social networks. They link to issues as diverse as relaxed copyright, boredom, plagiarism, and the commodification of attention. Working against avant-garde notions of difficulty, the work takes its cue from various popular cultural forms, including yoga, disco, the decorative arts, television, twentieth-century sound poetry, and electronica."

a sampled novel, Our Feelings Were Made by Hand

Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Systems Theory (2015) uses a script to pit two books—which address subjects known for their difficulty to master—against one another at hundreds of words per minute.

Well I don't like the idea of readings too much! …or poets reading! So I try to avoid it. That is why I like to screen videos or use artificial voices to read the poetry—there is so much ego in any given poetry reading, so much expression of personality, and I like to avoid this if at all possible. This also has to do with what I have termed the environment of reading, and either diffusing poetry or what is generally referred to as serious literature into other (less overly literary) arenas—like cookbooks, office productivity software such as PowerPoint, or films. Most people don't write poems or novels but they do compose reports, memos, restaurant reviews on Yelp, and grocery lists. Literature usually tries to assert its difference from such kinds of writing but I wanted literature to approach them, and by them I mean their specific genre conventions. Can literature resemble a cookbook? Or a PowerPoint lecture? I think so. 

An Interview with Tan Lin

I've been interested in ambience, in one form or another, for quite a long time now, as well as machine-generated languages

The graphic elements of a poem or a book of poetry—everything from its layout, its font, titling and sub-titling, captions, stanza orientation, etc.—indicate that reading is much more than just a text that is read in a linear way. A book, any book, is a physical object that is navigated. A book with pictures in it is read in a different way than a book that is only text. In this sense it's useful to think of a poem as template or score or a very generalized architecture. The same could be said about a standardized form, or a memorandum, of a list. These are interesting formats to me.

It's not clear what we got. I love seminars and the workshop—and I am talking about writing assignments, dialogue, readings, and of course the poems brought to workshop. But there is also something hard to document: knowledge, the things that are actually learned, because I think that thing, knowledge is an ephemeral phenomenon—how exactly to capture its transmission?

I think the idea of what is "neutral" in a reading experience, and how to make what is "neutral" in a reading visible is important to Heath, which in some ways outsources (i.e. mirrors) the "labor/work" of the reader to other parties, who appear to be "looking on," maybe commenting, maybe reading, maybe writing, maybe somehow just "taking part" in the text, whatever those two words mean.

On some levels it's not supposed to feel like reading at all, maybe more like participatory skimming/recording or as you suggest looking at someone else reading, and this mirrored labor practice is not so much neutral or dematerialized as something specific to web-based reading practices. 

Or perhaps reading itself is an actor. 

systems theory of Niklas Luhmann

Bruno Latour and actor network theory

What is the precise relation between reading, regarded as a social activity that takes place in a network, and writing, which also takes place in a social network?

Can it somehow be both a read and written text simultaneously?

the reception of the work is foregrounded as much as the production and dissemination. And furthermore, reading, in a web-based environment, crosses into writing, publication, distribution, and marketing.

call reading “a kind of quotation within the text,”

Middle range, middle brow reading, and our everyday experiences of reading distractedly or unintentionally or by just looking.

I'd like to lessen the intensities and make reading just something specific to particular distribution platforms, operating systems, parsing, or compiling systems.

Here I would say that the project is about a softer, ambient avant-garde that works against radical disjuncture or the montage/shock effect, and perhaps the most shocking effect is that of the author (in relation to his/her own or somebody else's textual material). 

In other words, I didn't want this to be avant-garde, I wanted YOU or me or her to read it like web surfing, or a mash up or something we do all day long

Or maybe, in terms of distribution and production and absorption, a text is what we've come to expect in software like Microsoft Word, which is not just a text generating device, but now has page layout capacities, save in PDF mode, etc. that facilitate the distribution of the piece.

MS Word for me, from a design standpoint, is very non-angst-like. I just think it looks nice, plagiarized--like the the other kinds of non-responsible text distribution at work here: appropriation without and with citation, straight ahead quotation with and without citation, citation via footnotes, remnants of a dictation, paraphrasing of a New York Magazine article, downloaded "content," or the effects of "content scraping," transcribing of (pre) classroom events in terms of furniture moving, journalistic/art writing

disquisitions on legal issues having to do with copyright and plagiarism, protest songs (but filtered via the MP3 file format), etc. 

"One has experiences as one reads but what is the nature of those experiences? I was trying to explore some of these issues."

I think each of the books is about the experience of reading, although those experiences are conditioned by different things, i.e. reading is just part of some other environment which appears to be observing it.

So yes, I think they are all explorations of experiences that are explicitly tied to "reading" in an expanded sense (of non-reading I suppose), and this is true of the video works also.

It was really about trance states and it had a kind of stoner aesthetic or at least a yogic meditational/IDM one, but here it was a human memory system in a feedback loop (literature), i.e. it was about erasure more than remembering.

I just wanted to use literature as a palette or tool or platform or medium or whatever for obliterating consciousness, whereas LBG was more of a mechanical system of recall. So with Blip I used a different method: I started to sample and loosely rewrite a range of literary and historial material

I found this kind of aborption, i.e. being absorbed, useful, relaxing, boring, open, flat, in a sort of meaningless way. Can literature be transformed into yoga, into meditational space--yes, hopefully!

These are not really fictions, although the "genre" section of the book concerns a novel being written. These mistakes, and there are many, from formatting problems, copyright issues, unacknowledged sources and other mistakes are very much a part of the text, just as typos and misquotations and erased transitions constitute the blips of BlipSoak01


I tried to apply this meta-data container to a literary work, and create a book addressing the idea that the lines between genres—architecture, novel, painting, poetry, etc.—have become increasingly less distinct, that we live in an era of standardized, even generic works where it is almost impossible to tell the difference between an experimental novel and a poem, or between an ad and an experimental film.

In a sense, SCV  is a book as generic data object: at times it's like a painting and at others it's vaguely cinematic. It has a narrative structure, but it's loose like a tourist itinerary or inventory. I like it when I don't know what I am reading. Reading in this sense is just a theory

Fundamentally, I'd say the book is about generic reading practices, where reading is not just a linear textual experience, but an architectural container for impersonal texts and loosely correlated or near-random, unsearchable images.

You put pictures and text in the same space. The minute you start reading text with images in it your attention is different, and SCV lays out some of these differences.

With SCV, there was a conceptual system: a compiling/cataloging system. I wanted a work that was both anecdotal and easy to read, a book that could read itself, as it were, or be read cover to cover in less time than it would take to watch a film.

A book is a moving chronology of various events and people.

Why read a book when it can be read for you?

much of the content isn't immediately personal and most images were sampled from other sources

I think this is happening with ebooks: turning the page is a software command.

Likewise, vis-a-vis content, I often take stuff written by other people and loosely rewrite it as if it were mine—so there is sampling from and to other sources.

When does one book begin and another end?

SCV is about the most general contours of reading and remembering, and how specific books are connected to specific times of one's life

SCV is about how I remember my life. 

What is the life of a book in a post-book environment?

How do we read it, and by read I mean run our retinas over it? And how do we preserve, organize and access it for future use?

I aimed to use the event as an index of publishing. I didn't want a book to end with its publication but to begin there, be repurposed and remediated, transitioned from one published form to another.


Tan Lin, Blipsoak01

Lotion Bullwhip Giraffe