Report From Queens, New York – Three “Semantic Knots” Prints by Ari Wolff
Three Prints by Ari Wolff
(two original lithographs and one photocopy) from a larger investigative series, “Semantic Knots.” The series is an exploration of plastic clay knots as an asemic language, musical or movement notation, and archive of gestures. Each knot is tied only to itself and flattened/textualized in the act of being copied. This process allows me to create infinite scores/notations, documented through the copier and sometimes reproduced through paper plate lithography.
These pieces are individually titled: “Letter Written in Sleep,” “Two Sides of the Same Story,” and “On the Other Side of Longing” and approximately 8″ x 10.”
This particular exploration grew from my questions around the limits of language, legibility, and sense-making. I began making asemic writing as a way to process the deluge of living, unencumbered by coherence– to experiment with new alphabets and gestures as a kind of text. I was thinking about how twisted in words or in an explanation a person can become, in nailing something down with specificity, that we loose where we began. I started to make these little clay knots as stand-ins for words, to examine how their shape and form could communicate gesture, tone, inflection, intonation. Knots and words are both used to connect and hold things together. Allowing form to become function, these knots don’t hold anything but themselves. They are words that say nothing definitively. The works are meant to be read, as a kind of notation. Some pieces are movement scores, while others are sound scores, and others are asemic poems. They operate around and inside of Henri Michaux’s idea that, “Everything is translation at every level, in every direction.” The next phase of this process will entail working with musical and movement-based collaborators to translate/recreate some of these pieces in other mediums.
I work as a preschool art teacher in a Reggio-inspired school in Manhattan and first became interested in asemics and visual poetics as a component of emergent literacy. Observing the letter-like shapes and gestures my students (2-5 years-old) were making drove me to greater questions about the overlaps between writing and drawing, reading and seeing, and how the brain might process image as text. Drawing is often a kinesthetic, sonic, and visual experience for my students; they wiggle, jump, narrate, sing, beep, rock, etc while they draw. I believe there is a lot to uncover still around interdisciplinary and multi-modal learning, especially in early childhood, that might actually serve anyone seeking to read, notate, and learn in new ways.