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  • Writer's pictureBen Jenner

Post hiatus catch up.

It has been a little over a month since my Master's degree ended, and between working full time and moving house I have struggled to find five minutes to write anything at all. I am delighted to share that I have had confirmation that I have passed the degree with Distinction, which still hasn’t completely sunk in yet. Finishing a Master's degree during a global pandemic was incredibly tough, and in all honesty it has been very anti-climactic. There was no grand finale as such, no end of degree exhibition and the graduation ceremonies are all up in the air still, so it was good to ride the high of being awarded such a result.

After a much needed break I’ve begun to revisit some works that I made during some extra studio time that I had towards the end of my time at university. I am working towards a print commission for the Printed Poetry Symposium that’s being hosted in Bristol that will be gifted to everyone that attends. At the moment I’m unsure as to what the print will look like visually, but the concepts I’m exploring remain the same - asemic writing and narrative. I touched upon a few ideas of the origins of language whilst studying, but couldn’t afford the time to thoroughly investigate them, and so this seems like the perfect opportunity to flesh these out a bit.

I enjoy the idea of asemic writing having the ability to unite readers despite their cultural background or reading capabilities; the idea being that despite the writing not communicating semantic content, it can still offer aesthetic and emotive meaning. These thoughts led me to research myths and folklore about how the human race became divided by multiple languages.

One such story is that of the Tower of Babel. The biblical tale describes how mankind was united under one language, and combined their efforts to construct a tower that would be tall enough that it would reach heaven. God took offence to this and disrupted their capacity to understand one another, and scattered the people around the globe. This tale explains not only the existence of the multiplicity of language, but of cultural differences as well. There are also myths about the Greek God, Hermes that detail how he instructed the human race in the ‘language of many tongues’. This story is not too dissimilar to the Tower of Babel in that mankind communicated under one language beforehand, but in segregating people with diverse language, discord arose between the nations.

There are many more stories that follow this pattern where we all understood one another, and then a catalyst of some description disrupted this and conflict began. I’m not saying that I aim to create a language that unites the world again and arguments will become a thing of the past. I do believe, however, that asemic writing has the capacity to transcend language barriers and be understood to some extent through its emotive offerings.

The works that I have made in response to these ideas explore the babelisation of language through asemic glyphs and logograms that I attributed to various ideas, characters and icons. The series takes elements from a variety of stories, and so it aims to communicate a feeling of confusion and division of language as opposed to literal examples from specific tales. These are very much a work in progress at the moment, I’m currently leaning towards the piece being a series of prints as opposed to one singular panel telling a story. I think that offering a sequence might communicate the idea of a narrative, as well as being able to evoke ideas of a time before language was confused, and a time afterwards.


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